Everywhere you look these days you see the words “meal prep”… pictures of it, “how to” guides, everyone seems to be into it. What I also see are millions of plastic containers and weekends spent doing nothing but chopping, dicing, measuring, cooking, portioning, packing, and cleaning. I know meal-prepping the whole week ahead works for some people, and that’s great for them, but I tend to find the whole process can become an unwanted chore and over time, can ruin the happiness and creativity food and cooking should bring. So I’d like to share what works for me, how I arrange my week ahead, and how I don’t spend hours and hours in my kitchen on a Sunday, or any day for that matter.
Through the week in the quiet moments you have between appointments, after work, or while sipping your morning coffee – browse recipes from your favorite online blogs, websites, Pinterest, or even your own cookbook collection, and find flavor combinations that inspire you and appeal to your palate – bookmark these, pin them, dog-ear, or even snap a photo of them with your phone. This is what makes eating and cooking fun!
Before grocery shopping for the week ahead, check in with your “weekly staples list” and check off anything you are running low on and need to re-stock. Then, browse through your newly saved recipes and start creating a shopping list based on these additional ingredients. You can follow the recipes exactly, or use them as a general guide. I usually do the later. My absolute staples consist of fresh veggies, berries and at least 1 other fruit, eggs and egg whites, oats, coffee, and usually fish or chicken. I then expand from there depending on if I’m out of some major bulk items (grains, spices, oils, canned goods, etc) and how creative I’d like to be with my cooking that week.
After grocery shopping is complete, and you’ve snacked on a new health food bar on the car ride home, put everything neatly away (while the dog runs off with each shopping bag and rips them up across your living room floor.. just me?), then take an accomplished deep breath, light a nice smelling candle, sit down with a glass of water, and start mapping out your week ahead using your calendar/planner.
My thought process goes like this: Exercise, Schedule, Freshness
Using this week as an example, lets go through each one…
- Okay, what are my workouts each day?
Monday – Arms and cardio, Tuesday – Legs, Wednesday – Shoulders & Back, Thursday – Arms, Friday – Legs
*Why do I do this? I like to pair my harder lifting days with higher carb meals and my lighter lifting days with lower carb, higher fat meals. You don’t have to do this.
2) What days do I have MORE time to cook and what days do I have a super busy schedule?
Monday – Home on the earlier side, Tuesday – Busy Day, Wednesday – Home late, Thursday – Home a little earlier, Friday – Busy Day
3) Now what food is perishable and needs to be used sooner than later?
- From last week I still have micro greens, tomatoes, and mozzarella balls that need to be used ASAP
- I have perfectly ripe avocados and faux-crab that should be used quickly
- I have fresh ground chicken and chicken breasts that should be used within 1-3 days
- I have frozen wild caught salmon and shrimp that can be used later in the week, as well as just purchased asparagus and salad greens.
Now I sit down and write out in my planner which recipes or recipe inspirations I will use for each dinner, and I keep my shopping list on hand as a reminder of what else I may have picked up ..
- Tonight – crab, avocado, cucumber stacks topped with micro greens
- Monday – arms & cardio & home early = Grilled greek chicken kebabs with cucumber, tomato and mozzarella salad
- Tuesday – Legs & Busy day = super fast chicken tacos
- Wednesday – Shoulders & Back & home late = put salmon in the fridge in the AM to defrost – cook 20 minute simple baked salmon & asparagus with roasted purple potatoes
- Thursday – arms & cardio & home early = big fresh salad topped with chopped veggies, nuts & seeds, hardboiled eggs and any leftover proteins
- Friday – Legs & busy day = We’ll probably go out for sushi or I’ll make a homemade, gluten-free pizza with pesto, spinach and olives.
This method keeps me on track pairing my nutrition with exercise,reducing stress and anxiety through the week on what and when I will cook, and it reduces food waste by using the most perishable items early in the week!
What about breakfast, lunch, and snacks you ask? I’ll usually make 1-2 easy grab-and-go breakfast/snack item over the weekend like chia pudding, protein brownies or pancakes, and hardboiled eggs. On mornings I start work later I’ll usually have my super easy egg white and oat pancakes with berries or I’ll mix a Siggis yogurt with berries and a sprinkle of granola.
Lunches are a mix of leftovers from dinner and other items – maybe some fresh vegetables or an ezekiel wrap
Snacks are either the items I made over the weekend or something super simple like cucumbers with tuna, brown rice crackers with almond butter, or a kind bar, or smoothie.
And there you have it, a week in the life of your dietitian : ) Nothing too exciting or innovative, but a method that’s come to work for me. I hope it helps you see that full out “meal prepping” is not the only way to eat healthy and keep things simple!
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