Everything about adult life seems to be about juggling and organization. Well, nutrition is no exception. We all want delicious and healthy meals and cooking night after night gets tedious and makes it seem like being healthy is just so much work...
But it doesn't have to be! By effectively meal planning and bulk cooking you can minimize your time in the kitchen every night, so you have more time to spend with the little people dwelling in your home.
At first, yes it will seem like another chore, but after 2-3 weeks it will come naturally and you will find that taking those 30-40 minutes 2 times a week to set up your meals for the week will really improve the rest of your evenings. So, here are 10 tips to get you started:
1. Start with scheduling.
Just like everything else in life, you have to find the right time. If the timing isn't working then the whole process won't work. Personally, I find using Fridays and Mondays as my bulk cooking days and Saturday nights to meal plan really effective because I shop on Sunday (my morning off). I plan my meals all the way through the next weekend, until my next supermarket Sunday. This way I also only hit the store once during the week and maybe once on Friday mornings for fresh pitot or challah if we need. Everything else is bought on Sunday.
2. Strategize your cooking
Just like with anything else, being able to multitask is super important, but you also want your appliances to be able to multitask. So first start with the recipe that takes little prep and can be cooked in the oven while you are cutting up your vegetables to roast making your lasagna. Remember you are bulk cooking, so make large amounts by doubling your recipes. I usually try to make things that can be reinvented like roast chicken. For example: I usually put chicken in the oven to cook, then I will set up pots to boil water to make grains for the week, then I prepare my veggies for roasting, add the grains to the boiled water, make mini muffins batter for weekday breakfasts, etc... see the pattern? That way everything that needs attention is happening while i'm standing in the kitchen and things that don't need to be watched can happen while i'm at my desk. Because It's all done with a strategy, I am done with the active cooking part within about 40 minutes.
3. Prep your Veggies too!
People sometimes get so caught up in the cooked foods, they forget that they will often get lazy when it comes to the raw vegetables. Clean enough salad greens and cut up enough raw vegetables so you don't have to worry about it again until at least mid-week. This way you have healthy vegetables for you and the kids to munch on while dinner is heating up or when you want something to dip in your hummus for a mid-afternoon snack. It will keep you from reaching for a candy bar, I promise you!
4. Make your own treats
Life isn't fun without some treats and feeling rewarded. You need to fit those in. For some, that means baking healthy cookies to have on hand when they feel the need. For others, small squares of dark chocolate do the trick. Make mini healthier versions of treats you enjoy, so you don't feel deprived and like you are on some tasteless diet! This will also help you stay motivated and on track and keep cravings at bay.
5. Prep Breakfasts!
People overlook breakfast because they feel rushed to get out the door. Baking healthy mini muffins, preparing yogurt parfaits to eat at work, or freezing smoothie packs are all great ways to make sure you are eating a healthy breakfast. Take 5 minutes to prepare your breakfast so you can have a healthy start to your day every day!
6. Keep your pantry and fridge stocked!
Keeping your pantry stocked with "short on time" essentials is really important for meal planning. A can of chickpeas, tuna can add protein to a light meal when you are short on time. A light gourmet meal can be made within meals by simply assembling some rice or quinoa, roasted vegetables and a sprinkle of bulgarit cheese.
These 6 steps will really streamline your kitchen work and buy you hours of time during the week. It does take dedication, planning and organization, but I hope that, like me, you find your evenings are a bit easier!
I am always happy to hear from my readers, so let me know on facebook or by email how you have been able to apply these steps to your own meal planning and prep!