My Weekly Meal PrepRead Now
Without a doubt the biggest question I get is "If you don't eat __________ what DO you eat?" So I figured I should do a post about a typical week for me. I do a lot of bulk cooking and preparation since I have a very busy schedule between work, grad school, choir practice, dance practice, church and house hunting so I usually do the majority of my meal prep on Saturday night or Sunday depending on what I am making. Sometimes both... if I am making something in the crock pot I will usually put it in on Saturday night so that when I do the rest of my prep on Sunday I can portion out my crock pot meal or protein. I used to plan something new every day but I don't any longer as it created an overabundance of food and therefore unnecessary work and possibly wasted food... not good. The plan I am currently using is 2-3 options for lunches and dinners that I can mix and match each weekday and then veggies and fruit sides and snacks.
I typically prep veggies, mushrooms and a protein such as sausage or diced ham for fast omelets on the weekend then it is just a matter of scooping out a little veg into the scrambled eggs, tossing some extra protein in and letting it cook up while I pack my lunchbox.
Tuna tins or pouches, sliced deli meats, and "leftovers" from other meals make up my protein sources. I will typically purchase thicker cuts of deli meats or bake/roast meats and freeze them after slicing in small quantities. Sometimes I will have a few smaller portions of cheese that I can add to a lunch and I almost always have some homemade mayo on hand for tuna salad.
I make up a large salad each week... enough to last me 6-7 side salads minimum. This makes prepping lunches and quick dinners very quick and only takes a few minutes longer than making a single salad would take so it is a but time saver. My typical salad is a mix of: kale, chard, spinach, red or green leaf lettuce, romaine and maybe a little radicchio. My other veggies go in small containers on the side so that they don't get my salad mushy.
Veggies for Salads and Snacks:
I most commonly use carrots, zucchini, cucumbers and tomatoes as they are all easy to use as both salad toppings and snacks that I can eat on the go.
Other Salad Toppings and Snacks:
Nuts, seeds, hard boiled eggs, and dried berries all make for easy salad toppings and double as snacks as well. These are things I personally use sparingly but as everything but the eggs are fairly shelf stable I keep them on hand to use when I need to.
This week's dinners are BBQ rubbed beef in the crock pot, roasted chicken (which can also be made in the crock pot... just make one on Saturday and one on Sunday!), and zoodles with meat sauce. Zoodles aren't something that I usually make up early as they are easy to make and take very little time but I will make the meat sauce ahead of time. Honestly, I usually keep 1-2 servings of marinara and/or meat sauce in the freezer.
Dinner Carb-Based Sides:
I personally eat very few carbs in the grand scheme of things so you won't find me making these regularly but if you need some extra carbs in your diet then these are quick and easy sides: roasted root vegetables such as parsnips, yams and carrots (just drizzle in olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt then roasted), sweet potatoes either sliced, mashed or baked and sauteed veggies w a small amount of rice (portion the fresh veg and steamed rice ahead of time then you can saute everything when you are about to eat for crisp fresh veggies).
Dinner (non-starchy) Sides:
I eat more of the large salad I eat for lunch or toss a Ceasar salad, steamed or stir fried Asian veggies, cauliflower 'rice', zoodles, or pretty much any veggie at the farmer's market works here. I aim to try a new veggie every month.
Sometimes I am not very hungry but want a little something... or I am not feeling well suddenly. During these times I pull out my frozen bone broth. Tossing in some fresh vegetables or protein makes for a fast soup as well. Bone broth has a lot of health benefits so you may even want to keep this as a regular meal.
Treats: Treats for me aren't usually baked goods... but it is sometimes. Maybe once a month or if I have an event I will bake up a batch of something sweet. My more common treats are whole fruit, smoothies, fruit salad, dark chocolate and unsweetened applesauce with cinnamon.
What Prep Looks Like:
Breakfast and lunch meats are often done in bulk as well as mayo. other condiments and bone broth. Usually biweekly works well for me as the meats from one week (such as the one listed above) will last nearly two weeks' worth of meals since it is just me so I can use that time on the opposite weeks to make condiments and breakfast/lunch meats like a roasted turkey breast or ham (cook, slice and freeze in portioned packets).
The whole routine usually takes about 10 minutes (like I said- I am not a morning person) and often includes some other morning odds and ends like changing the laundry over or other chores. Add in another few minutes for the dogs, 15 minutes for a shower and getting ready for work (my hair is super short right now so it doesn't take very long) and a couple minutes to grab whatever I need for after work activities and I'm ready to leave for work. Grand total from waking up to walking out the door you ask? 30-40 minutes usually... including preparing 2-3 meals for the day, a household chore and taking care of myself and the dogs.
When I was married I followed a similar routine but made the dinner proteins in the crock pot every other day so they would be ready when I got home in the evening... and there were more carbs as I had a very active military husband. Lunches and breakfasts were pretty much the same but cooking for 2+ meant less space in the fridge so I would do meal prep twice a week instead of just once. Making up packets of marinaded meats and freezing them for use on the grill or in stir fry was also something that I did a lot of to speed dinner up on the evenings where I didn't want to use a crock pot. Casseroles are another time saver as you can prep one in the morning or the night before and pop it in the oven when you get home for a meal in usually less than half an hour (enough time to do a load of laundry and clean 1 room of the house if you are me... I like to be done with everything before dinner if possible). It's all about making the most of your time and finding a routine that works for your schedule and family.