The art of meal planning...
How frequent has it become in your lives to start your lunch break with increasing hunger and no food. Or maybe leaving home late with a rumbling stomach and no energy left to cook. These scenarios are a growing trend as it is the offer for cheap and easy delivery meals.
Keeping in mind our hectic weekly schedule, meal planning is a great tool to keep our eating healthy and far away from the obesogenic temptations society provides.
When it comes to meal prepping there is no correct way of doing it, it will differ on food preferences, cooking skills and schedules.
The idea of meal planning is to prepare your +/- your family’s food ahead of time. This can be a full on complete set of daily meals or just having the deconstructed ingredients ready to build your preparation on the go.
The following are tips on how to get you started:
A good way to start is to discover dishes you consider delicious and easy to prepare in websites or books. When picking these acknowledge the quality and amounts of protein, carbohydrates and fats included.
Be pragmatic and start with a small subset of meals for a week or a fortnight. For example, lentils for Mondays, Stir and fry for Tuesdays and Frittatas on Wednesdays.
Look for variations of these set meals. For example, lentils can be made into stews, soups or salads. Be creative.
Find some time during your week and allocate a meal prep day. On this day get your partner and family involved…the more the merrier. Have fun! Maybe play some funky music and dance as you prep…avoid thinking of your meal prep day as D Day for penitence.
Have a cooking strategy for your meal prep day. Prepare the ingredients prior to cooking them. For example if you will cook legumes, soak them the night before (this will speed up their cooking time and also act as a reminder on what you’ll be cooking). Start by cooking the food elements that take the longest to cook: proteins like fish and chicken: whole gains and legumes.
Prepare basic foods that your family is used to eating and are easy to add in lunch boxes: hard boiled eggs, bolognese ragu/pesto, one pot wonders, chopped fruit and veggies. Some of these can be frozen and used throughout the week.
Pre cook and marinate your proteins. If you pre cook a big batch of protein you can then mix and match these with different sides or add them in your favourite stir and fries or marinate them. Get used to subdividing the prep ingredients in taper ware or plastic containers.
Cook an extra ration of you favourite recipes and save the spare amount for an easy to grab meal throughout the week.
Write out a shopping list based on your meal planning. Not only will this reinforce the idea of buying what is necessary for the week or weeks you have planned ahead…you’ll also save some cash.
Buy bento box lunch boxes for the grown ups and kids. This will allow you to subdivide and have space for the different food groups: proteins, carbs, veggies and fruits.
I hope the following tips are a good starting point. Also, don’t forget to store the food adequately. Get into the habit of labelling your containers with dates so you can track these and avoid a food poisoning experience. Make sure you rotate the stored items so that the older food are kept up front.
If you would like further information or ideas on meal planning consult a dietitian to personalise your plan or visit the following websites: