One of the things that I’m most proud of as an adult, is my ability to plan and cook great, homemade meals every week. Not only do I plan for dinners, but I try to make sure that Anel and I both have a home-cooked lunch at least three days per week (his coworkers get pretty jealous). This is both cost effective and a healthier option, as it’s easy to stock up on extra junky food when buying lunch on the fly.
My yet-to-be-patented meal-planning system seems complicated, but once you break it down, it’s really not! It takes dedication and a bit of time, but in the long run, you’ll be so happy eating healthier meals and spending less on food, I promise. I used this same system when I was working a full time job and blogging, and the only difference in my plan is that now I make recipes that are a bit more complex.
I use a three-step method for the least amount of stress during a week. It includes: Planning, shopping, and prepping. Let me explain…
On Sundays, I’ll go through some recipes that I’ve bookmarked throughout the week and decide what I’m going to make for dinners the following week. I write out the ingredients for each dinner and am sure to make at least four servings so we can have leftovers for lunch the following day. I’ll go over the list with Anel to make sure he’s down with what’s on the docket.
Based on the plan we come up with for meals, I’ll create a shopping list. I hate all the fancy shopping apps, so I always do it in the Notes app on my iPhone. I divide the list into produce, meat, frozen, and other, so that I can easily navigate my list while navigating the store. Usually I do this shopping on Sunday afternoon/evening, but if we’re traveling over the weekend, which is fairly often, I push it to Monday
I try to always prepare the following dishes/sides on Sunday nights to have options for the week to come. Having these in tupperware (Always glass, we’re a BPA-free house! I love this set.) when I go to start making dinner, makes everything so much easier and less stressful.
Because I work from home, this also helps me take speedier lunch breaks, if I’m not going out with a friend or for a meeting. The entire process of prepping everything below takes about an hour, which might seem annoying that night, but I promise it pays off every time. Pop a bottle of wine, play your favorite tunes, and make it a thing. Do it with a roommate or partner to make it go by faster!
I try to always make 4 cups (cooked) of brown rice for stir-fries throughout the week. I always use it all, even if not for meals. A great snack is to heat it up with a little bit of butter and cinnamon!
I like to add quinoa to salads, soups, and stir-fried with veggies as a side. Having this pre-made makes it a breeze.
This is more of a fall addition, but ’tis the season so I’ll include it in my list. I’ll cut up a yellow onion, sweet potatoes, squash, shallots, carrots, and garlic and roast them with salt, pepper, and olive oil. It’s so simple and a great addition to any salad or as a side.
Roasted chicken breast:
I will roast one or two chicken breasts and then slice them up to put on salads towards the beginning of the week. Sometimes I’ll heat them up with some of the roasted veggies for a dinner on Tuesday or Wednesday if I have a particularly busy day.
Slow cooker chili:
Ok so it doesn’t have to be chili, but on Sundays, during the colder months, I try to always cook a soup or stew in the crock pot. I love my turkey chili, but have been playing around with some new recipes lately too. I made a white bean/kale/quinoa soup last week that was to die for. I’ll share that recipe soon! I cook enough for dinner on Sunday as well as leftovers for both of us for lunch the next day. That way, even if I don’t get to any of the other items on my list, Monday lunch is taken care of.
In addition to prepping dinners/lunches, I like to get ahead of the breakfast game, mostly for Anel. He leaves the house at 6am for work so easy breakfasts on-the-go are a must. I make 6 hardboiled eggs for his breakfast for the next three days (if you make them too far in advance, they get kind of gross). I pre-boil the eggs and pack them up so he’s set through Wednesday. I then do this again on Wednesday nights for Thursday-Friday.
I also make us each a smoothie for Monday morning which we both usually end up drinking for a mid-morning snack. Because Mondays can be hectic, I like to have this pre-made so I don’t have to think about anything. I’m always so grateful when I find it in my fridge at around 10:30am.
Want more healthy eating tips? My friend Amanda just launched an awesome (totally free!) video series that looks at dieting and how you eat in a fresh, exciting new way. Join me and sign up here!
Great ideas. You might like the ShopShop app. It’s not at all fancy, but you can scoot things around to be in shopping order, tap and shake to clear items as you put them in the cart, have lists for multiple stores, and share them with someone else in case they wind up doing the shopping.
You might also want to hop on the InstantPot train. It’s quite revolutionary! And talk about easy hard-boiled eggs!
And one more tip, speaking of hard boiled eggs… if you peel yours after you cook them. Let them cool off a bit in some cold tap water. Put one egg at a time in a smallish jar with a small amount of water and shake. That eggshell will just peel itself off!
This is what I used to do when I lived alone but now add a picky eater bf in the mix it’s a little more challenging. Love your brown rice with butter and cinnamon snack idea!
x0x0 Caroline http://thecarolove.com/
This is so great! I’m trying to get my fiance to like veggies more so I think I’m going to try to roast them! Awesome tips! I think that I will try brown rice with butter & cinnamon!
I’ve started too on Sunday’s to prep a small pan of like a chicken breast, tomatoes, mozerella and basil with some EVOO, or pork tenderloin/Brussels/red potatoes to throw the pan right into the oven when I get home from the office. It makes the day go smoother calorie wise if I know what I’m already having for dinner.
I’d love to hear more about how you pre-make a smoothie. Do you fully make it and then just put it in the fridge? then doesn’t melt? and wouldn’t it be a solid block if left in the freezer? Tell me more! 🙂
Hi! So I make it at night and put it in the fridge then drink it the next morning or afternoon. It doesn’t hold up well much longer than that. I’ll share my favorite smoothie recipes in another post soon. Thanks for giving me the idea 🙂
Love this post!!! Please include many more posts on wellness – love this series. Xo
Awww thanks so much! Will do 🙂
If you’re looking for a new soup you should try Serena Wolf’s butternut squash soup. I also add curry powder and it holds us quite well throughout the week!
Looks amazing! Will have to try it out soon. Thanks for the tip!!
Meal prep is the key to life! I have always been someone who takes a lunch, and have turned my boyfriend into the same. He even meal preps on Sunday’s by himself for the both us- usually chicken on the grill. Makes me so proud!
I love your tips Julia! So interesting to read somebody else’s method and grab a few ideas on the way. I try as much as poss to plan my meals but fail half the time due to lack of time/laziness (yes, life as a mum of 3 can be a bit.. busy!) but every time I plan my meals I make the same conclusions: how much more time efficient I am (less trips to the shop to buy a missing ingredient), what a breeze it is every night to just look at the menu and how much less food we waste. It should really be a no brainer and I think I must get back into the routine. You have motivated me:) Thank you! Hugs from London, Julie
Such a great post, loving these images. Planning food ideas and cooking is one of my favourite things to do.