When it comes to healthy eating, weight loss and cooking for both, there is no escaping the importance of taking the time to plan and prep your meals for the week ahead.
If you are anything like me, a busy, hard-working but VERY health-conscious mummy then you probably spend more time than you would like to admit thinking about how you are going to put a clean, healthy dinner on the table for your family each night.
And let's not forget lunches! If you have school-age children, you know that what you put in their lunchbox every day should be loaded with healthy, brain-boosting nutrition....while of course taking into consideration all of the restrictions due to other children's potential food allergies!
Now this is assuming of course that you have already figured out how to put a healthy breakfast in you all before you fly out the door with your fifty bags and a face with no make-up!
Considering most of us eat a minimum of 3 meals each day, trying to make each meal healthy, tasty and still able to support you in your OWN health or weight loss goals is a daunting task!
Well if you haven't already guessed it, the solution truly is setting aside a couple of hours in the week to plan and prep your meals. What does this mean? I will use my typical week as an example....
On my least busy evening of the week (usually a Thursday as it is the one night that doesn't require me to take my daughter to and from another activity or club!) I sit down with my favourite recipe books for an hour (or sometimes I google new recipes) after my daughter has gone to bed. I plot on the calendar what my dinners are going to be for the week ahead and then I jot down the ingredients to make my grocery list. I always try to pick recipes that have similar ingredients but still offer some variety. This means I spend my money wisely and don't end up with a lot of food waste at the end of the week. Like I said, this shouldn't take more than one hour on average.
I also jot down what I am going to prepare for our breakfasts and lunches for the week and make sure all ingredients are also on my grocery list. I am a HUGE breakfast smoothie fan as I can pack tons of nutrition into one, quick, portable breakfast. And everyone in my household also loves how they taste so they are a win-win!
If you haven't already experimented with breakfast smoothies, I have a great FREE resource available for you. Just come on over to our friendly Facebook community, send me a message and I'll share this great FREE resource with you :) CLICK HERE TO REQUEST ACCESS TO THE FACEBOOK GROUP.
So once I have picked out my favourite recipes and plotted them on my upcoming weekly calendar, my next step is to place my online grocery shopping order! If you prefer to go personally to the grocery store or the market by all means please do. However I am guessing, that as a busy, often overwhelmed mum you, like me, try to find easy short-cuts to save some time.
That's it for the meal planning phase! Let's move on to the next phase, meal prep....
Again, take no more than 1-2 hours out of your least busy day of the week once you have all of your weekly groceries. to prep as much of your main meals and snacks as you possibly can. My prep time tends to be on a Sunday afternoon).
Meal prep simply means skimming through your chosen recipes and lunch ideas and preparing certain foods and ingredients ahead of time to help speed up the cooking time for your meals during the week. Using my week again as an example, typical prep that I do includes hard-boiling a batch of eggs, pre-grilling chicken breasts, pre-cooking a batch of brown rice and/or ancient grain pasta (note I didn't say white rice or white pasta! ;), cutting up and portioning out vegetables and hummus dips for snacks, cutting up and freezing fruit for breakfast smoothies and pre-steaming sweet potato and squash. The key is to make sure you are ONLY cutting up and pre-cooking foods that can SAFELY be stored in your refrigerator or freezer until you need them for your mid-week recipe.
At first you may feel like finding an hour in the week to plan your meals and another hour later in the week to prep your meals ahead is more time than you have. But trust me, in the long run, you will end up saving significant amounts of time, not to mention taking a HUGE load off your mind because the thought of what to cook for dinner each day is already taken care of! And as an added incentive, you will also give yourself a fighting chance of being able to stick to your own healthy eating regime and reach your own health and/or weight loss goals much sooner.