Healthy Food Prep How-To and Sample Meal Plan

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Setting myself up for a week of success starts on Sunday. I am much more likely to stay on track if I have my meals prepped before the week starts. So, my family typically does the grocery shopping after church on Sunday and then I prep my food straight out of the grocery bags when we get home. It has gotten a little bit trickier with an infant to care for too. She slept through a good 1/2 of my food prep this week, but then I had to stir things and nurse at the same time for the other half. A momma's gotta do what a momma's gotta do.

Now I'm one of those people that can eat the same thing all week. It has to be tasty though. I've made a few duds that I could barely swallow by week's end (lentil meatloaf, blech!). But I have many old standbys that I make regularly and that I know I'll look forward to all week.

Tip #1: Start by creating a list of all the breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks you enjoy that you can reference when you're all out of ideas.

So, each week, I plot out what I'm going to eat at work for breakfast, snack and lunch every day. Every morning, I also have a Shakeology smoothie after my workout at home, so I have to remember to pick up frozen fruit. So, then, I think about all the ingredients I'll need for these meals and write out what I need on my grocery list. Then, Hubster and I try to figure out at least 5 dinners for the week. We typically either have leftovers, go out to eat, or have dinner with family/friends the other two nights.  I try to keep our dinners pretty clean too, but Hubster likes to cook too and it's not always "nature-made" types of meals. He's a meat and potatoes man, and that's ok with me.

Tip #2: Using your list of meal ideas, sketch out a plan of what you're going to eat for each and every meal for the week. It doesn't have to be exact, but you should have a pretty good idea of what you'll be eating and when. This is where it's much easier to eat the same thing every day for breakfast and lunch. (And a lot of the food we get is in cartons, like Greek yogurt, so it doesn't make sense to eat it as a snack for only one day).

So, here's what I'm planning to eat for the week (keep in mind I'm nursing so my intake is higher than normal):

Breakfast: Egg whites + Salsa + Turkey links
Snack 1: Plain Greek yogurt with toppings (pecans and honey)
Lunch: Quinoa with mixed veggies and feta (tomatoes, spinach, mushroom, onion)
Snack 2: Chickpea salad like this
Family dinners: 
  • Beef tips and gravy like this
  • Easiest crockpot chicken parmigiana ever (chicken + 1 can spaghetti sauce, top with mozzarella)
  • Teriyaki meatballs (ground turkey + egg + oats + teriyaki sauce, baked in oven)
  • Turkey stroganoff like this
  • Broccoli/chicken crockpot meal like this

You'll notice that not all of our meals are completely clean, but they're pretty darn healthy and soooo much better than packaged foods or most restaurant foods. My chickpeas and salsa come out of a can for convenience and they're still pretty darn healthy.

Tip #3: Transfer all ingredients needed for meals onto your grocery list

Here's my corresponding grocery list. Some of the ingredients we always have on-hand and some we needed to pick up.

Then, we head to the store, of course. We try to stick pretty closely to the list. We may throw one or two non-listed items in the cart, but ideally our goal is to spend $100 per week on groceries (including diapers and pet stuff). So, not only are we eating healthier, we're also saving money by preparing meals at home and sticking to our grocery list.

Tip #4: Most of your food should come from the perimeter of the store, i.e. the produce aisles, meat section and dairy section. The closest thing to how God made it.

Once we get home from the store and unpack everything, I get to work making my work food for the week. I find that for me, it's best if I start right away. I'm already up and about, handling all the food. If I put all the food away and get settled in, it's harder to get motivated.

Food prep doesn't actually take that long. Well, it could if you wanted to get fancy, but generally I spend an hour or less. That's one TV show--and I have healthy food for the entire week!

Tip #5: Always start with the food that takes the longest to cook.
Get those things that cook longer in first, especially the ones that don't require any attention while they're cooking. I put my acorn squash in the oven first where it went for 1 hour and then started the quinoa on the stovetop for its 15 minutes of cook time. While those things were cooking by themselves, I was chopping and sauteeing veggies and preparing the chickpea salad.

Yummy nighttime snack for the week. 
Simply place cut-side down in a pan of water and cook 375 for 1 hour

My pile of veggies sauteeing in olive oil while the quinoa was cooking. 
(My lunches consists of just these two mixed together with feta on top)

Quick chickpea salad

Tip #6: Load all your work food for the week in a thermal grocery bag.

Next, I load all the parts of my meals into a big grocery bag and bring it to work for the week. I used to portion out the egg whites and Greek yogurt into individual containers and take one at a time to work every day, but I've found that it's so much easier and so much less time consuming to just bring the whole container to work. I don't ever forget anything this way and I don't have to carry a lunch bag every day, just the one bag on Monday that stays in the work fridge all week. I know that the egg white (microwave scrambled eggs) and Greek yogurt containers have just enough for 5 days, so I never have to worry about portion sizes with things like that. The sausages come in 10-packs, so I have two per day--and then I don't waste plastic baggies on each serving either.

Dinners are just prepared nightly or thrown in the crockpot in the morning, depending on what we're in the mood for, who feels like cooking, etc. We like fast and easy meals, otherwise we're more tempted to go out or eat junk instead. I always keep a few extra things on-hand that we can snack on when we get home from school/work like string cheese, baby carrots, popcorn and the above acorn squash. The snacks typically need to be easy and in the front of the fridge so we remember they're there and don't grab for something less healthy. 

Really, for one hour on a Sunday, this type of preparation is so worth it! It's so much easier to stay on track during the week and not have to wonder what our next meal is going to be. It's not as hard as it seems to prep healthy food for an entire family for a whole week. Give it a try!

How do you prep for the week?

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