Don’t let a lack of time keep you from eating healthy. Follow these tips to prepare your foods before you run out of time.
We all know how busy and over-crowded our modern day lifestyles can be. With all the demands on our time and all the expectations others have for us, it can leave us with little to no time for some of the essentials to a healthy, well-balanced life and dietary success! Unfortunately, one major area that tends to be the first neglected is that of healthy, balanced, and nutritious meals. Because we tend to lead such a swamped lifestyle, many of us simply rely on quick, convenient, and on-the-go foods.
While choosing quick, convenient food-like products might be easier, doing so on a regular basis can play a major role in the decline of our wellbeing. Fortunately, for those of us who can’t find time during the week, a simple habit of setting aside a mere hour or two a week can be our saving grace. All you need do is spend this time in the kitchen preparing a week’s worth of food and snacks to provide you with healthier and easy-to-grab food. Taking the relatively small amount of time to prepare food for the week can dramatically help cut down the time and effort needed to eat whole foods.
General Tips Before Preparing
Because food preparation can be such a crucial part to maintaining a strong, healthy lifestyle, here are some ideas, tips, and recipes to help you get started on your path of weekly food prep!
1. Come Up with a List!
The first step to meal planning is to know what foods you want to have for your meals! I find it easiest to go one meal at a time, to write down what I’m going to make for breakfasts, then lunch, then dinner, and finally, any snacks or treats. Especially for those who are just starting, I recommend picking two or three things per meal and then alternating them for the week (or include them as a second meal of leftovers). For example, I might plan to do a green smoothie on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and oatmeal Tuesday and Thursday and eggs and toast (or a plant-based equivalent if you’re vegan) over the weekend. As you decide what foods you want to have, have a piece of paper on hand to make a list of the things you’ll need to get at the grocery store.
2. Proper Containers
If you plan to prepare about a week’s worth of food in an hour or two, you need to make sure to have the appropriate containers to store it in. Investing in quality food storage will be money well spent. These containers will help keep your food safe and fresher longer, especially if you keep any of the food in the freezer. Also when picking out containers try to choose options that are convenient to grab for your on-the-go days, such as ones that will easily fit into your lunch box.
3. Efficient Steps
One thing that will make food prep more manageable is to combine steps. Instead of doing one thing at a time, combine the food preparations into similar steps. For example, if you’re going to use veggies to make a soup and a side dish and a snack to enjoy with dip, take out all of the veggies you need for all of the recipes and cut them up and make them all at once instead of one at a time. Grouping together like foods and recipes helps cut down on time. It can also be helpful to make an assembly line of ingredients and foods to make multiple dishes to store or cook together. Making vegetable dishes together, baked goods together, or cold dishes together, for example, will make your preparations more efficient and cut down on time!
4. Keep It Interesting but Not Overwhelming
While it is important to not just make and eat the same exact things every day and week, it is also necessary to avoid being so extravagant that you can’t maintain your time in the kitchen. Remember to start small and simple and build and grow as you feel that you are able to manage it. Simple changes each week can add variety, such as having a different fruit or nut on your oatmeal from week to week or including different smoothie ingredients, or using asparagus instead of corn in a recipe, etc. Trying to be too fancy with the meals can be time consuming and stressful and is more likely to lead to failure.
5. Remember to Avoid Easily Spoiled Foods
Not everything you can make on food prep day is going to last really well for 5–7 days. Things like batters for breakfast foods or muffins won’t keep well for more than 12–24 hours, for example. Neither will cooked oatmeal. Instead, combine everything you need to make that food quickly, with the only preparation left during the week to cook it. This will help certain foods like green smoothies or oatmeal delicious and fresh. Remember too, that many foods—including beans, fruits, breads, and grains—do keep well for several weeks or months in the freezer.
How to Prepare
A general idea of what a good food preparation schedule would look like is something similar to this:
- Make list of foods and ingredients needed
- Do the weekly grocery shopping
- Prepare foods by peeling, cutting, and so forth your veggies and fruits (cutting up extras to have for an easily grabbed snack is a good idea)
- Prepare any proteins you plan to have (protein foods tend to keep well in the freezer, so making an extra amount to have on hand is also a good idea)
- Cook or package the ready-to-cook foods as desired
- Store the foods as desired, perhaps in individual ready-to-grab containers
Some of my favorite foods to make for the week that are quick, healthy, and easy to either pack or grab include:
- Muffins or energy/protein bars
- Sweet or savory quinoa dishes
- A vegetable platter with hummus
- Rice and beans
- Oatmeal packs (just add hot water)
- Pancakes or waffles (these freeze well)
- Breakfast burritos (freeze well)
- Baked, roasted, or steamed vegetables
- Hard boiled eggs
As you start out with food prepping, it might be easiest to start by planning out one meal a day, such as dinner, and build from there. Remember to keep the steps simple and manageable so you remain successful with your nutritious lifestyle, planning for it instead of relying on unhealthy convenience foods! Happy planning!