Real Food

Simple Ways to Plan and Prepare Meals Even When You’re Busy

You want to eat healthier, but you’re super busy.
You eat out several times a week because that’s what you have to do. That’s what works for you and your family (when it comes to time and convenience).
But you probably realize it’s not working great when it comes to your health and fitness goals.
You want better health. You want to eat better. You don’t want the extra calories, fast food, and junk food as much anymore.

And you DO want to save time and money. I get it! So, as a health coach, I am here to help you.
I have a simple strategy that I’m more than happy to share with you. It will help you to plan and prepare healthy meals for the week.
Now, you don’t need to completely abandon your regular meals out. You can use my strategy to help you eat out just one or two fewer times per week. It’s up to you.
As with any lifestyle change, start gradually so you can build consistency. The key here is to make it easy, doable and rewarding enough to do again and again. Let me walk you through my simple meal-prep system, and how this can work for you. 

Plan Meals For The Week
I prefer to do this on the weekend. I’ll flip through my recipes and choose a bunch to make that week.

I’ll even pick which days to have which meals if I’m feeling overly ambitious, but that’s not necessary
if you’re new to this. I’ll bookmark the pages and write my chosen recipes down in a
notebook or even a sheet of paper to put on my fridge. I like to have at least one crockpot meal each
week because they’re so easy, and dinner is ready and waiting when you get home.
Then I create my grocery list. I take a quick look in my fridge, freezer, and pantry, and list the
recipe ingredients that I need to buy.

Pro Tip 1
If you’re not sure you have enough of an ingredient already, consider buying a “backup”
one just in case. I’ve had times where the tomato sauce I planned to use was a bit short of what
I actually needed. Having to run out in the middle of meal prep can be very frustrating.

Another thing to consider is doubling the recipe(s), so you can prep and cook once, but have twice
the meal at the end. The extras can be taken for lunch, or frozen to pull out the night before a busy day, so you just need to heat it up when you’re ready.

Pro Tip 2
If you’re doubling a recipe, don’t forget to double the amount you buy from the grocery store. Once you have your handy-dandy grocery list ready, hop on over to the store and pick up your essentials. If you don’t have enough food storage containers for your meals, now’s the time to pick up some of those too.

Pro Tip 3
If you’re not a fan of washing and chopping produce, then consider buying them already pre-washed and pre-chopped, or even frozen.

You can make your meal prep even easier if you don’t mind spending a couple of extra dollars.

Prepare Meals For The Week
Since you’ve already chosen your recipes and have your groceries, let’s get started on prepping
some of the ingredients.
I like to book off 2-3 hours one afternoon for this. Get your recipes ready, clear off your counter,
and play some music (if you’re so inclined).
At this point, depending on time, I’ll either prep the ingredients, or precook the entire recipe.
Sometimes just washing and chopping produce and putting it in containers is a huge time saver for weeknights.

Or, you can go through and make a whole meal, and divide it up into portions and
refrigerate or freeze. It’s really up to you, because the more you do now, the less you’ll have to do when you’re hungry.

Awesome Meal Prep Tips
There is one meal that is easiest to plan and prepare in advance. It’s one that’s also often the most difficult to eat at home if you’re busy. That’s breakfast.
Planning some overnight oatmeal is a great start to any day. Simply place ½ cup rolled oats, ½
cup your choice of milk, 1 tbsp chia or flax seeds into a container (or make 5 for the whole week). Then place the lid on, shake them up and put them in your fridge. In the morning you can quickly heat them up or even eat them cold (the oats will have absorbed the milk). Top with berries, chopped fruit, nuts or seeds and enjoy.

With a little planning, you’ll be able to eat healthier while you save money and calories.

Tips For Packing Healthy Lunches For Your Kids

One of the biggest struggles with feeding your family healthier foods is knowing what to have your kids bring for lunches. Instead of just giving them the generic sandwiches and chips each day, follow these tips to pack them healthy lunches each day without spending too much time and effort.

Use Bento Boxes For Different Lunch Components

An easy way to put your kids’ lunches together in a way that keeps them interesting and varied is by using Bento boxes. These lunch boxes have a lot of different compartments that let you put portion-size items together. Instead of making a wrap and putting it in a typical lunch box, you can have a deconstructed wrap that your child can put together on their own. These boxes also work great when you want them to have different types of items together, such as nuts, fruit, veggies with dip, lean meat, and any other options they like.

Make Healthier PB&J Sandwiches

Just because your kid likes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches doesn’t mean they can’t have a healthy meal. There are plenty of ways to make them healthier. To start with, use whole wheat or whole grain bread instead of regular white bread. Choose a low-sugar version of jam or jelly instead of regular jarred jelly. For the peanut butter, go with a low-salt, natural version or make it completely on your own.

Include Leftovers in the Lunch

You don’t have to give your kids traditional meal items like sandwiches, chips, and pudding. You can make them meals that don’t take very long by taking some of your leftovers and putting them together in the Bento box or regular lunch box. Many kids enjoy their dinners so much that they are more than willing to have some of the same items for lunch. You don’t have to make it exactly the same either. For example, if you prepared steak the night before, cut it into strips and include it in their lunch box with whole-wheat tortillas and veggies so they can make their own fajitas for lunch.

Have Kids Help With Lunches

Just as you do with dinners during the week, it helps to have your kids help with their lunches. Let them choose different healthy components for their meals to simplify the entire process. They will give you more ideas and help put their lunch boxes together. You will also know they will enjoy their lunch and eat it all since they helped to put it together.