Hope everyone had a great weekend! We are on the countdown to our annual trip to Hawaii. This year we get to spend 3 weeks on the island of Kauai with our wonderful parents of the heart. They have a beautiful timeshare and they are so generous in letting us stay with them. I’m actually really excited to post from Kauai. All the fresh fruits and veggies available are going to make some pretty delicious meals. Stay tuned for that…
Anyway, I wanted to do a post about shopping and meal planning. Meal planning is the key when you are trying to eat healthier, keep a reasonable food budget and to make your life a lot easier during the week. When you know ahead of time what you will be making it takes the work out of guessing, stopping at the store on the way home, or giving in and just ordering take out because you don’t have the ingredients or energy to cook something. It really is a lifesaver. If you have never meal planned before it can be a bit confusing and overwhelming, but thankfully there are no shortage of meal planning templates available online, or perhaps even pre-programmed on your computer. I use one in Numbers on my Mac.
If you are really busy and have no time for meal planning you can check out www.getmealplans.com It’s a wonderful website that will give you a weekly meal plan that is WFPB, gluten free, soy free and delicious. You have the option of choosing a plan for an individual or family (you get both) a shopping list, and instructions on how to cook all your meals for the week with 1-3 hours. It’s $18.99 a month, but think about the cost of 1 take out meal. Totally worth it! ( I have no affiliation with this meal planning website, I just really love it and have used it! )
I choose Friday’s (usually when kiddo is at school) to make my meal plan. The first thing I do is clean out my refrigerator and freezer. Get rid of the left overs that you know are not going to get eaten, go thru and discard any questionable produce, check expiration dates on condiments, and make sure you have staples. For me that would be:
-Maple Syrup, Apple Cider Vinegar, Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk, Liquid Aminos (or soy sauce) and pickles. Kiddo loves baby dills…Yes, I consider these a staple. I don’t buy these items weekly, but use them almost daily, so I always check to make sure I have enough.
I get all my dirty storage containers in the dishwasher. This is so helpful! Having clean storage containers allows you to prep your produce and grains for the week. Do this and you will be thankful!
Next I check my pantry items/spices and do a quick organization. I do this weekly and it saves me a ton of time. It really sucks when you are hosting a dinner party and making lasagna but find out as you are starting to cook that the box of lasagna noodles only has 4 noodles left inside. Getting into the habit of going thru the pantry weekly eliminates these minor, first world emergencies.
The whole process of getting organized should only take you 15 minutes once you get into the habit. Next I start the actual meal plan. Throughout the week I may come across a recipe on Pinterest or something new from a cookbook that I want to try. I get that out so it’s handy. Most of my recipes are from Pinterest, other blogs and cookbooks. Here’s a helpful hint…check out cookbooks from the library first. That way if you don’t like the food, or you’re just not feeling the recipes you haven’t wasted $20. If you love it then go on Amazon and pick it up!
So once I have all my recipes in front of me I start my meal plan. It looks like this…Meal plan I keep this on my fridge so that I can glance and know the night before if I need to prep anything and also because it tells me what workout I’ll be doing and what is going on that day. When I start filling it out I glance at my calendar. Are we having friends over? Going out to dinner? Is my husband working? Am I working? All these things come into play when I’m deciding what to cook. I’m not going to make lasagna from scratch on a night that it’s just kiddo and I. You get the drift…Also, I change my workouts often. I’m focusing on lower body (PiYo!) due to the bikini wearing vacation I’m about to take. Usually you will see more variety, and often on Sunday I will have a rest day or just do yoga depending on how I’m feeling. I just listen to what my body wants. Back to planning….
After all the important stuff is filled out then I start plugging in dinner. Base this on what you have going on and how you usually feel during the week. I rarely make anything that takes longer than 30-45 mins from start to finish. These meals are saved for a night when Hubby is home to hang out with kiddo or if we are entertaining.
