For anyone who is looking to eat healthier, your most reliable and sustainable option is to prepare your own meals. You can’t beat being the one in complete control over what goes into your food and into your body.
Knowing how to cook and prepare make-ahead meals for yourself is an important skill worth developing. It keeps you healthy, financially-efficient, and gives you skills in the kitchen that you can impress others with. For busy parents especially, a little organization and commitment to meal planning can go a long way to simplifying your schedule and freeing up valuable time.
What if I told you you could prepare one week’s worth of healthy meals in one afternoon? For me, on a Sunday evening I can prepare my week’s meals and snacks in under 2 hours. If I’m particularly organized, and my fridge and pantry are well stocked, I can even pull off completing all meals in 1 hour.
With practice, you will only improve in skill and efficiency in the kitchen. And it will be worth your while.
Consider all the time you would save daily: planning your next takeout meal, waiting in lines, ordering off apps and awaiting delivery, or putting yourself through decision fatigue deciding what to eat at every meal or point of hunger.
So here’s a quick and strategic step-by-step guide to get you started:
1. Choose your recipes
- What do you feel like eating this week? Consider your palette, schedule, and what foods you feel you’d like to get more of (i.e. greens)
- Select 2 to 3 different meal recipes to alternate between lunch and dinner
- To save even more time, opt for one-pot or one-pan recipes that are mostly cooked in the oven so your hands are free to prepare any remaining recipes
- Select 2 easy snack recipes or whole food options
- Select 2 make-ahead breakfast recipes
- Choose healthy recipes that are nutritionally complete with protein, fats, and carbs
2. Grocery shop for the ingredients
- For the ingredients I need but don’t already have stocked in my kitchen, I’ll either run to the local grocery store or I will order my groceries earlier that day online for delivery in the evening.
3. Do all the prep first
- Wash and chop produce
- Lay out clean containers
- Marinate any meats/proteins
4. Cook in order of recipes that take longest to shortest
- In the meantime, optimize the use of all your appliances by cooking over multiple stovetop burners and using the oven
- Cook recipes at the same time as much as possible
- For example, boil all your grains in pots side-by-side, roast all your vegetables in the oven altogether, pan-fry your proteins at once
5. Start packing food into containers
- As soon as each component of a meal (i.e. the side or the main) is ready, start packing the food into the containers so you can free up stove or oven space for whatever is next in line
6. Pack snacks and breakfasts
- During the idle time you find while the food is cooking or water is boiling, begin to pack your week’s snacks and make-ahead breakfasts into individual portions
- For example, pack individual servings of nuts into small ziploc bags to go with a whole fruit like an apple or nectarine
- For breakfast, pack into mason jars make-ahead oatmeal or chia seed pudding. Another great option is to pack into freezer bags individual servings of your favourite smoothie recipes
- Get creative and plan snacks and breakfasts that are easily interchangeable and can be enjoyed at any hour. For example one of your smoothies could make a late-afternoon snack, or your fruit and nut snack combo could make a grab-and-go breakfast.
I hope you find this guide helpful.
Read on for more blog posts on nutrition and healthy living.