SPECIAL GUEST AUTHOR: Carly McHale
Meal planning, or meal prep, is one of the activities I look forward to most during the week. For some it seems like a chore, for others a complete waste of time, but for me it’s become a ritual and an important part of my self-care routine. In order to give to others and set myself up for success in mind/body/spirit, it’s imperative that I’m well nourished and that my well-being is prioritized. After all, if I’m not taking care of me than who is?
What was once used as a system to rigidly control my food and lifestyle, has since blossomed into an engagement of mindfulness and meditation. Washing and prepping the produce is grounding, while chopping is an exercise of repetition and precision. Baking requires patience, whereas the stove top demands diligence. The aftermath of abundance never fails to fill me with gratitude, as do the sensual smells that create an atmosphere of comfort. I put on some slammin' tunes or an inspirational podcast, boil a cup of tea, and get fully in touch with my food and how I’ll be caring for my fuel needs in the upcoming days. It’s an act of self-love. Healing.
We live in a society that values efficiency and convenience. A society that leads us to believe self-care is a selfish indulgence. I’ve heard many people say that they’d love to get into meal prepping, but don’t have the time. The thing is that we all have the same amount of time in the day, but choose to use it differently based on what we deem important. Perhaps in your free time you’d rather read, watch TV, go for a hike, or gather with friends - each of which holds great personal value. However, those things don’t need to be sacrificed in order to add a new component to your life. The keys are to plan ahead and be strategic and organized, as your meal prep shouldn’t take more than a few hours.
- How many days will you be home for dinner? How many lunches can you take to school/work?
- Is there a farmers market in your area? How much food can you get there to support your meal plan? What will you have to get at the grocery store?
- How many dishes can you make using the same ingredients?
- What do you already have in your pantry that you can use?
- Look at blogs/magazines/Pinterest/cookbooks for recipe inspiration.
- Set aside time in your schedule so you’re not stressing about when you can cook.
- Make a list so you know what you need and don’t overspend.
- Invest in good Tupperware.
- Prep fresh ingredients the day you buy them while their nutrient content is highest. Wash, dry, and shred your greens. Chop fruit and veggies for easy snacking.
- Soak or sprout your legumes and nuts to use throughout the week.
- When you’re home doing laundry do some meal prep. You gotta fold those clothes when they come out of the dryer anyway, so why not get two tasks done at once?
- Be flexible. Write your list broadly with room for curiosity - ex: vegetables x 5. That way you can try local and seasonal veggies or get items that are on special.
- Utilize every part of the food to minimize waste. Save your veggie scraps to make a batch of vegetable broth, use carrot tops to make pesto, and sauté beet greens with your collards/kale/swiss chard.
Still looking for more guidance or a blueprint to get you started? Take a look at my standard weekly list, and you’ll see how simple it is to complete. For breakfast I’ll make overnight oats or smoothies in double batches, so I have two days worth out of one preparation. I’m a big fan of Buddha style bowls for lunch/dinner, which ensures I get a balance of healthy fats, protein, greens, whole grains and fiber. Enjoy!
Make 2-4 servings to get you through the week.
- Overnight oats
- Chia Pudding is another great option loaded with protein and filling fiber.
- Feeling accomplished? For bonus points make your own almond milk!
Lunch/Dinner Bowl Method
- Protein: marinate/bake tofu, tempeh, or other protein source. Prepare beans as you like. Sprout legumes for crunch.
- Whole Carbs: Bake sweet potatoes, beets, turnips, parsnips, and carrots.
*while items are baking*
- Prep Veg: shred kale, cut/steam broccoli, snap peas, zucchini, bok choy, etc
- Grains: batch cook quinoa, brown rice, lentils, barley, or grain of choice. 1.5-2 cups dry.
Now you have all the ingredients ready to throw together a balanced meal. Start with your greens, add your grain of choice, and top with vegetables, whole carbs, and a protein. Finish with a healthy fat: avocado, hummus, or a drizzle of tahini.
- Keep fresh fruits and cut up vegetables in the fridge and at the ready.
- My favorite go tos?
- Have healthier options around so when the sugar craving hits you can satisfy it without stressing out your body.
Meal planning is one of my passions, and I hope you will give it a try and see what it brings to your current routine. Have questions? Reach out! I’d love to continue this conversation and swap ideas. For now - happy prepping!