I’m proud to say that despite having a new baby in the house, my hubby and I have maintained our “make meals for the week in advance” schedule. We usually hit up the grocery as a family on Saturday or Sunday morning with our list in hand. We prepare lunches for both of us for 4 days and get ingredients for dinners as well for 4 nights. We also plan out what we’ll eat for breakfast and make sure to have that prepped and ready, too.
If you are having trouble staying on track with whatever health goal you have and you AREN’T pre-planning your meals – my advice would be to start now! Even if your excuse is that your schedule is too hectic – I would argue that taking a few minutes to pre-select your meals, hit the grocery store ONCE and get all the goods and spending a few hours in the kitchen one day a week would help you have MORE time during the week. I can’t believe how much time I used to spend deciding what to eat on the day of before work. I would open my fridge and stare at the contents, look in the panty for any sign of something decent…and then struggle to think of anything I could put together with what I had already. This often ended in frustration and I would just get something “out” which was typically unhealthy and more expensive than bringing food from home.
We have been doing this “meals in advance” thing for almost 4 years and we have definitely seen savings in terms of calories and dollars. And of course, time. If you aren’t a chef in the kitchen – there are so many resources for quick and easy meals available on the internet. Your meals don’t have to be gourmet!
Have I convinced you yet?
To get started you have to follow some rules:
1) Pre-select the meals. Check out some websites (eatingwell.com & cookinglight.com are 2 of my favs, as well as paleomg.com if you are looking for wheat free ideas) and select FOUR meals to make. You’ll pick 2 lunch style options and 2 dinner options.
- You’ll be eating each meal twice which helps with the excuse of not wanting to buy a meal for just one person – because you’ll always be eating it twice. OR I guess if you don’t mind repetition – you could just pick 2 meals and eat them all 4 times instead (this would only work if you are doing this solo though)!
- We give ourselves one lunch out and one dinner out each week so that we can still be social or attend work events that are over lunch/dinner, etc.
- Make sure you consider your circumstances for lunch – do you have a fridge at work, a microwave? Toaster oven? Pick meals that will be easy to eat at work.
2) Make a LIST with all the ingredients you’ll need from each recipe BEFORE you set foot in the grocery store. Pick recipes that use the same ingredients to save even more money. So say you are going to make steak tacos and want to do a home made pizza – you could use the same cheese and vegetables for both. See?
3) This must be said: STICK TO THE LIST WHEN YOU SHOP. DO NOT VENTURE FROM THE LIST!
4) Pick a day, afternoon, night, morning (whatever) to prepare your meals. We always make our lunches in advance and put them in 1 serving containers so in the morning it’s a quick grab and go before work. Over the past year we’ve gone back and forth between making dinners in advance and waiting till the night of to make the dinner. It all depends on your schedule. But knowing what you are going to have for dinner and already having all the ingredients will save you tons of time and energy night of!
- One thing we’ll do is do any prep work that might need to happen for dinner in advance. I’ll use the taco example again (we love tacos) – you could do that as a dinner but you could make the taco meat/veggies in advance so you just have to heat it up and crisp up the taco shells. Throw some beans on the side and you’ve got a meal.
One thing that really helps with this approach is to invest in some decent containers to store your portioned lunches/dinners. We use glass pyrex containers and we have a variety of sizes (small and large rectangles, different sizes of bowls, etc). Make sure whatever you get has lids that seal effectively to keep your food yummy.
The bottom line is that everyone is busy – but scheduling in time to eat healthy (or just to eat within a budget) is do-able. If we can do it in a family where we both work full time and have a new baby, you can do it, too! Start small – maybe just prepare lunches in advance and see how it goes!