The key to healthy eating, is being mentally prepared and then physically equipped. First plan what you want your meals to be. Then make sure you have a well stocked fridge to start your meal prep. Breakfasts and dinners are usually quite easy to prepare, but it’s lunches that need some Sunday attention to get me ready for the week.
I do the groceries either on Saturday or Sunday afternoon which is always quick since I know what I need (mostly sticking to the perimeters of the store). And then I’m out! The actual prep doesn’t take that long either, especially once you’ve got the hang of it and know what works for you. I make sure to choose meals that don’t have too many components to it with regards to cooking. It takes me less than an hour and a half and I’ll get it out the way before the evening. The rest of the Sunday can then be enjoyed without worrying about what I’ll be eating the next day.
If you need some convincing here are some reasons why meal prep is beneficial:
- It saves you time during the week
- You are guaranteed to have a healthy meal available (especially if you’re not at home)
- It helps with portion control
Chicken salads are my favorite for lunch because they can be huge without the calorie overload. A whole lot of goodness can be jam packed in them which keeps me full for hours. Here is how I go about my meal prep (for a complete grocery list and preparation scroll to the bottom):
First things first, chicken. A batch for lunches for the whole week (roughly 10-12 breasts) to feed myself and my husband goes in the oven. Here is a recipe for Asian Chicken salad which includes how I prep my chicken. It really takes no time at all! Chicken is great for quick salads but if you don’t want to eat chicken for every lunch then change it up. Cook a whole batch of fish or pork chops that could be added to your vegetables.
While that’s in the oven, I boil up some sweet potatoes and some eggs. These two amazingly nutritious foods can be added to your lunch or had as a snack in the day. Having healthy snacks in the fridge will prevent you from reaching for something less healthy. Nuts are another essential in my kitchen. A handful is a good snack that will keep you going between meals. Did you know that soaking your nuts is important in order to properly digest them? Checkout Wellness Mama‘s post on why and how to soak your nuts.
So now the chicken is in the oven. The eggs and sweet potato are on the boil, and I’m ready to get started on the fresh vegetables. Spinach, bell peppers, carrots and tomatoes are my favorites. Washing your fruit and vegetables is really important to get rid of any pesticides (if not organic) or bacteria from the many hands that touch them. Make sure to throw in a natural fruit and veg cleaner on your next shopping trip! Wash, chop and put these guys in bags, containers or bowls making them super accessible to grab and add to a salad or just throw in a lunch box. When the chicken is done, take it out to cool completely before shredding/dicing it and placing it in airtight containers. Store any leftover juice from the cooked chicken in a container in the fridge to add to stews/sauces for dinner.
Once this is all done and in the fridge, you now have all the components you need to build easy salads for the week. Simply put all these ingredients into a lunch box, drizzle with a healthy dressing (olive oil and lime makes a great simple dressing), throw in a boiled egg and some nuts and you’ll be all set for the day!
If you’re like me, you’ll have no problem eating the same lunch everyday. Creativity and experimentation is for dinner time and so I change those meals up regularly. But if you need a change in lunch time meals everyday, then add some more variety by mixing and matching various prepared ingredients into your lunch box. If there is left over from dinner, add this into your lunch the next day. Try get in plenty of veg, good protein and healthy fats that will keep you from craving unhealthy snacks.
In case you were wondering how long your meat can stay in the fridge before it is considered “dangerous”, here is what foodsafety.gov recommends:
- Raw ground meats, all poultry, seafood, and variety meats: Refrigerate 1 to 2 days.
- Raw roasts, steaks, and chops (beef, veal, lamb, and pork): Refrigerate 3 to 5 days.
- Cooked meat, poultry, and seafood: Store in the refrigerator 3 to 4 days
This meal planning guide is just what I do and what works for me right now. There is no hard and fast way to do it. I encourage you to do your own research, find what healthy foods you enjoy and prepare them so that it is quick and easy to put together. Scroll down to find my grocery list for everyday meals and ways I prepare the food. This is ever changing as I try new ingredients and different meal options.
