Set aside a day and time as part of your weekly schedule to plan and prepare meals/ingredients.
For many people this is a Saturday or Sunday but can be any chunk of time that works best for YOU. Put it on your calendar and COMMIT!
Additionally, I think it’s important to note that you don’t have to make every single meal of the week at once. I will sit down on my designated day of the week and make a list of the recipes and ingredients needed and this helps me to make sure I have meats defrosted, ingredients washed and chopped so I can throw together meals during the busy work week. It does not have to be all in cute little containers that we see on Pinterest!
The important thing is to make sure that you actually schedule time for planning and preparing your meals. By making it a priority in your life, you will make the time. Remember, “Failing to plan is planning to fail”
Look at recipes, prepare a shopping list and have all ingredients for the week BEFORE you begin your meal prep.
I find it helpful to check in with the hubby to determine meals he would like for the week and compromise so that everyone is happy! I suggest looking at recipes together and picking several to try. I usually make one or two options each week for breakfast and lunch and alternate them. Then I have a different recipe for dinner Monday-Thursday. The weekends are usually for leftovers, going out and having fun.
Once I’ve decided what I will be eating that week, I like to have it printed out or a list on paper versus leaving it on the computer. Of course, that’s a personal choice but I like having a hard, dirty copy in front of me at the grocery store and as I am cooking.
Take inventory of foods that need used and what you already have on hand before rushing to the store.
Stick to the shopping list!!!
Buy staple ingredients in bulk.
Things like gluten free baking flours, canned coconut milk, nuts and seeds, spices, frozen fruits and veggies, quinoa, rice, coconut aminos, coconut oil, chia seeds, dates, etc. are staples I like to always have on hand since they show up in so many of my recipes. Find your staples and consider buying at a wholesaler such as Costco or Sam’s or purchasing online on Thrive Market or Amazon to make your life easier! Also stock up on items when they go on sale!
Prepare your space and refrigerator.
There is nothing more frustrating then starting in a space thats already cluttered. Before starting, make sure you start clean (clear up any dishes lingering in the sink, empty the dishwasher, look in the fridge and throw away anything that is no longer good or re-organize to ensure you have space for the meals you are going to prepare for the week).
Make sure you wipe down your space so that it is clean and sanitized.
If you are in a household with others who are not eating the same way, consider designating a shelf in the fridge and/or pantry where you have your meals and ingredients.
*Note: I do not recommend separate meals for the family. That’s why it is so important to get input on recipes beforehand. However, if you are following specific dietary restrictions or for allergies, this may be an appropriate accommodation!
Once you are ready to begin prepping, lay out all your ingredients (and storage containers) and make a game plan.
Having quality storage containers (glass is best!) is key to making your meal prep easier. Consider buying some Pyrex glass containers in various sizes to store your meals and leftovers. You also don’t want to have things prepared, and have to run around trying to find containers that fit!
Before beginning to cook, lay out all ingredients. If you are using the same ingredients for multiple recipes, go ahead and prep ingredients at the same time (for example, if you are using sweet potatoes for a breakfast hash and in a Buddha Bowl for lunch, go ahead and chop them all at the same time!)
Try your best to time out recipes that will go in the oven at the same time so you don’t have to keep turning on/off the oven (ex. roasted vegetables with an egg bake)
If you aren’t planning on making every meal ahead of time, consider washing and chopping all of your veggies in advance so you don’t have to do it on busy days. This also prevents those peppers or greens from sitting in the bottom of the fridge to be forgotten! This is also why glass containers are great (you are more likely to snack on your sliced peppers if you can see them 😉 )
Keep it simple!
If it takes too much time or is too much for you week after week, you won’t continue to do it. Of course, when you first start out planning meals in bulk for the week, it takes some extra time to figure out what works or does not work for you. After time time and experience, you find ways to make it more efficient and what types of recipes work best to make ahead.
What I mean by this is plan out your breakfast, lunch, dinner and any snacks during the day. This leaves less room to stray from your plan or fall into “food emergencies”. This will help you to stay on track and be prepared when you are out and about or traveling as well.
Go-to snacks – It’s great to keep some snacks on hand (in the car, desk drawer at work, purse, gym bag, etc.)
Mixed nuts or homemade trail mix
Almond/cashew butter and an apple or sliced veggies
Healthy bars (such as Rx bars, EPIC, Thunderbird, Larabars) or homemade energy bites
Allow room in the schedule for leftovers.
Having to throw away food is never a good feeling. That’s why I typically plan by meals for 4 out of 7 days of the week and just make generous portions. I like to keep leftovers for the weekends for ease or for a week night when I don’t feel like cooking an extra meal. Additionally, freezing remaining food is always an option so you can pull it out and reheat during a week when you might be less prepared (before or after a long vacation, for example). Doubling recipes and freezing half is also a great idea!!
Wash dishes and clean up as you go.
Let’s face it, nobody loves doing dishes. It helps prevent an overflowing sink of dishes if you try to tidy as you cook. While meals are cooking, clean up some of the dishes and put away ingredients as you go to prevent the overwhelming clean up. Additionally, if your husband, kids, or friends are helping, it’s nice to split up the work! One cooks while one cleans/puts away dishes.
This is HANDS DOWN the most important! If it’s not fun, it’s not sustainable. Put on some tunes, turn on a show or a good podcast, grab a glass of wine (or refreshing beverage of choice) and get down to business! Cooking can be very therapeutic if you let it! Pay attention to the colors, textures and smells of the foods you are preparing and think about how it’s going to nourish your body. A few hours of planning will save time and stress during the week to give you more time to spend with those you love or on activities that bring you joy.
Everything you put into your body is either feeding or fueling disease. It’s your decision!