Healthy Food Prep Made Easy
Written by Heather Kimbley B.S, PTA, AAS
For many families, eating healthy is a top priority. For our family specifically, we focus on the 80/20 principle. Eighty-percent of the week we eat what we consider healthy foods for our bodies (grain-free, minimum sugar, high fat and lots of vegetables at every meal). The other 20% we allow ourselves to indulge in moderation–hey we are all human right?!
You know as well as I do how easy it is to run to the restaurant across the street, or to the grocery store freezer section and grab something quick after work or after running the kids around to all of their activities.
Below I’ll share my best secrets for getting around the temptation to eat out when time is a constraint. It’s a system that works well while keeping your 100 Year Lifestyle approved meals prepped and ready. This will, as a result, give you more time with your family to do the things you enjoy doing.
These few strategies may require some work on the front end, but will save you stress, time, and energy on the back end. This will allow you to have more presence and spend more quality time with your family throughout the week.
Here’s what you can do to organize your family’s food prep for the week…
First things first, make Pinterest your friend. Several years ago I did the same. There are so many amazing bloggers out there now that have done the work for you, such as the trial and error of what tastes great and what doesn’t. Most food blogs have everything listed out for you with ingredients needed, a step by step cooking process, as well as laying out the prep time and cooking time.
To make your life easier I’ve taken the time to search throughout Pinterest and have found some quick go-to meals for weeknight dinners; you can follow my boards on www.pinterest.com/hlkimbley87.
PRO TIP: when meal prepping we find recipes that make enough food to get an 1-2 extra meals as leftovers that we can use for lunches throughout the week. This allows for: 1) less time with meal prepping since you’ll be making larger batches, and 2) not having to eat the same boring meal every single day (blah no fun!).
Next, have a grocery shopping day(s), and before you shop write your meals out for each day of the week. Grocery shopping on your day off will usually be easiest for your family.
For Dr. Daniel and I, Friday is our shopping day. A few days before ‘shopping day’ we create a list of meals for the week with breakfast, lunch, and dinner–Friday through Friday.
I love lists, and some people work better with visualizing a calendar, so do what you know will make your life easier.
PRO TIP: have a long running list in the Notes app on your phone of “go-to” weeknight meals–this list will continually grow. When you find a recipe you like, save it in your notes; it’s much quicker and easier than going off of memory.
I show Dr. Daniel the list and we choose meals for the week. This takes the stress out of making the food decisions on my own every week.
We also try one new meal on a weekend where that may take more time to prepare. If it’s good, it gets added to the “go-to” meal list, if it’s not, then it gets scrapped.
Once you’ve decided your menu for the week, write out the list of ingredients for each meal. This can be a timely process, but keep in mind it’s more time on the front end, and as it becomes a habit it’ll be 15-20 minutes max per week with all of these details.
I promise you, it used to take that long each night trying to decide what sounded good to eat for us. Now if you’re an “I don’t know what I’m going to want to eat four days from now” kind of person, then this will be a change…notice I didn’t use the word challenge. It’s one change at a time so you’re constantly adapting to you and your family’s food prep needs.
Dr. Eric Plasker, founder of the 100 Year Lifestyle and a dear mentor to us, once shared these life changing principles:
1. Principle #1: Changes is easy. Thinking about change is hard.
2. Principle #2: Change comes one choice at a time. Think progress not perfection.
3. Principle #3: If you’re going to make a change, make it with your ideal 100 Year Lifestyle in mind.
Once you’ve created your lists, categorizing your ingredients list by sections of the grocery store will make your time shopping much easier. Vegetables/Fruits, Meat, Dairy, Grains, and Aisle foods will all typically be your categories.
You’ve heard ‘stay around the perimeter of the grocery store’ right? Well, it’s actually true! Your “aisle food” section should be minimal (nut milks, grain-free flours, condiments/sauces, etc.). Ideally with food prepping you are creating the time to utilize real ingredients so you don’t have to purchase the pre-packaged, pre-prepared meals for weeknight dinners. SCORE!!
Sundays for us is meal prep day! We block out two-full hours every Sunday to knock out our meals for the week–depending on how late each night of the week is with our schedules we may prep 90% of the meal, or 50% of the meal. Find the day of the week that you can carve out a few hours and make your meals, turn on some tunes and make it a fun family event.
The idea of meal prepping is to only have to warm up your meals and add a few fresh ingredients so that a maximum time cooking each night 10 minutes or less.
If you have it, the Instant Pot will become your closest friend and time saver for sure. Most meals you can actually throw all ingredients into the pot and press start. If it calls for baking in the oven, I use the instant pot. If it calls for sautéing, I use the instant pot. If it calls for slow cooker, I use the instant pot.
Salads? Instant pot (ha only kidding on that one).
Use your best judgement with preparing your meals, you probably know most ingredients typically take 30 minutes with sautéing meats, roasting vegetables, and cooking grains; therefore, eliminate that time and when you heat up your weeknight meal you only have to add a few spices/fresh herbs to make it complete.
After you’ve cooked and prepared everything you’ll find having enough food storage is definitely key. Some people love to label their containers. I’m a ‘make it and place it in a certain section of the refrigerator’ kind of girl because I don’t want to waste paper post-its or mark on my containers (OCD right here!).
PRO TIP: I recommend glass storage containers, because placing hot food in plastic or warming up your food in plastic containers can leach an estrogen-like chemical called BPA into your food and ultimately into your blood stream–um no thanks!
Here’s the easiest part. Monday night comes around and you just got home from work, picked up the kids from practice and it’s 7:00 pm.
You pull your already prepped meal that you labeled ‘Monday night’ out of the fridge and heat it up via stovetop.
VOILA! A healthy and pain-free, minimal-time dinner that everyone will enjoy! Did I mention you get to spend more time with your kids and significant other because you aren’t slaving in the kitchen? Win for everyone because we are all living our ideal 100 Year Lifestyle!
Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like help with planning, more ideas for blogs to follow, and questions for creating more organization for your weekly meal preparation.
Consistency is key. Even if you start with prepping one meal per week, just think of how much more quality time that will allow you to spend with your family doing the things you really love to do.