This post is part of our ongoing Simplify Series, which focuses on strategies for improving your health and outlook by simplifying various aspects of your life. To view other related posts, search for “Simplify”.
You really can’t go on Pinterest, scroll through Instagram, or even mindlessly look at Facebook these days without seeing people or companies promoting or sharing their meal-prepping strategies. It makes a ton of sense if you think about it – we’re all wildly overscheduled with a million things on our minds, probably the last of which is what we’re going to make for dinner that night. That is where meal prepping came in to save the day for my family and me. Instead of haphazardly throwing together a meal, or – even worse – ordering takeout because I’m too tired (read: lazy) to cook, I now plan our dinners a week in advance and do my very best to stick with them.
For some background, I’m a writer here at CDPHP®, my husband owns his own contracting business, and we have a toddler in daycare. Most afternoons at around 4, my husband and I text each other to figure out where we’re at in our day. If I’m on deadline and he’s supervising a job site, we need to make a plan for who will pick up our daughter that night. Then, once we’re home, we immediately launch into the feeding/letting-the-dog-out-and-having-dinner-before-bedtime routine, which generally lasts a couple of hours. Rather than wasting that precious time figuring out what to make for dinner and cooking it, I want to spend it catching up with my girl and my husband. Sound familiar to you? Good – then let’s get prepping!
Here’s how we make meal prep work for our family:
- Every Saturday, I take stock of what’s in the kitchen and make my grocery list based on what we’ve run out of. From there, I start to think about the following week’s meals so that I can be sure to add the ingredients I need to the list. For example, one of my favorite dishes to make is penne rosa, but it requires spinach, which is not something I always have on hand because of the risk of it going bad before I use it.
- My next step is to write out all of our meals on a big wall calendar in the kitchen. Yes, friends, we’re still kicking it old school in my house and using a paper calendar. It works for meals, appointments, and keeping my household on track.
- I generally do my grocery shopping on Sundays. I try my best to work the perimeter of the store, save for the whole grains and frozen fruits/veggies found in the inner aisles. And, I love using NutriSavings™ to earn Life Points® for the healthy purchases I’m making anyway!
- I can’t stress this next one enough – if your fruits or veggies need to be cut up, DO IT AS SOON AS YOU BUY THEM! Seriously. Don’t even put them in the fridge. When you get home from the grocery store, leave what you need to cut up out on the counter and just do it. This has saved me hundreds of dollars in wasted food.
- I try to plan for at least two slow-cooker meals per week, especially in the cold-weather months. Salsa chicken is a big hit in my family! There’s nothing more satisfying than throwing your ingredients together the night before and turning the slow cooker on to do its thing before you walk out the door. Also, in true slow-cooker fashion, I make way more than I need for that night’s dinner. Then, I repurpose the leftovers into lunches for the week.
Here are a few of my favorite web resources for meal prepping:
Pinterest – I have found so many great recipes that have become staples in my house.
Buzzfeed Tasty Videos – Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve definitely watched a Tasty video (or 300). They have some awesome meal-prep videos, as well as one-pot or one-sheet dishes that are perfect for busy weeknights.
Greatist – I subscribed to their daily emails about a year ago at the suggestion of a colleague, and I am SO glad I did! Not only do they feature excellent articles on living your healthiest, best life, but there are always great recipe ideas and meal-prep strategies to add to my repertoire.
If you’re looking beyond web resources to sharpen your healthy-cooking skills, I strongly recommend taking a peek at the CDPHP community wellness class listing. These free classes, like Warm Up the Winter with Your Slow Cooker, will teach you to create healthy, satisfying meals.
We also recently held a healthy recipe contest with our CDPHP Insights community. Thanks to our winner, Karen, for submitting her Zucchini/Chicken Bake, perfect as a main dish or as a side. In second place was Dana for her delicious Banana Bread recipe and Rose placed third with her take on a Spinach Mushroom Frittata. You can download recipe cards for each of these items and try them out today! Also, consider joining our CDPHP Insights community – you’ll have the opportunity to share important feedback with CDPHP, as well as participate in fun contests like this one.
Let’s face it: We’re not perfect, and you still may order the occasional pizza. The important thing is to try and devote some time to planning ahead and shopping for exactly what you need. You may just see your stress level – and grocery bill! – decrease as a result.