Next I figure out lunch. It’s always salad with lots of greens, a grain/starch, protein and a ton of veggies. I change it up every week, but stick to about 3 for variety. Sometimes I will warm up the starch before I add it depending on my mood. This could be brown rice, quinoa, sweet potato, etc. Proteins would be beans, legumes, tempeh, etc.
Breakfast for me is always a smoothie. I just love the way I feel after drinking them. Completely nourished, energized, light and satisfied. Again, I focus on about 3 varieties for the week. If I’m loving a certain smoothie then I might drink if for 3 weeks…just do what you like. Occasionally kiddo might ask for pancakes, or I might be craving something warm and comforting like a tofu scramble or sweet potato hash. I usually have the ingredients on hand to whip up something like that on a whim. This is usually saved for weekends or non school days.
Snacks are always fresh veggies and hummus. I might have and apple and almonds instead or a KIND Bar, just depends on the day, but I ALWAYS have veggies prepped and ready to snack on. Kiddo can help himself to as many as he wants and they travel well in my purse.
As I am inputing my meals I make my grocery list. The program I use has a shopping list attached so it’s really easy. After filling in all the meals I do another check of the list to make sure I didn’t forget anything. I also try to keep a magnetic pad of paper on the side of my fridge to write down things that I run out of or maybe getting low on. I make sure to check this and add any of those items to my list as well.
Once it’s all complete I print my meal plan and shopping list.
I try to do my shopping Saturday morning. The stores are pretty quiet if you get there early, and usually I have kiddo with me. We go to Costco first, then usually to Trader Joe’s or Fred Meyer for the rest. I make a stop at Whole Foods once a week or every other week for the specialty items that the other 2 stores may not carry. I LOVE Whole Foods and find that many times they have produce that is priced very closely to Fred Meyers or sometimes less if it’s on sale. Also, shopping the bulk bins for grains is much less expensive than buying it pre-packaged, but I tend to purchase most of my grains from Costco. It’s the most cost effective if you have a membership.
Once everything is home I start prepping. I immediately turn on my oven to preheat for roasting sweet potatoes, butternut squash, brussel sprouts, or whatever is needing some roasty time. Roasted veggies are where it’s at! I eat them cold right of out the fridge, top salads with them, add them to rice bowls, they go with everything. Having them cooked ahead of time ensures that I will eat them and they won’t get wasted.
Next I get out my rice cooker and start a batch of brown rice. I usually add 1/2 water and 1/2 veggie broth for a little added flavor.
While my veggies roast and the rice cooks I start cutting up produce. I slice cucumbers, peppers and carrots for snacking, wash and rinse any salad greens, freeze bananas for smoothies, rinse grapes or cut up berries and wash any produce that sits on the counter. Kiddo is allowed to help himself to things like cherry tomatoes, apples, pears, etc. If I wash them ahead of time he can just walk by and pop a tomato in his mouth or grab and apple with worrying about it.
I also make a quick batch of homemade Vanilla Coffee Creamer. It literally takes 3 minutes in the Vitamix and tastes wonderful. That gets stored in a mason jar.
Once all of this is done I am set for the week. I can easily assemble any salad, bowl, wrap or sandwich within minutes. The only meal I actually “cook” is dinner.
Often the prep work happens on Sunday. Sometimes I don’t feel like doing it when I get home from the store, I might have to go to work, or we may have something going on that day. Either way, as long as it’s done before I start the week on Monday I’m set up for success.
Investing less than 3 hours into my week by meal planning, shopping, and prepping allows me to have MORE time to spend doing other things like hanging out with my family, working on the blog, being outside, getting house work done, etc. It’s a great habit to get into and it really does make it easy to eat healthy and stay on top of your nutritional goals. It’s also cost effective. You don’t buy things you don’t need, or already have, plus you aren’t wasting food. It eliminates expensive daily trips to the store and the temptation to stop for take out.
There you have it! Leave a comment if you have any questions or tips on meal planning. I’d love to hear what others are doing for meal planning.