Please tell me I’m not alone in the daily struggle of working, having a toddler, maintaining a personal life and helping make sure my family is eating a well balanced diet. And please tell me I’m not alone when I fail. Sometimes we eat take-out. Sometimes dinner is a cheese stick and chicken nuggets. Sometimes we forget the last time we cooked a vegetable, let alone ate one (don’t tell my mom!). Sometimes Eating to Excel is just eating.
And I’m sure I’m not alone when December 30, 2017 came around and I felt blobby, bloated and like my body was desperately searching for good, consistent nutrition. When I took a good, serious look at my habits some of the holes became very clear… I rarely packed a lunch for work. When I did, usually it was leftovers from the night before. When I didn’t pack a lunch it meant running to the liquor store for nutritionally deficient snacks…or not eating at all, which is no better. I also struggled to find time at the end of my day to cook dinner, let alone a healthy, well-rounded dinner. I am not looking for pity because I know I will not receive any. But I also know I am not alone in this struggle. This stuff is not easy…but it can be easier.
My new years resolution was to start being more serious and conscience about what my family’s meals look like. Because my week nights are busy and there is not much wiggle room, I decided to start planning my week’s meals. You may have that friend or two who meal preps like it’s a sport – “Do you even meal prep, bro?”. My philosophy is a bit more free-form. If I can successfully prep my family’s meals for a week, great. If we fudge it here and there, that’s fine too! So join me in checking our guilt at the door. Little successes should be seen as big successes, because let’s face it…life is busy.
The best day I have found to do my meal prepping is Sunday. I (theoretically) can set aside some dedicated time and the meals made for the week stay fresh all the way to Friday. We try to prep some stuff to eat for dinner and lunches that we can grab on our way out the door to work.
For dinner we’ve been cooking a large cut of meat that can be transformed into an assortment of dishes throughout the week. Our favorite lately has been cooking a big pork shoulder in the crockpot on Sunday. That pork shoulder turns into carnitas tacos one night, a substantial salad topping another night and the perfect main dish to serve with potatoes and salad another night. You could also make a large quantity of shredded chicken, or a big beef brisket – all of these things can be incorporated into so many dishes that you won’t get bored, but the hard part will be already done for you. You could also make a large pot of rice on Sunday and transform it into fried rice, burrito bowls, stuffed bell peppers or even a filler in a cold-weather soup! The main takeaway regarding prepping your dinners, that I have found, is picking a large-format protein to prepare that will contribute to your meals throughout the week.
During your meal prep day, don’t forget about what you are going to eat at work (or at home) for lunches. Having your lunches prepped will help you stay energized and focused during your day, especially if you make a nutritious, well balanced meal.
Before you start making your lunches for the week, make sure you have some containers to put it in. The idea is you make you meals AND package them so they are ready to walk out the door with you and you’re not having to worry about packaging anything during the morning rush. Any kind of lidded container should work fine, but I like to have them all be the exact same size so it is easy to portion everything out. I suggest these, these, or these if you are looking for suggestions.
Once you have the time set aside on Sunday, and your meal prep containers are ready to fill, now is the fun part – deciding what to make and what you want to eat throughout the week! I suggest making a list of possible meals you can keep for reference. You probably don’t want to eat the same thing every week and get bored. If you get bored with what you are eating, don’t make it again. You want to try to make meal planning a habit, if you get bored you won’t do it again and you’ll be back in the old routines of getting fast food during lunch…
Here are four meal prep recipes to get you started:
Again, if your weekend gets away from you and you don’t make time to prepare your meals for the week, DON’T WORRY! Set a small goal for yourself at first. Try just prepping your meals one week a month. The next month try two weeks. Get creative with what recipes you pick. There are some pretty cool resources for meal prep ideas…ever heard of Pinterest?
Lastly, we’ve put together a couple other resources to get you on your way to meal prepping nirvana. We made a Weekly Menu Planner for you to print that will help you conceptualize what your meals are going to be for the whole week. There is also a shopping list so you can print everything out, fill in what your meals are going to be and bring the forms with you to Oliver’s when you come shopping. How easy is that?
If you’ve gotten this far in the blog, congratulations! I hope the concepts I’ve gone over are not too overwhelming. I really do want to stress that putting in a little extra time during the weekend to plan and prep your meals for the week will take a lot of pressure off you and your family during the week. But I’ll say this again – sometimes Eating to Excel is just eating. Don’t stress if you eat take out, or serve chicken nuggets for dinner. Life is busy. Finding balance between work, home and family is hard. Make small goals at first and build up to where you want to be. And let me be candid…if I can do it, you can to! Good luck and happy prepping!!