Welcome back my personal meal planning guru – Michaela Gasseling. She is here to give us a more in-depth look at her planning and prepping process, as well as answer a few questions she received last week. To keep up with Michaela beyond this week, follow her on:
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Meal Planning—Part II
One of my core beliefs is that few things should take priority over our health. You have to MAKE TIME to meal prep. There is a popular quote that says “Those who think they have no time for healthy eating will sooner or later have to find time for illness.”
Last week we talked about the advantages of planning meals and prepping them in advance.
- It allows you to eat healthier (fewer pre-packaged, less-healthy convenience foods and eating out).
- It allows you to shop more efficiently (less trips to the store).
- You save money (by eating at home, and a shopping list means you are less likely to impulse-buy, and less food waste=less money wasted).
- You eliminate food waste.
This week I want to go more in depth and share with you my methods of meal planning and prepping, focusing on the other benefits as well as the food saving benefit and answering a few common questions I have received. I gave you a brief outline of the process HERE, and below I will share a more detailed look at my methods.
I typically pick out five main dishes for our evening meals – I start here because these are the biggest and most complex meals. Then I build the rest of my day’s meals around them to make sure we eat a balanced diet. Also, what happens to work best for my family is to make a big meal for dinner (or supper, as Terryn would say) so that we have leftovers both for my husband to take to work and for the kids and me to eat at home the next day. I am all about efficiency!
An alternate method that some prefer is to have the same thing for lunch every day (i.e. a salad or sandwich) for the sake of simplicity or if they have a larger family and infrequently have enough for leftovers. I am a creature of habit, but the same thing for lunch every single day – that’s a bit overboard for me!
To find recipes and make sure that our meals are balanced, I have a cookbook collection (I am a nerd like that) and keep a binder full of my family’s favorite recipes. I also use good ol’ Pinterest, especially when I get a new vegetable in my Bountiful Basket that I have never used or have no idea how to prepare. I focus always on whole foods – foods without an ingredient label – working around the produce I get in my basket and the proteins I have on-hand, which are almost always lean cuts of beef, chicken, and eggs. I occasionally throw pork into the mix, but since we live in Nebraska, fish is more of a rare treat due to the price. Again for proteins I don’t have on hand, I watch for sales and buy many cuts of meat when they are on sale because they can be frozen and used when needed.
Then I sit down with my pen and fabulous Heart of the Farm Planner and start filling in the handy meal plans. You can also do this with pen and paper, or an excel spreadsheet. I do transfer many of my meal plans to a spreadsheet so that I can save them to share with friends, or “recycle” them, meaning I can use the same plan again in a couple of months. Again, keeps it simple! Click here to see a complete and polished meal plan.
While we’re on the topic of the actual planning of the meals, I mentioned that I choose our dinners and then build the breakfasts and snacks around those. This is because for the past 2 ½ years I have been using a very simple nutrition plan based on eating the proper number and size portions of fruits, veggies, healthy fats, carbohydrates, and proteins each day for a balanced diet. I shoot for filling half my plate with veggies, ¼ with protein, and ¼ with carbohydrates. It’s called the 21 Day Fix.
21 Day Fix was designed by a fitness and nutrition expert and it makes my life so much easier! It allows me to eat the foods that my family and I love, while making sure that I get in all of my nutrients and am able to maintain my weight. I never have to count calories and I have the energy need for my busy life – I have never felt healthier! This nutrition plan can also be adjusted if you desire to lose weight, but again, that could be another whole topic. If you are interested in learning more about this type of simple nutrition, please don’t hesitate to shoot me an email!
Based on my nutritional needs, I plan my breakfasts, which are usually the same variation week after week (I told you, creature of habit, plus I just know what is fast, easy, delicious, and filling), my snacks, and plan to use the dinner from the night before for my lunch the next day. Cook once, eat twice. Who can argue with that?!?
After I have my meals laid out, I use the recipes to make my grocery list. I have a running list of pantry items that I check over to see if any need restocked (things like nuts, spices, oils, vinegars, etc.). Once the list is made I shop! Then the fun part…
Here’s a little “to-do” list that simplifies my time in the kitchen:
- Write down the things you can prep ahead of time (can you tell that I like lists??)
- Have your storage containers ready. I prefer glass dishes (with lids) like Pyrex so that they can easily go from fridge to microwave or the oven (less dishes=winning!)
- Wash and chop your produce. Again, if it is stored correctly, it will last longer. Also, now is a good time to put fruits and veggies in individual portions to grab and go for quick snacks. (1 cup=1 portion for fruits and veggies)
- Turn on some music!!!
- Cook multiple things at once. Example: have a whole chicken in the oven? Wrap some potatoes or sweet potatoes in tinfoil and throw them in too!
So there you have it. Even though I feel like it takes a lot of words to explain, and a little bit of time to practice it and make it a habit, the total time I spend in the kitchen on a Saturday or Sunday is minimal compared to the frustration and wasted time, and food, it saves me during the week when we are crazy busy and tired by 6pm!
Next Week on Food Saver Friday
As Michaela stated above, cooking once and eating twice is a great way to simplify. And by simply tweaking a few things, it is also a great way to reduce food waste through one of my personal favorites – the leftover makeover. I am up next week discussing the art of the leftover makeover and offering a few great pairings.
In the meantime, if you have questions feel free to leave them here in the comments, or shoot us an email using the Contact Me page.
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