Posted by Dr. Jenna Arts
I get asked all the time at Eat By Design Coaching about the tools I use to get it all done in a week. Make a plan (that I actually stick to), grocery shop, meal prep, clean up… all while being able to actually sit down with my family and enjoy the meals.
But the truth is that there is more to meal prep than than cooking a bunch of food and enjoying it throughout the week.
There's prep that goes into the prep.
So I decided to let you peek inside my weekly ritual. Here are my ten steps to a simple and organized weekly meal prep from start to finish.
Now you might be thinking…how is this any different than the video we created last week on how to meal prep for the week. If you haven’t watched it yet, do that first. I promise, even if you think you’re the master at food prep, you will learn at least one new kitchen hack to make your system simpler.
Once you watch that you’re fully prepared to dive deep into the ten steps below since numbers 1-7 and 9-10 weren’t even addressed in the video.
1. Take a look at your family's existing commitments and priorities. Do your kids have soccer practice Monday evening? Is your husband working out of town this week? Are your in-laws coming over for dinner Friday night? Know what to expect the week ahead of time so you can properly prepare, meal prep wise, but also mentally.
2. Build your weekly meal plan around this schedule. Choose one protein and one vegetable for each meal. I know this sounds boring, but it's not what you think. You can go beyond a chicken breast and broccoli and create a soup, stew or casserole that combines both a protein and vegetable. My favourites are Terra Cotta Beef Stew, Thai Coconut Soup or Lamb Shepherd's Pie. There's no day of prep required with these meals - just heat and eat.
3. Whatever you eat for dinner pack for lunch the next day. Invest in an insulated lunch bag, ice packs and check out our five By Design school lunchbox ideas for the kids. Be okay eating food cold if you don't have access to a microwave at work on your lunch break or use a thermos.
4. Keep breakfast consistent, until you get bored of it and then switch it up. Make sure breakfast is simple and is something that everyone in your family loves. Do your best to choose foods that can be made ahead of time and either eaten cold or quickly heated in the morning during the hustle and bustle of getting out the door for school and work. My favourites are heating up B'Eggs, Banana Pancakes or N'Oatmeal. But meals that are great but don’t required heating are Nutty Cereal or hard-boiled eggs.
5. Cross reference your meal plan for the week with your grocery list. And make sure you keep a running grocery list. I keep mine in an Evernote document, which syncs with my computer, iPad and iPhone so that I can easily access it and update it at any time. his keeps me organized because as soon as I need something it's added to the list. It can be easy to forget that I need cinnamon or butter because these just aren't essentials I buy every week. A running grocery list helps me keep track of what I need.
6. Separate your grocery list into different grocery stores or markets. Then separate your list into different areas of the grocery stores. Map out the path you take as soon as you enter the grocery store. For me it's fruits and veggies, then nuts and seeds, then dairy, and then shelf foods (coconut milk, spices, oils, vinegars and condiments)and then meat and seafood
7. Shop at a time that you feel at ease. This must be a time that you don't feel rushed. If that means bringing your kids with you to teach them about where their food comes from, great. If it means setting aside two hours to yourself and maybe even stopping for your favourite tea or coffee on the way home so you can squeeze in some alone time, that's great too. Just choose a time that you will be uninterrupted.
8. Take a few hours and prep food for the week. To learn more about what a food prep day looks like click here. This can be as simple as cutting up some veggies, making hard-boiled eggs and a batch of grain free muffins. Or it can be as thorough as prepping every single meal your family plans on eating for the week. You know your weekday routine better than anyone so you know if it's realistic to cook dinner every night or if you would save your sanity to commit a few extra hours once a week to prep.
9. Keep your meal plan for the week somewhere visible for your entire family to see. This ensures there's no last minute changes, influence from picky eaters or changes to the plan because you're feeling tired and lazy after a long day at work. Sticking to your plan actually creates more freedom in your life.
10. Keep your plan simple and stick to a few favourite recipes. You don't need to be experimenting every week. Stick to meals you know well, meals you don't need to pull out a recipe for every time, ones you know your kids love and maybe try one (not five) new recipe a week. That's how you find your new favourites! Once you have found a new favourite, swap it into your rotation.