We all know the struggle of putting healthy meals on the table day in and day out. Monday and Tuesday start out great, by Wednesday you’re tired of cooking, and Friday? Forget it – pass the Thai food takeout menu! Cooking healthy meals every night of the week can take up lots of time and be pretty stressful. But that’s not the case if you have a plan! My method to meal prep just requires a little advance planning over the weekend and makes dinner throughout the week easy! Here’s your guide on how to make meal planning EASY:
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Start with base ingredients
Each week, start by choosing ingredients that will be the base of your meals. Go with what’s in season, what’s on sale, what you know your family will eat, or what you have on hand! Choose 4 vegetables, 3 proteins, and 3 whole grains or starchy vegetables that you’ll use to mix and match for meals!
Design your meals
Here is where knowing a few easy cooking techniques comes in handy. In order to not get bored by the end of the week, I like to plan a variety of meals: stir fries, pasta dishes, “power bowls,” soups and stews, and salads are all great for incorporating veggies, whole grains, proteins, and healthy fat into one meal.
Choose a few types of meals to fill up your week – or stick to salad or stir fry every night if variety isn’t your thing!
Write a list & go shopping
Write a shopping list that covers your base ingredients and any other fun flavorings you’ll need to pull together meals for the week. Categorizing your list into produce, dairy, meat, and general groceries makes grocery shopping easier to manage!
Set aside several hours over the weekend to set yourself up for success during the week. Think about what your week usually looks like – if you usually come home with no time to cook, you may want to fully cook meals in advance so they can be reheated during the week. If you’ve got a little more time each evening, just getting veggies chopped or marinating meat might make a huge difference! Highlight steps that can be done ahead of time on any recipes you’re using.
Put it together!
Now that you know what this method will look like every week, let’s get started with your first week of meals! Here’s everything you need for next week’s healthy meals – just switch up the base ingredients every week so you don’t get bored!
Start with these base ingredients:
Use your core ingredients to mix & match meals for the week. Here’s what you’ll be eating this week:
Now for the shopping list: The base ingredients make up most of your meals, but adding a few accessory ingredients allows you to add tons of flavor and keep things interesting! Here’s your shopping list for this meal plan for four people.
Now onto the shopping list! The core ingredients cover most of what you’ll need to create awesome meals, but adding in a few other ingredients means you can add tons of flavor to keep things interesting throughout the week. Here’s what you need to make a week of meals for four people:
Now on prep day, here’s what to get done to set yourself up for success during the week:
Start with the chopping, so you have all your ingredients ready before you get to cooking!
- Wash all of the zucchini, then chop into 1/2 inch cubes. Divide into two containers: half is for the skillet, half is for the chili!
- Wash and dice all of the tomatoes, then store in one container: these are for the pasta!
- Wash and cut all of the broccoli into florets, then store in one container: all the broccoli will be roasted!
- Dice both of the onions, then store in two containers: half is for the skillet, half is for the chili!
- Wash all of the sweet potatoes, then chop into 1/2 inch cubes. Divide into two containers: half is for the skillet, half is for the chili!
Then, move onto pre-cooking to cut down on your cooking time throughout the week!
- Bake all the chicken breasts at 350ºF until cooked through, about 20-25 minutes. Let cool, chop into 1-inch cubes, and separate evenly into two containers and refrigerate- half the chicken is for the pasta , half is for the power bowls!
- Cook all of the brown rice, let cool, and separate evenly into two containers and refrigerate – half the brown rice goes with the salmon, half is for the power bowls!
- Roast all of the broccoli at 400ºF with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt and peper until tender, about 20 minutes. Divide into two containers: half will go with the salmon, half is for the power bowls!
- Cook the whole wheat pasta according to package directions, let cool, and refrigerate.
Lastly, assemble any dishes that can be made in advance!
- Make the chili
- Saute half the diced onions with one pound of the ground turkey in a large pot. Once onions are tender and turkey is cooked, add half the diced sweet potatoes, half the diced zucchini, the kidney beans and black beans, the diced and crushed tomatoes, and 2 tablespoons each of chili powder and ground cumin.
- Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to low, and cook for about 20 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are tender. Add in half a bag of spinach and stir until wilted.
- Let cool, then refrigerate until Friday.
Now that you’re done with prep, here’s how the week will go down!
MONDAY: Salmon with brown rice & roasted broccoli
- Place the salmon filets on a baking sheet lined with foil. Add drizzle of olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper over the top. Bake at 375ºF/190ºC until cooked through, about 10 minutes.
- Remove the half the roasted broccoli and half the cooked brown rice from the refrigerator. Heat on the stove top or in the microwave. Serve with the salmon and enjoy!
TUESDAY: Turkey, sweet potato & zucchini skillet
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with a drizzle of olive oil. Add the pre-chopped sweet potatoes and cook for 5-6 minutes, until barely tender.
- Add the pre-chopped onions and zucchini and 1 teaspoon dried or 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary. Continue cooking until sweet potatoes are mostly tender and onion and zucchini are softened, 5-6 minutes.
- Add one pound ground turkey and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until turkey is cooked through and all veggies are tender, another 5-6 minutes.
WEDNESDAY: Chicken, spinach, and tomato pasta
- Heat a large pot over medium heat with a drizzle of olive oil. Add the pre-chopped tomatoes and a teaspoon of dried italian seasoning. Cook until tomatoes start to break down, about 3-4 minutes.
- Add the pre-cooked pasta, half the pre-cooked chicken, and half a bag of spinach. Cook until everything is heated through, then season to taste with salt and pepper.
THURSDAY: “Power Bowl” with spinach, brown rice, chicken, and roasted broccoli
- Toss the remaining bag of spinach with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Divide into 4 bowls, then top with the remaining pre-cooked brown rice, chicken, and roasted broccoli.
FRIDAY: Turkey and Sweet Potato Chili with Spinach
- Remove the chili from the refrigerator and reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave.
- Serve and enjoy!
Do you like planning meals in advance and doing a prep day for the week? What’s your favorite recipe to make in advance?