We all struggle with the time crunch during the week – between work, family, exercise, and often traffic it can be hard to find the time to put together healthy meals. A favorite tip of mine to help me deal with my family’s busy schedule is to take advantage of one day a week to plan meals and snacks out. It’s usually Sundays, but choose whatever day works with your particular schedule. And it doesn’t even have to take up a whole day – an afternoon is often all that it takes! Here are some ways I plan out meals for my family:
1. Cook and freeze whole grains. While some grains like bulgur (cracked wheat) are ready in a flash, others like whole grain rice take far longer to cook. This doesn’t work for a quick weekday dinner, so I often cook up a batch of whole grains – like quinoa or rice – and simply freeze it in Tupperware after it cools. When I need it for a meal, I just heat it up for a few minutes and it’s all set!
2. Portion out dairy products. It’s usually cheaper to buy larger amounts of yogurt and cheese, but it’s important to be able to fit it into your lunch bag! Taking the time to portion out your Greek yogurt (my fave!) into plastic containers and slice or cube cheese means that it’s easy to grab as a quick snack or to round out your lunch. Keep in mind that a serving of yogurt is ¾ of a cup (175 g) and a serving of cheese is 1½ ounces. Put a small bag of berries with your yogurt and you’ve got yourself a homemade parfait come lunch time!
3. Chop up fruits and veggies. I’m sure you’ve all heard this one before, but have you actually tried doing it? It truly makes it easier to get in all kinds of fruit and veggie servings each day. Slice up bell peppers into sticks, broccoli & cauliflower into little “trees” for the kids, and juicy pineapple into wedges for a sweet afternoon treat. Keep hummus or bean dip in the fridge beside them for a great pairing, or use your chopped veggies in a quick weeknight stir-fry!
4. Grill your favorite lean proteins. Whether it’s lean chicken, pork, salmon, turkey or beef, cooking multiple portions one day a week gives you meals for the next couple of days. Have you tried my Latin Rubbed Pork Tenderloin recipe yet? It’s a family favorite! Flavor the meat with any combination of super spices you’d like, and then get to grillin’! Use the proteins for slicing on top of salads, adding to pasta or other whole grains, or as the filling for a sandwich!
5. Prepare beans for the week. Whether you cook up dried beans or simply pop open a can of beans and rinse them, either method will save you some time during the week. If you still haven’t tried beans yet, they’re one of my favorite protein superstars, and great for vegetarians AND meat-eaters alike! Simply cook a batch or rinse some canned beans and store in the fridge for convenient access all week long. You can toss some in your pasta, on your salads, in a wrap or quesadilla, or just with your favorite sauce and veggies!
Hit the comments and let me know some of your favorite meal planning/time saving tips!!
Assistance provided by Megan Skinner