As a dietitian, and an overall planning and organization nerd, I have always loved to plan what I am about to do. I love scheduling and making list, and this habit has spilled over into my eating habits and meal plans as well! This is something I am definitely grateful for. Cooking and planning your meals usually leads to spending less money, making healthier choices, and actually enjoying your meals more! There is something about cooking and preparing your own food that makes you appreciate it so much more when you sit down to eat your meals! :)
Since starting work not too long ago (11 days ago to be exact), I have taken my love of meal planning to a whole new level. I have been meal prepping on the weekends and planning my meals like there is no tomorrow, and I love it! Last night, as I was preparing food for the week, I was filled with such joy in my kitchen! I have always been a firm believer of helping people use food to their benefit and not their detriment, so planning and cooking my own meals that benefit my health just fits right in to my philosophy! This practice of mine has also led to WAY less waste money and food-waste, which is always a needed bonus in today's world. I thought I would share some of my meal planning tips and tricks for you all who are crunched on time but still want to plan and pack your meals for work, school, and the like!
I usually do my meal planning and prepping on the weekends. On Saturdays, I assess what I already have in the kitchen to see what I can use up before my buy more food. Based on this, I make my meal plan and write out any additional items I need from the store. On Sundays, I head to the store, stock up, and get to cooking. Trader Joe's has been my go-to grocery store to shop from. A little can go a long way in this store, and they usually carry exactly the foods I am looking for. Prepping most of my meals on the weekends ensures minimal to none meal prep needed throughout the week, which works for a busy schedule! I have included my easy meal planning tool below to assist anyone that needs a little boost to start planning their meals! Just click on the link and save!
Easy Meal Planning Tool
Below are some of my meals from my first few days at work. Most of the recipes are up on the blog, and some of the other meals are just the assemble and pack type!
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. If you don't have time to eat something before heading to work in the morning, it is crucial that you have food on hand to grab and go! Eating breakfast helps you wake up and be more alert throughout the day, and also decreases the chances of mindless snacking later on! Eating in the morning also regulates your hormones and helps your metabolism get up and moving! One of my favorite breakfast options are hardboiled eggs. These are so easy to prepare, and you can boil a large quantity at a time and keep them in the fridge (with the shell on) for 5-7 days! You can peel them the night before consumption, or spend 30 seconds peeling them in the morning. They are the perfect nutritious and protein-packed meal option. You can pair an egg with some fruit or even some sweet potatoes. I used my spiralizer to get those sweet potatoes spiraled, and just popped them in the oven on 400 degrees F for 40 minutes, flipping and mixing them around on the pan in between.
Another breakfast option is to make one of my many famous and healthy baked goods. I have a variety of recipes on this site ranging from gingerbread, pumpkin bread, carrot cake, brownies, and banana bread that are all healthy enough to eat for breakfast! I use protein powder and healthy ingredients to make these baked goods not only taste good, but also fill you up in the morning! Below is my banana oat bread! Check out the rest of the recipes to make as quick and delicious breakfast options!
Lunch is one of those meals that you definitely want to make you feel satisfied and full. I don't know about anyone else, but for me, the afternoon is one of the most dangerous times for me to snack! I have been making sure to have filling and satisfying lunches while at work so I don't have an energy crash and burn, or get those snack cravings in the afternoon! I made a spaghetti squash casserole last week (recipe is posted) which lasted for about 4 days! It tasted delicious! I paired it with veggies or a salad to make it a well-rounded and filling meal!
My zucchini stew recipe is also an easy one to make in bulk and pack for the week! My recipe below was made with grass-fed beef, zucchini, and a few other delicious flavors. This meal kept me going for hours and equipped me with great energy during the day! Check out the recipe to make some for the week!
Below is an assemble and pack meal option. I usually cook my own chicken but was short on time this weekend, so I grabbed the prepared Lemon Pepper Chicken from Trader Joe's, which is usually next to the prepared salads. All you do is slit some holes in the chicken container, stick it in the microwave for 3-5 minutes, and viola! This chicken is actually really delicious too, and I am very picky about my meat! I also bought the stir fry vegetable mix from Trader Joe's, which is just a ton of fresh, chopped vegetables! I sautéed these with some olive oil and garlic. Lastly, I used some microwaved, boiled, roasted, or however-you-want-to-cook-them sweet potatoes to add some healthy starch to my meal! I portioned it all in my nifty ziploc container, and this made the perfect lunch for work!
It's a good idea to pack some snacks with you, just in case you do get hit with hunger and don't want to give in to cake, donuts, or whatever else may be lying in the break room. I usually pack some vegetables or high-protein snacks to make sure these snacks will provide me with nutrients, not just empty calories. String cheese is a good option, but my favorite snack combination is carrots with nuts. I don't know why, but this combination tastes incredible! Don't knock it till you've tried it! In addition to how delicious it tastes, it also keeps you insanely full. I usually have some around 3 or 4 pm to make sure I am full and energetic for my long commute home, since I usually don't have dinner until about 7pm on most nights!
I hope this post helps spur some ideas for planning and packing your foods for your workday! If you carve out a few hours of your weekend and dedicate them to planning and prepping your meals, you will be sure to make healthier choices throughout the week, waste less food and money, and enjoy your meals 10 times more than you would if you were eating out every day! I hope you all have as much fun as I do while planning and prepping your meals for the week! Have a great night everyone!