Whether or not you’ve ever attempted a Whole30, you may have come to the realization that meal planning and prepping go hand in hand. Going to the grocery store with no idea what you plan on cooking/eating and purchasing what looks like a weeks worth of groceries can easily end in disasters like missing critical ingredients, and food waste.
The ideal grocery trip (for me at least) involves going into the store with a list of exactly what I need, so I don’t have to make five more trips to the store after work later in the week when I’m starving. Those trips typically lead to impulse purchases of food I won’t eat and end up throwing out, or unhealthy choices. In other cases, I might not make it to the store at all, and end up ordering a pizza. Then all the food I was supposed to cook gets thrown out, along with my budget and intentions to eat healthy….sound familiar? If so, I’m here to help! I have a three-step approach to a successful week of home-cooked meals:
- Choose recipes that sound appetizing (aka- the fun part). These can be new pinterest recipes, tried-and-true family recipes, or a mix of both. I typically like to do about half old and half new recipes. Being familiar with some of the things you are cooking can give you a better handle on how they will reheat, and the kind of time they will require you to spend in the kitchen. It is also important to note the serving size of these recipes- will you be making an 8-serving casserole, or a 2-serving skillet meal? This will help with steps 2 and 3!
- Take a good, hard look at your schedule for the week. Know you’ll be working late Monday and Thursday? Plan on cooking bigger batches of food to reheat on Sunday and Wednesday. Know you won’t have access to a microwave for lunch on Tuesday and Wednesday? Scope out options for yummy no-reheat-needed recipes on pinterest. You get the idea. I personally don’t want to cook every single night, so Chris and I tend to plan our cooking schedules for two or three nights (Usually Sunday, Wednesday and Friday).
- Based on what you figured out in steps 1 and 2, make a rough schedule of when you are going to eat what you’ve decided to make. Pay special attention to busier days, and realize those might be the best options for leftovers. This is also the best time to “schedule” your cooking days. We usually cook a few things on Sunday night that end up feeding us all the way through Wednesday.
- Make your grocery list. Based on everything you have decided to cook, make a list of every single ingredient you’ll need. Even if you think you have the ingredient already, write it down. I find this prevents me from accidentally budgeting one item left in my fridge for two recipes. Once your list is done, shop your fridge/pantry for any items you already have. This will prevent you from having food waste!
- Go grocery shopping! You are now armed with your cooking schedule, recipes, and grocery list. The planning phase is over, and its time to get into action 🙂
I hope these tips were helpful! I promise, if you can handle the planning, the preparation is SO much easier. Bonus points if you can factor budgetary and dietary concerns into your planning process.
For those of you here for Whole30 recipe/meal prep ideas (or examples of this strategy in action), this next segment is for you! Here is what Chris and I planned/cooked/ate this week:
Boiled eggs & butternut squash breakfast hash (same recipe as last week, but with chicken apple sausage instead of bacon!)
Special Saturday breakfast- Dragonfruit smoothie bowl at a local Knoxville spot
Taco bake (probably our favorite meal of the week- I swear it is WAY BETTER than it looks)
Cobb salad (these are a result of me being on the road for three days without access to a microwave-but quite yummy!)
Buffalo chicken spaghetti squash casserole
Zoodles and meat sauce (the perfect ten-minute meal)
Chipotle chicken wings and air-fryer sweet potato fries. Not the most photogenic chicken wings you’ve ever seen, but you can blame the deliciously crispy chipotle rub for that.
Taco-stuffed sweet potatoes
Carnitas (another serious favorite in the Kennedy household-pictured here with air-fryer sweet potato fries). We love these so much, and so did everyone who ate them at our family gathering. We threw together a triple batch of these for a family party. Perfect for doubling for a big group, and nobody has a clue that they are healthy!
The meal plan/prep schedule:
As you can infer from the schedule, we only had to cook a few times throughout the week and were able to *almost* eat only home-cooked meals. Thursday night, we just weren’t in the mood to eat Zoodles again, so we decided to go to Zoe’s Kitchen for a decent selection off their Whole30 approved menu. Saturday, we got up early and went to a local juice bar for breakfast before heading to the grocery store.
Spending the time and energy to meal plan and meal prep is an excellent way to eat healthier, as well as save lots of time and money. If you have any additional tips, I’d love to hear them!
Until next time,
Follow along on Instagram: @amandadev4