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Meal Prep {Fresh New Year}

The workday can be crazy, and I think we’re always looking for ways to streamline everything.  I can honestly say that the one thing that has made the biggest difference in making my day-to-day so much easier has been meal planning.  

I found that if I was coming home from work starting from scratch every day, it would take me all night to get dinner ready, and as much as I love to cook, I definitely don’t feel like doing the whole process to create some unique and complex meal every night.  And if I don’t plan ahead for lunch, I end up taking way too much time out of my work day figuring out what to get, spending way too much money, and eating something that I probably shouldn’t be eating.  {Side note – I’m generally cooking just for me.  I can’t even imagine having to feed other humans, like husbands and kids, three meals + snacks every single day.  My hat goes off to you – I totally realize that’s no easy task!}.  By being a little more intentional about this process, I made my life so much easier, and I actually feel the relief as I take a pre-planned, organized, and cooked meal out of the fridge, all ready to go.  

How do I make this happen every single week?  There are a few steps, but it’s totally not rocket science.  The key is to get in the habit and just get it done.  

Step One.  Figure out what you want to eat.  Again, not rocket science.  But how often when faced with the question, ‘What do you want to eat?’ do we think, ‘I have no idea…no, not that..’  {Boyfriends and husbands everywhere know what I mean…}  But are you following a certain diet plan?  What do you like?  What makes you feel good?  What’s easy to get together?  What can I cook ahead and have for a few days?  I have a running list of options for all 3 meals of easy things that I like, can make ahead of time {no shame in my leftover game}, and that make sense for my schedule.  I love fancy food probably more than the next person, but for my day to day I’m looking for something somewhat healthy that’s quick and easy, but also something interesting enough to make me feel satisfied, so that I’m not eating everything around the house in search of something satisfying.

My basic, weekday menu includes a smoothie + protein powder for breakfast; chicken, rice or quinoa, broccoli, and a salad for lunch, and then for dinner usually a big salad plus chili or soup {that I’ve made ahead of time}, or some kind of veggie + chicken or beef stir fry type thing for dinner.  Easy peasy.      

I write down what I plan on eating each meal, Monday through Friday.  I don’t use a fancy app or anything like that – just some notebook paper usually, that I make into a grid that has a space for each meal.  

Step Two.  Have a routine.  I didn’t grow up in a household where every night was pre-assigned to a certain meal {i.e. ‘burger night}, and that doesn’t necessarily appeal to me now that I’m cooking for myself, but I think some type of structure and routine is helpful, at least for planning purposes.  I know that I need something really quick and easy on Monday night because that’s when I write, and I typically have pizza for dinner on Friday nights {Pizza Friday!!} so that’s all set.   Also, I know that I’m generally going to either eat out somewhere on Saturday night or I’ll be cooking something fancy and fun at home, so that would usually be its own trip to the store. Otherwise, for the weekend, I make sure I have something easy on hand for breakfast {like eggs} that I’m eating later than usual, and then on Sunday for dinner – I’m usually cooking for the week, so I’ll have some of whatever I’m making.  This flexible structure makes it easy to know – right away – what I’m doing when.  

Step 3.  Shop on a certain day.  It’s not like I don’t like grocery shopping – I actually enjoy wandering up and down the aisles of Whole Foods checking out all the cool stuff – but it’s the whole ‘I don’t feel like stopping one more place after work’ and ‘I don’t feel like leaving this warm house to go out in the freezing cold to grocery shop with a million other people on a Sunday morning.’ that makes me not want to do it.  But, you just gotta do it.  I shop on Sundays for the bulk of everything and then usually again on Wednesdays to get a fresh batch of perishable things like greens and veggies.  I know when I’m going, and since I know what I’m eating, I know what I’m buying {I’m really organized about my list, mainly because I hate taking a bunch of trips to the store}, and I can breeze through the aisles – and because I’m less tempted by impulse purchases, I know what I’m spending, which is helpful in a-whole-other area that I’m trying to be organized with {ahem, my budget}.  See how it all goes together there?  Nice and streamlined.  

Step 4.  Prep/Cook.  After you do this a few times, it becomes routine, so you can get through it pretty easily!  Generally, I cook on Sundays {right after I get back from the store}, and I make lunches for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, as well as that big pot of something like soup or chili that I’ll have for dinner on some of those nights, too.  {I know people sometimes cook for the entire week, but cooking something on Monday that I’ll eat on Friday just freaks me out!}  Because things are simmering and roasting, generally, from start to finish this takes like 2-3 hours.

Step 5.  Have fun with it.  It’s just a matter of perspective.  Something that could be a huge chore is actually something I look forward to each week.  I stop for a latte on the way to or from the store on Sundays, and then as I’m cooking, I have a favorite movie on in the background, or I listen to music or catch up on my podcasts.  It’s relaxing, and sets me up in the best way possible for the week.  And my weekday trips to the store have actually become my favorite thing of the entire week – I meet up with my closest friend at the store, and we catch up as we go up and down the grocery aisles.  The ‘magic of the everyday’ at its best.  

Image:  Krista Brackin Photography

2 responses to “Meal Prep {Fresh New Year}”

  1. Barbara says:

    This is so well written Linda and makes good sense. Love the organization of it all. If only I cared about cooking.

  2. Linda says:

    Thank you!!! And you just focus on the baking 😉

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