This month’s wellness topic is meal planning, which I talked about last week. But this is a really big subject, so I felt like it deserved a second, more in depth post. Depending on how you do your planning and prepping, obviously things will be different, but I thought I would share how I go about it, what I keep on hand at home, some of my go to meals and a few of my tips. Also, this is a long post, and I apologize in advance.
I take meal planning very seriously. It really is an art form. There is a lot of work that goes into it, but it is 100% worth it for me. As I mentioned last week, there are two ways of going about it – you can either prep your food in advance and make meals as you go, or you can make the full meals for the week, which is what I do. So that is going to be the focus of this post, since that is what I know best.
If you don’t have a couple of hours a week to devote to cooking, I have an idea for you. This is especially good if you have kids but you still want them to have home cooked meals most nights. Take a day, send the kids with the grandparents or to a friend’s house. Make a couple of the same (freezable) meals – make 2 lasagnas, 2 enchilada casseroles, etc, and then freeze them. You can get a whole month’s worth of meals done in one day. You will already have all of those ingredients ready so making 2 of everything won’t take that much longer. Will it be time consuming? Yes. But it is just 1 day and then you will be set for the month! My other suggestion if you are short on time- use your crock pot! More on that a little later.
So it all starts on Friday night. I used to make my grocery list on Saturdays, but I am always rushed and found I was making the same thing over and over (which is something we struggle with), so I am starting to make my grocery list on Friday night when I have time to think, research, and really plan. I plan meals Saturday – Thursday. On Friday we almost always have pizza because neither of us want to do any cooking.
On Saturdays I go to the grocery store (in the summer I also go to the farmer’s market) and I get everything that I need. I run errands on Saturday and there is usually a house project going on as well, and since my Sundays are devoted to cleanings and cooking, I have found that grocery shopping on Saturday has not only eliminated a trip to the store but also freed up a little bit of time on Sunday. (I used to grocery shop on Sunday as well and it was like a marathon day). On Sunday afternoon I do my cooking. This can take anywhere between 2 and 4 hours, depending on what I am making. Normally I make something for my lunch for the week and 2-3 dishes for the week.
There are some things I like to always have on hand no matter what we are having. I always buy lettuce and spinach. We normally have salads a lot of nights with our dinners, but it is also doubles as a back up in case I run out of food for lunch. This is also the reason I keep a couple of cans of tuna (I get Safe Catch Elite, which has the lowest mercury) in my pantry. It isn’t nearly as good as a fresh piece of tuna, but it works.
I always make sure I have pasta and rice as well, which both can be used in a variety of ways. I am all for pasta with a little butter and parmesan cheese. But I also try to have homemade marinara in my freezer at all times (if you don’t make your own, keep a couple of good . And either are great tossed with some roasted veggies.
I always always have chicken and vegetable broth on hand, which is used in so many recipes, but also great for throwing a quick pot of soup together.
I also try to keep some canned vegetables in the pantry – things like black beans, corn, artichokes (which are so good in salads), mushrooms and diced tomatoes, which can be used in a variety of ways. I also keep a can or two of cream of chicken and cream of mushroom soups which are used in recipes a lot.
There are SO many great recipes that are perfect for meal prepping. Casseroles and sheet pan recipes are always good. Some of these I have mentioned before, but they are worth revisiting. Some of these I go ahead and cook completely so then I just have to reheat it. Some of them I put together, but the only thing I have to do that night is put it in the over. It just depends on the recipe and the cook time.
This super simple 10 minute lasagna is a favorite at our house. You use no bake lasagna noodles, which are awesome (unfortunately I can’t find a whole wheat version). Charlie loves his meat, so I brown up some ground turkey to add to it as well. Gimme Some Oven is one of my very favorite food bloggers, and her recipes are always really good.
Another awesome lasagna meal is this zucchini lasagna roll up recipe. It is one of my favorites. Skinnytaste is another amazing food blogger. I make her recipes all of the time, and I have her two cookbooks as well, which are both really good. I love her website because you can search by things like slow cooker or vegetarian meals or under 30 minutes.
This sheet pan chicken with potatoes and spinach couldn’t be easier. I usually go ahead and cook it on Sunday and then just reheat it during the week, but you could just chop the potatoes and get it together and then cook it the night you want to eat it. Sheet pan meals in general are really great. This article has a ton of ideas in it. One of my favorite sheet pan dishes is to marinate chicken in teriyaki sauce, chop up a bunch of veggies (onion, squash, zucchini, broccoli, sugar snap peas, etc) and then drizzle a little teriyaki sauce over everything, cook it on a sheet pan for about 45 minutes. Then just serve with some rice. So good!
If you are in a casserole mood, this chicken and zucchini casserole is really good and super simple (although I don’t know that you would put it in the crazy healthy category).
Now that the weather is cooling off (or hopefully will be soon), making a big pot of chili is always a good idea.
The crock pot is an excellent way to take care of a meal without really doing much. If you don’t have a crock pot, do yourself a favor and buy one. I just had to replace mine, and I got one at Target for like $30. The best crock pot recipes are the ones where you dump everything in, and it just does its thing. I recently made this salsa chicken with black beans and corn and it was excellent. And you can do so much with it! We ate it over rice, but you could use it in tacos or on a taco salad or even over nachos.
And if you are looking for a good one night recipe, my go to is this pasta with spinach dish. I don’t meal prep this because it only takes about 30 minutes, and I take the leftovers for lunch!
Speaking of lunch, it is honestly a little bit of a struggle for me. I’m not really a sandwich girl, and it can be challenging coming up with new and different things to eat each week. I do a lot of soups like this potato soup or I might roast some veggies and throw them over rice or mix in with some pasta. Sometimes I’ll do salads, but lunch is really hard to figure out!
So I know this was a really long post, but if you made it here, YAY! Hopefully this gave you a little more incite into my meal planning and prepping process, and some ideas for yourself!