Let’s face it…When we’re busy, the first thing that usually goes out the window is a healthy meal plan. Whether we’re running from one activity to the next or simply keeping up with our Energizer-Bunny children, eating wholesome food is often the last thing on our minds.
Sadly, though, the very thing we NEED when we’re busy and stressed is a healthy meal to refuel our bodies for the high demands of life.
With a little upfront planning and a few basic workarounds, you can make your healthy meal and eat it too. Here are a few tips to try this week…
1) Sketch out a list of 5 to 7 meals for the week. You can assign them a specific day if you’d like, or you can list the meals and choose what you’ll make as each day comes. The key is that you’re guaranteed to have the ingredients on hand, because you’ll factor them into your grocery list. Plus it will ensure you have well-rounded meals with protein, whole grains, veggies, and so on.
2) Double the recipe and freeze half for later. I love to do this with broth-based soups, because they freeze well and reheat quickly and easily. Another favorite in my house is black bean and chicken enchiladas. I cover the “freezer” portion in a pan with foil and write the baking instructions on top. When a busy week comes, all I have to do is thaw and bake.
This principle also works well for breads and rolls. My sister gave me a delicious, healthy recipe for whole-wheat rolls that are made in the bread machine and baked in the oven. I make a full batch, then store them in groupings of four and freeze for future meals. (Here’s the recipe if you’re interested.)
3) Plan multi-use ingredients to cut down time and cost. For example, if I make oven-roasted chicken, I save the leftovers and use it in a soup recipe a few days later. If I don’t have an immediate plan for the extra cooked meat, I store it in a freezer container and save it for a future meal.
This general principle works for produce too! For example, if you have multiple meals with chopped onion on your menu, chop it all at once to save prep time later. Simply thinking ahead can save you time and headache on your busy days.
4) Add one-ingredient foods to your repertoire. One-ingredient foods are those that don’t require a recipe at all because…well, they have only one ingredient. At almost every meal in my house, I set out fresh fruits or veggies. Pineapple, grapes, carrot sticks, and cherry tomatoes are favorites at the dinner table. Instead of over-complicating meals with elaborate recipes, keep it simple. The simpler, the healthier. And the more time you’ll have to keep up with your busy schedule.
No matter what, make sure you sit down and enjoy a healthy meal with your family at least a few nights a week. Not only do you need good fuel for your body, the conversation and camaraderie will go a long way in refreshing your spirit.
ONE SIMPLE STEP: Whether you have an official meal plan or not, focus on incorporating one-ingredient foods into your meals this week. If you don’t have healthy choices on hand, make a quick trip to the store to stock up.
ONE STEP FURTHER: Sketch out an official meal plan for the coming week. Choose at least one recipe that can be doubled and frozen for another day.