This post is brought to you by Activate by Bloglovin and ShopRite. All opinions are mine alone.
Meal prepping was always a foreign thing to me. I was never someone who could even consider prepping due to my chaotic schedule having had worked nights and weekends for so long. Recently meal prep has become much easier for me to do for the family. Mainly because since I last posted I got a new job and got off of nights at the hospital! I will explain the whole thing later because it was a big change that was a long time coming. I can’t explain how happy I am having a normal life now with a new job that operates in the daylight and on weekdays. The thing is, meal prep in general has always seemed daunting and I’m not into anything that requires more than a few minutes of thought and/or standing. I’m admittedly lazy. As the saying goes, “I will always choose a lazy man to do a hard job because a lazy man will find an easy way to do it.” Give it to a lazy mom and it will be done the easiest way humanly possible. I figured out the key to getting this done in under an hour.
The hardest part is planning. I swear. I hate cooking so I can promise this honestly. I’m not one of those “I’ll whip up lemon blueberry scones because it’s a Sunday morning” kind of girls.
You need a plan. You need five minutes to yourself with an old napkin from your purse or your cell phone while hiding from the kids in the bathroom to just get it down. This list will provide you with a fool-proof meal planning process to have lunches and dinners for you and hubs done for the week. Yes, you will probably have to make the kids peanut-free-peanut butter and jelly sandwiches but if you’re creative you might be able to figure out how to work that in too.
I’ll keep this simple. Easy steps.
- Think about protein first. For example, we are generally a very low carb family around here, so I go for the obvious, chicken. I like fatty cuts of meat because A. they’re filling and B. they’re cheap. So the first on my list were chicken thighs, chicken legs. Then I added steak, burgers, sausage and shrimp. Make a list of simple, one step sides. Our go to’s are sauteed spinach, roasted carrots, any veggies on the grill, zucchini noodles, and the kid-friendly (not-low-carb) staple of mac-and-cheese.
- You want to get enough meat or fish for eight meals. I know, “Eight Days a Week” is a great song but there’s only seven days. I’m not crazy, just do it.
- Think flavors. I get bored with food flavors. I like Mexican and Italian best so those are always on my lists. I have most of these seasonings at home but if you don’t, make a list of the staple seasonings you might need. Keep it simple (these are just ideas- play as you please)…Italian: basil, parsley, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, Mexican: cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, Indian: coriander, curry powder, turmeric, cardamom, for kicks my go to roasting seasoning: rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper, lemon (fresh is best).
- Go shopping. I had some of this stuff at home already but I needed to go shopping for the couple things I was out of.
Luckily, I recently got the opportunity to shop for my meal planning at ShopRite of Southington at 750 Queen Street, to check out their store and to try out their Wholesome Pantry brand. This brand is 100% USDA certified organic and free of 110 artificial ingredients, including sucralose, nitrates, artificial colors and 107 other crappy ingredients I can barely pronounce. I’m not as insanely strict about my food as I used to be because…toddlers. Let’s be real, dino nuggets are a food group around here, but I want to get back to it and they offer a long list of options that make for easy (and cheap) swaps to my chemical-laden staples.
While I was there I also picked up my regular lunchtime snacks now all organic, Wholesome Pantry brand. I got whole milk greek yogurt (which I was jumping up and down for because it’s impossible to find- who wants 0% fat?! Not this girl), locally-harvested honey, natural peanut butter, banana chips, fruit for smoothies and chocolate covered almonds.
I was surprised to find the local honey and started looking around and found ravioli from East Haven, local veggies from all over the state and got talking to Tony of Candlewood Coffee, a coffee company out of Brookfield. While sipping some of their Jamaica U Crazy flavored coffee we chatted about how he got their product into the store. ShopRite is a CT-owned and operated business that offers some really cool opportunities to small businesses around the state. Different from bigger box stores or franchised supermarkets, the supermarkets are owned by families here, in CT. They carry a lot of local produce and products because the owners, the Drust Family, at this Southington location, encourage local vendors to sell product in their stores. He actually just called up Donald Drust Sr. and asked for a meeting and the rest was history.
Sipping my coffee, I caught a whiff of a batch of doughnuts from the bakery and remembered that I was there to shop and not chat. I was quickly and sadly reminded with the smell of sugar that I was there for healthy stuff and not what was being decorated in my presence.
