Last week I helped teach a group of women in our Relief Society Meeting about how I personally meal plan & meal prep. It occurred to me that this very topic, on how to meal plan, might be something you would like to hear as well.
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How To Meal Plan (or at least how I do it) 😀
- I start my meal plan with deciding what 3-4 proteins I’m going to use this week. It varies from chicken, beef, pork, fish, turkey, vegetarian, etc.
- I then choose what I’m going to do with those proteins or put with the proteins and how I’m going to use them for leftovers.*
- During the winter months, I make one large pot of soup. In the summer, I make a large batch of some kind of grain and veggie salad (without lettuce).**
- One large pot of grains, my typical go to’s are brown rice, quinoa or barley. There are so many more options to choose from or do a combination of grains.***
* I like to cook once and eat twice so I usually plan 3-4 meals and 3-4 leftover meals. If I have grilled chicken, roasted broccoli and quinoa for dinner I grill more chicken then we need. Then later in the week, I’ll use that chicken for something like a quick stir-fry. Or I’ll cook extra ground beef and later in the week, we’ll change that ground beef into a sloppy joe mix over roasted sweet potatoes. At the end of the week, I often make an egg bake, egg casserole, frittata, whatever you want to call it. We mix our leftover meat, veg and grain in with some eggs and bake it at 350 F.
** I like to have soup on hand for lunches or for those days when for whatever reason dinner didn’t get done. Since I cooked the soup on my prep day there is nothing I have to do put dish it up. If it is in the summer I basically use my grain and veggie salad for the same thing. Lunches or a quick dinner when I can’t get dinner on the table. You can take the salad and pair it with some already cooked protein or add beans. I often put it over lettuce and eat it as a huge salad. You don’t want to store it with the lettuce though or the lettuce gets soggy, wilts and goes bad quickly.
*** When I cook my pot of grains I don’t really season them. This gives me the freedom to change the flavor for each meal. One day I might want to add some lemon zest and garlic another night I might add some cilantro and beans to the rice, etc.
How I Meal Prep
- Cook my soup or salad for the week
- Cook my pot of grains for the week (unseasoned see ***notes above)
- Prepare any marinades I might be using*
- Cut up my fruit and veg, that usually includes everything, even onions. The only thing I can think of that I don’t pre-cut is potatoes.**
* If I’m going to use the meat in the marinade late in the week I might freeze it. I just pull it out the day before to thaw. This helps it stay fresh. If the marinade is very acidic and the meat is in it too long it changes the texture and starts to “cook” the meat. Which is another reason to freeze it in the marinade
** I usually don’t worry about the vegetables getting soft if I’m going to cook them. Vegetables I’m going to cook get thrown into zip-top bag or Tupperware. If I’m using the vegetables as a snack I store the veggies in a mason jar with water in it. That will help keep the vegetables crisp. Some fruit lasts better cut up than others. I try to eat those ones first. I even cut up apples and just put lemon juice or pineapple juice over them. Then I strain the juice off before I put them into individual servings in the fridge.Keep meal planning and meal prep simple.Click To Tweet
Extra Tips On How to Meal Plan Options
Here are some extra tips that I use to make my meals healthier or to extend the meat further when I meal plan & meal prep.
- I always cut up 3-5 different veggies, saute and then puree them. I add them to any sauce I’m making.
- If I’m making a ground beef dish I will thro a box of button mushrooms into the food processor and “brown” them with the hamburger. If I don’t use the mushrooms I’ll use already cooked lentils. The mushrooms hide perfectly, nobody knows they are there. The lentils do not hide well however. I suggest you start by adding a small amount and work your way up to a 50/50 ratio. You might eventually even replace the ground meet 100% with lentils.
- We do not eat family style unless we have company over. The food stays on the stove or counter and the only thing on our table is the food that is on our plates. You are way more likely not to go for seconds if you have to get up from the table to get it. Plus the kids will concentrate on the food in front of them and not want to stop eating their broccoli so they can have more of something else that looks/sounds more appealing, if that makes sense.
- We make our plates look pretty. We will slice our chicken breast and other meats into thin, pretty slices and fan them out on the plate. They take up more room that way so it feels like you are eating more. You are actually eating way less than if we had just cut the chicken breast in half and slapped it on the plate.
Other Great Tips
There were some other women this night teaching us how to meal plan. These are a few tips I took away from them.
One set up a salad bar one night a week. Each family member assembles 4-5 salads for themselves as “fast-food” for the week. There are tons of ideas for Mason Jar Salads online. They happen to store there’s in Tupperware so that it is easier to mix and they have the little restaurant sample cups that they put their dressing or other ingredients that might not store well with the salad in. These cute salad Rubbermaid dishes would be very handy too!
- Several of the women on their prep days cook all of their proteins. Either on the grill or in the crockpot. So they don’t have to cook any of the meat during the week.
- One did theme night instead of basing her meal plan on the protein like I do. So she has Italian night or Mexican night, etc. For example, on Mexican night, she will have all of the “Mexican fixins” laid out. Then each person decides if they want to make a burrito, taco, quesadilla etc. It all uses the same ingredients just assembled a little differently.
- Several really utilize freezer meals where they make the meals ahead of time and freeze them. Or make two of an item, freeze one and cook the other for dinner.
I want to share how to meal plan and meal prep breakfasts too. I usually do at least one of the two below but often I do both.
- Premake a bunch of green smoothies. I store them in mason jars and freeze them. Just make sure you leave room at the top for expansion so your glass doesn’t break. I will leave one smoothie out so it is not frozen for the next morning. The next morning I take one out of the freezer so it is thawed and ready for me the next day. ….. Side note …… I LOVE these reCAP mason jar lids
- I make a big pot of my whole grain oatmeal. You can also freeze the oatmeal into individual serving sizes. Just grease a muffin tin and fill each cup with the oatmeal. Freeze for a few hours. Then remove the oatmeal from the tins and place in a freezer bag or Tupperware. Then you can reheat in the microwave each morning. If your oatmeal is too dry the next morning you can loosen the grains up by adding a little milk and stirring.
What are some of your tips on how to meal plan and meal prep?
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