MEAL PLANNING HACKS TO SAVE YOUR SANITY

Recently I encouraged a friend of mine to start weekly meal prepping to help save her time during the week, especially with the craziness of school and sports starting,  and as a tool to help her meet her weight-loss goals.  A week later she sent me the the following text, “I’m exhausted, I know now how this diet thing works. You burn calories standing for so many hours in the kitchen”.

I get it!!  When I took processed foods out of my families diet, I remember thinking about how much work it was to prep the food and then there was the matter of storing all the fruits and vegetables as I only shop once a week.

This summer I have slacked off from my weekly meal planning and shopping, in doing this several things happened…I was at the grocery store 3-4 times a week, when dinner time approached I had no clue what to fix for dinner and we ended up eating out a lot more.

This week I started back meal planning and prepping…it feels so good to not have the dinner time stress, have all my shopping done for the week and meals prepped.

Here are some tips on things I do to help save time during the week:

  1.  Plan my week’s meals in advance
    • I have an Excel spreadsheet that I use, once I have it completed I post it on the fridge for everyone to see.  Makes planning for the day ahead easier and solves my, “What’s for dinner, Mom?”, questions…
    • I created and have been using this MEAL PLANNING TEMPLATE  since 2013 as a way to keep track of my weekly meal plans, create my shopping lists and track what needs to be prepped for the week ahead.
      • PLEASE NOTE – you must download the template and save the file on your computer, if you edit the document above without saving it to your computer first, you will be sad when your information disappears.
  1. Order your Groceries Online
    • I am a self-proclaimed control freak when it comes to our food but I have given up control and gained my sanity.  Going to the grocery store with my boys makes me cranky and I go on sensory overload quite quickly.  I have the luxury of having a fruit and veggie stand close to my house so I still do that myself as I love seeing all the seasonal fruits and veggies and I like to pick out my produce.:-)
    • Most grocery stores have online ordering including Costco and Costco even delivers to your home!  Just go online to your favorite grocery store, order online, and then go and pick it up:-)  It literally is a game changer!
  1.  Clean and Prep Veggies
    • Prepping veggies ahead of time is a huge time saver come weeknights, we are usually going in 47 different directions so the quicker I can get dinner on the table, the better.  I also find that if I have veggies cut up in the fridge, the kids are more likely to grab some when making their lunches…win-win!!
  1.  Grill 4-6 Chicken Breasts
    • Chicken breasts are nice to have on hand to throw on a salad or in a soup for a quick meal.

girl holding strawberries to her face

  1. Hard Boil a Dozen Eggs
    • I cook my eggs in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes (I put the eggs in a muffin pan).  Once done I put in an ice bath for about 15 minutes, drain, put in a zip-lock baggie* and in the fridge they go.  HB Eggs are another great item to have on hand for a quick snack or to add to a salad.  I have HB Eggs (just the whites) for a snack about 2–3 times a week.
    • *I have found that when the eggs kept in a zip-lock baggie vs a bowl, the shells do not dry out as easily and are much easier to peel.
  1.  Marinate meat ahead of time
    • When I bring Chicken or Pork Loin home from the store, I will portion some out and put in freezer bags with various marinades.  This helps when I am planning for my weekly meals, I know I have a bag that I can take out the night before I need it and I am good to go.
  1.  Make up Smoothie Bags for the week
    • We have Kefir Smoothies 2-3 times a week and having it all in one bag (minus the protein powder and kefir) takes making smoothies from about a 15-minute process to a 5-minute process.  I just dump in all in the Vitamix and turn it on!  In the mornings, every minute counts!!!
  1. Make up Hamburger Patties and Freeze
    • When we have hamburgers, I always double the batch and make extra patties.  The patties that I am not cooking that night, I will put on a cookie sheet in a single layer and freeze, the next day I can wrap in plastic wrap and put into a baggie or use my food saver. (this is a great hack for camping season too)
  1. Double your recipes for Soups, Spaghetti Sauce, and Chili, etc.
    • If I am cooking a soup, spaghetti sauce, chili, or something that takes a bit of time, I will usually cook it on the weekend and double the recipe so that we have a meal for the week ahead and another meal for a different time.
    • In the fall, I generally take a weekend and will make up huge batches of chili, spaghetti sauce, split pea soup as well as some of our other faves.  After it cools, will portion out and put in the freezer for quick and easy meals in the weeks and months ahead.
  1. Make up a batch of Quinoa and/or Rice
    • Quinoa or rice are great to have on hand throw on salads or reheated as a side dish…you can even get a little creative and add some lime juice and cilantro after it is done cooking.

Let me know if you use any of these tips and tricks and how they work for you!