Some more meal planning tips to set you up for a healthy week:
- Be sure to choose a day for meal prep that fits in with your lifestyle. If it doesn’t then it won’t be sustainable. And if one day for meal prep is too overwhelming for you then you could split your meal prep into two times a week.
- Prepare enough vegetables (like spinach) to use for breakfast omelets or dinners.
- While you’ve got the ball rolling, spice up some chicken drumsticks or pork chops and chuck those in the oven right after the breasts. You’ll then be sorted for dinner in the week as well.
- Keep your fridge organized by putting your already prepared foods in containers that can be stacked easily.
- Keep healthy snacks like nuts and berries in your kitchen and get rid of any unhealthy foods that might tempt you!
What are your favorite meal prep hacks?
Grocery List and Preparation:
Chicken breasts – lay all the breasts for the week on an oven tray lined with tinfoil and greased with coconut oil. Season with salt, pepper and fresh herbs and cover with another layer of tinfoil. 180°C for 45 minutes. Let cool then shred/dice. Store in airtight containers to add to salads/soups for the week.
Chicken drumsticks – season the drumsticks with salt, pepper and paprika. Place on a coconut oil greased baking tray. Bake for 1 hour at 180°C. Let cool and store in airtight containers in the fridge/freezer.
Beef bones – put 500g beef bones in a slow cooker/pressure cooker with 4 cups of water, onions, garlic, salt, pepper and 1Tbs of apple cider vinegar. Once cooked and slightly cooled, pour through colander and store in a container in the fridge/freezer to add to soups/stews or a healthy savory drink.
Eggs – boil 10-12 eggs for 15 minutes and place in a bowl in the fridge for a quick and easy snack or to add to salads.
Sweet potato – wash 6 medium sweet potatoes and cut into quarters. Boil until soft, drain, let cool and place in container to have as a snack or add to meals. I sometimes bake a whole batch of sweet potatoes by simply washing them and placing them in the oven for an hour. This is great for a side of starch at dinner.
Spinach – wash and dry then place in a container that preferably has a draining tray at the bottom to keep dry. I do enough for two handfuls per salad.
Red, green, yellow bell peppers – wash and slice peppers then place in a ziplock bag to quickly add to salads.
Carrots – wash and julienne to add to salads or chop to add to stews/soups for dinner. Store in a ziplock bag in the fridge.
Baby tomatoes – wash and keep whole in a bowl in the fridge. Add to salads or have as a snack.
Red cabbage – peel off top layer.Thinly slice the cabbage and place in ziplock bags in the fridge.
Cauliflower – wash and chop into florets. Put in ziplock bags in the fridge.
Broccoli – same as above.
Zucchini – I wash these and keep them whole as they tend to last longer. It is super quick to just chop them up and add to a stew/soup or just roast in the oven.
Pumpkin – peel the skin and scoop out the seeds. Chop into bite sized pieces and place in a ziplock bag in the fridge. When prepping dinner, I spread these out on an oven tray, drizzle with coconut oil and roast until browned.
Onions and garlic – these I leave in their happy wholeness until needed to start up a dinner meal.
Fresh herbs – wash and dry and store in ziplock bags to add to any meal.
Nuts – soak over night in water and salt. Drain then spread out on an oven tray to dehydrate on a low heat for several hours.
Bananas – I try avoid fruit as it doesn’t seem to work for my stomach but my husband adds it to spinach and protein powder for breakfast. This is a good fruit to have in the kitchen to add to smoothies, porridge (see below) or for quick desserts.
Dessicated coconut, ground flaxseed, psillium husk and chia seeds – combine these ingredients (ratio 1:1:1:1) to make a grain-free porridge. Every morning I put 4-5 scoops of this mixture into a bowl, add 250ml of hot water, mix well and then let sit for 5 minutes until soaked up. A banana, raw honey or gluten-free protein powder goes in to add some sweetness as well as a dash of cinnamon.
Coconut oil – this is the only oil I use for cooking.
Olive oil – this oil is used only in raw form for salad dressings or to drizzle over vegetables.
Lime juice (or fresh limes) – to add to water for a refreshing drink or to olive oil for a dressing.