Truth be told I may have picked up a couple doughnuts while I was there. My reasons were these, I’m eating really healthy this week, I have toddlers, and the bakery at this ShopRite is out of this world. They make salted caramel doughnuts and Oreo-cream-filled ones. Need I say more?! They also offer tiered cakes that I was seriously eyeing but I was afraid my husband would kill me so I rolled on by.
Of course I was asked to visit on the day of a catering expo, so being health conscious as I try to be I attempted to stick to the Greek Salad they had to sample. Lobster calls to me, I’m CT born-and-raised, so I couldn’t help it. I tried that too. I got myself out with only a few spoonfuls of seafood salad. I may have cut in front of an elderly woman to grab a second (okay third) sample. I wish I was joking.
I hurried my healthy choices to the checkout and got home to prep. Here’s where the magic happens.
This is the key that has made my life infinitely easier. I ONLY PREP TWO LUNCHES.
Hear me out. I didn’t just scam you I promise.
Stick that meal list on your fridge.
The key is to take out one of the proteins that you have on there twice. I will always have chicken on my list two times. I got thighs so I separated them into two pyrex baking dishes and seasoned.
I seasoned one of the chicken dishes with Italian seasoning (a generous sprinkle of garlic powder, onion powder, parsley, salt and pepper and a small drizzle of olive oil- I would have put dried basil as well but I had fresh so I used it at the end) and halved cherry tomatoes.
For the other meal I had planned (low carb/keto cobb salad) I used salt, pepper, a touch of onion powder and a little powdered mustard.
I baked both in the same oven at 375 degrees F for about an hour (my oven is ancient so just keep checking yours for done-ness).
Once those were in I got to work.
The key here is to prep by time. What I mean is don’t do anything that takes too long.
I threw eggs in to boil for the salad and for breakfasts or a quick snack. I live on hard boiled eggs. My new co-workers must love me.
I wanted bacon but it wasn’t defrosted in time, if it was I would’ve put it on the griddle and proceeded to chop all my vegetables for the salads.
If I had a spiralizer I would’ve done that too. Luckily I found pre-spiralized zucchini to save some time.
I then prepped the kids lunches and pre-packaged snacks to grab and throw in for the week. I gave them some of the yogurt too with the Wholesome Pantry granola, which I conveniently call vanilla pudding with cereal because my big guy “doesn’t like it if it’s not a squeeze”.
Believe it or not, I then sat my butt on the couch with a glass of wine and watched the first half of the season premiere of “Fear the Walking Dead” until the chicken was done.
When it beeped I threw the zucchini in a pan with a drizzle of olive oil and garlic that I chopped earlier, warmed it through as the chicken cooled.
When that was finished I took all my pre-prepped ingredients and assembled in small glass dishes and put it in the fridge for the next two days of lunches for hubs and I.
“NOW WAIT, YOU SAID A WEEK!” I hear you screaming at your computer…
You do have your meals prepped, since everything is predetermined on your list, now dinner leftovers become lunches.
Let me explain. So Monday and Tuesday’s lunches are done on Sunday. This means that Monday night’s dinner (whatever you chose- becomes Wednesday’s lunch). The two day window gives you a day of lazy leeway for when you feel like making eggs or a bowl of Corn Flakes for dinner. The next day isn’t ruined with take out from the local pizza restaurant for lunch. Your meals are all healthy (mostly) and you never have to try and gnaw Sunday night’s meal prep (that is now more cardboard than chicken) on Thursday.
Here’s what my meal plan looked like…including accounting for my insanely picky children who’ve ruined my diet for far too long in parenthesis.
Lunches: Italian chicken with zoodles, Keto Cobb salad
M- Flank steak with chimichurri and spinach *it rained so we had omelets
T- Roasted chicken legs with asparagus and carrots (with mac and cheese)
W- Burgers with avocado and egg on mixed greens (on a bun with veggie sticks for kids)
Th- Shrimp scampi with something green (spinach or broccoli) (nugget night for kids)
F- Sausage and peppers (with pasta)
Sat- Naked chicken fajitas
Sunday plan again!
You can do this.
The Wholesome Pantry brand chicken legs are $2.00/lb. You can make a meal for two adults and two toddlers including enough for leftovers for a little under $5.00, that is healthier and tastes better than cafeteria food for cheaper. I missed buying organic for a long time because of the cost. ShopRite makes it easy to get the quality you feel good about eating and giving to your kids for a comparable price to the not-so-healthy versions. Meal prepping can be super easy and doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice quality, healthy food, or your whole day for it.
What do you think? Will this change how you meal prep? Let me know! Also if you’re interested in recipes let me know in the comments!