Guide to Meal Prep and Meal Planning

Guide to Meal Prep and Meal Planning

Growing up we were that family that went to the store almost every day! It seemed like every afternoon my brother and I were headed off to the store to pick up ingredients for dinner. That ‘fly by the seat of my pants’ routine carried on even after I moved out. As kids, work and life became busier going to the store multiple times a week just became a real hassle. I also started to realize that eating out was getting pretty expensive and honestly I didn’t feel great afterwards. Anyone else have this problem?

Over the years I have found the value in planning and prepping meals for the week. I am hoping that some of these tips and tricks can help you save money and have less stress in your life.

Why Meal Plan and Prep?

Less Stress

Do you ever have those mornings where you wake up and instantly you think “Crap! What am I making for dinner?” Your mind starts going in all different directions trying to figure out what you have in the fridge or if you have time to go to the store. Now imagine you wake up late and you and your kids’ lunches are already packed and ready to go. Imagine you come home late from work or soccer practice and dinner is already waiting for you in the fridge. That sounds like total bliss to me. There can be a lot of unexpected events that pop up during the day and having healthy meals ready to go can give you so much peace of mind.

Help Reach your Health Goals

Something I learned over time is that restaurants don’t necessarily use the best ingredients. Eating out was impacting the way I felt. Not only was my waistline expanding from the huge portions but my body was sluggish from the poor quality ingredients. When I focused on eating at home I got control over both portion sizes and quality of the food. This was really a game changer for me when it came to reaching my health goals!

Save Time

We can all agree that time is valuable. We all seem to be busier than ever with work and running kids to practices. So when do we find time to do all of the grocery shopping and meal prep? When you create and follow a meal plan you cut out the extra trips to the store. You save on travel time and the guilt/stress of trying come up with an impromptu meal. You save time not running out to get fast food. It’s much faster when you can just pull a meal or ingredients right out of the fridge.

Save Money

Meal planning and prepping is a great way to save money. When you plan your meals for the week you can make a specific shopping list and make a coordinated trip to the store. This helps you save money in gas, save money in impulse buying (this can add up if you go 3-4 times per week), and you don’t eat out as much. I know for us as a family of 4 we can easily drop $75-$100 eating out and frankly I would rather spend that money on vacations!

Less Waste

Having a meal plan and shopping list leads to less mindless purchasing. You go into the store know what you need and you don’t end up purchasing random items that don’t help your nutrition. Or if you do get something healthy it’s part of a planned meal. How often have you purchased something that just went bad in the fridge because you forgot about it? Nobody like spending money on food just to throw it out without enjoying it.

Better Health

One of my favorite reasons for meal prep and planning comes down to better health. When you are able to cook your meals at home you can control the ingredients and know that you are getting the best possible quality. Having a plan for the week also cuts down on your stress levels and we all know that is great for your health and well being!

How to Meal Plan and Prep

Now that we have gone over the “why” to meal plan and prep here are some tips and tricks on the “how”. We all have different busy schedules so I have come up with a list of ideas that will hopefully fit into every schedule.

  • Take a little time on the weekend to go through your favorite blogs or cookbooks and write down the recipes you want to cook for the week and make a grocery list. I love doing this on a Sunday morning with my cup of coffee.
  • It take less than 1 hour (I do on a weekend for the following week) you can prep veggies, fruit, grains or meat for the week from what you already have on hand.
  • If the weekends are tough for you another idea is to sit down with your schedule and choose 2 days during the week where you can allocate 30 min-1 hr towards a meal plan/grocery list and meal prep.
  • When making your meal plan have your calendar ready so you know which days will need quick easy meals vs which days you will be home and can make more time consuming meals.
  • Include your family in the prepping and planning process. If you have extra hands in the prep you can get more done in less time. Maybe each person can pick a meal for the week and help prepare it.
  • Write your plan down, having a visual of your schedule can lead to less stress during the day of wondering what to cook or what you were going to cook. Also my kids love to look at the schedule and keep track of what’s for dinner.
  • Consider making double batches of meals so that you can either freeze or have leftovers for a busy night during the week. You can also use these extras for lunch or even breakfast.

Foods to Prep

Veggies

When prepping vegetables, I like to stick with the longer lasting vegetables. There are some that tend to go bad quicker than others, especially when they have been sliced up. Here is a list of vegetables that I have had good luck with.

  • Huge Salad – any lettuce / shredded carrots / cabbage
  • Onion – Green / Red / Shallot / Chives / Yellow
  • Celery – small pieces for salads or large for snacking
  • Brussel Sprouts – cut in half or shredded in the food processor
  • Peppers
  • Cilantro
  • Carrots
  • Cabbage
  • Cucumber

Fruits

  • Mango
  • Watermelon
  • Melons
  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Berries – When in season I always have raspberries, blueberries and strawberries available to grab.

Breakfast Prep Ideas

  • Yogurt Cups – greek yogurt, fresh fruit, granola, honey (look for low sugar granola)
  • Egg Bake – Sausage and Egg Bake
  • Hardboiled Eggs
  • Sausage Patty’s
  • Overnight Oats Maple Overnight Oats
  • Breakfast Burritos – egg/sausage/veggies/bacon – using a cut da carb wrap.

Meats/Seafood

The nice thing about meat is that for the most part you can just season and either cook in the oven, crock pot or instant pot. While you are cutting and chopping the other items your meat can be cooking.

  • Chicken Breasts – Cut into pieces, baked whole or put in crock pot and shred.
  • Chicken Thighs – BBQ’d or roasted in the oven.
  • Grass Fed Steak – I love getting the little cut up tips and sauteing them up in butter for steak salads or tacos.
  • Meatballs – Make a huge batch and freeze some for a quick meal.
  • Pork – Roasts, chops or even bacon – pre-cook your favorite way and you are set for salads, last minute casserole or even breakfast for dinner.
  • Salmon Burgers – Super easy and reheat well.

Other Items to Prep

  • Salad Dressing – Jessica and I have some very simple and yummy salad dressing recipes that will keep you track.
  • Salsas – Jessica and I LOVE to have mango salsa on hand for salads, tacos or basically anything!
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Spaghetti squash – great for spaghetti (with the meatballs you already prepped) or even with the Teriyaki Meatballs on our site.
  • Quinoa
  • Zoodles – Zucchini noodles

I hope this page has helped you to feel comfortable and understand the value in meal planning and prepping. The benefits to your health and pocketbook are huge and your family will thank you when you are on a beach in Hawaii with all of the extra money you saved eating in!

We have created a printable sheet to help make your life easier when deciding what foods to prep. 💖


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