Let’s be honest, during the week it can be hard to fit everything in; work, laundry, walking dogs, cleaning, working out, seeing friends and or family takes up a lot of time and planning. So who the hell has time to meal plan and cook! And cooking delicious, healthy meals? What am I, Betty Crocker!?
I’ve had a few friends lately ask me if I am cooking constantly….follow me on Instagram and you’ll understand where they could get that idea. I post yummy food pics almost days a week, insta stories that show ingredients turned into what many have called gourmet meals. And while I am extremely fortunate to have a remote working situation, cutting out the commute and providing lots of flexibility to cook hot meals for lunch, I don’t in fact cook for hours on end. I wish I did!
The meals I’m making typically consist of whole-foods, very few things I’m using are packaged or bottled. Most sauces are homemade, seasoning is usually limited to dried herbs or fresh citrus and packaged or pre-made foods are rarely used. On an average week, Mike and I eat in 4 or 5 nights out of the week, including lunches due to the fact that I work from home and he usually heads home from a job at lunch. Depending on the day, I have anywhere from 15 minutes to 45 minutes for lunch, as my work schedule is on east coast time and we are a meetings heavy organization, so I am on the phone a lot!
So, how in the heck do I find the time to eat in 90% of my meals, using fresh, plant-based, whole ingredients without spending hours prepping? Here’s a few things I do to ensure success on these fronts:
- Plan meals, as in what I will be making, before I go to the grocery store. I typically pick 3 or 4 meals I want to make so I know at least 4 or five meals will be covered (we usually have leftovers from at least two meals). When I know what I want the end result to be, I take the guess work out of weeknight meals, saving me time when I go to cook because all I have to do is pick one of the pre-selected meals.
- Prioritize what you already have first, veggies second. If you look around your kitchen and realize you have a lot of brown rice, make sure you’re incorporating that into at least one of your meals. If you’re starting from scratch, make the veggies the main focus of your meals.
- Stick to the grocery list. Once I have the meals I want to cook, I peek in my cupboards to see what I have, then make a list of the ingredients I don’t. When at the grocery store I try to stick to the exact list, so I don’t throw a bunch of junk impulsively into the cart. Just by sticking to the list alone, you will be amazed at the cost savings, plus you won’t have food spoilage!
- Pick a day to prep. Whether you have time on your weekend to set aside time to grocery shop and meal prep, or have to split the two up, I find it extremely helpful to find one night early in the week to cook two meals or at the very least, to prep a few things for the following night’s dinner.
- Use your time in the kitchen wisely. If I know I’m cooking something that may take a bit longer (sweet potato fries or baked cauliflower take some time) I’ll use the baking time to throw in or fold a load of laundry, vacuum or clean a bathroom, do some yoga or perhaps finish up some work. I’ll typically prep all veggies at the same time or use time while that nights’ dinner is cooking or sautéing to prepare the next nights meal. Time is precious, so use it wisely!
Here are a few sample meals I plan pre-grocery shopping, keeping all the above in mind.
These meals are made for two people, with many of them making enough for 3 meals, so I’ll have lunch a few days a week already made.
I love to cook and usually rotate a few tried and true meals every two or three weeks, as they are easy, delicious and really inexpensive. Once you start cooking more, you’ll get more and more comfortable with meal planning, knowing what goes well with what, using fresh ingredients to pack a punch (without the added preservatives, sugar, salt) and knowing your way around the kitchen, so cooking won’t seem like such a chore.
If you truly don’t like to cook, make sure you’re picking simple recipes, with only a few fresh ingredients, so preparing them will be easy.
Hope these tips help you during the week – Happy Monday!