Busy Days and Beautiful Food: Part One, Meal Prepping and Planning

Sundays are for preparing for the week ahead, whether that is relaxing with friends, stocking up on groceries for the week, or finishing the last bit of errands to get the family ready for the week. Since August is our Sunday of summer, it is the month when we wrap up vacations, get ready for the schedule of the fall, and squeeze the most amount of sunshine out of the days. 

This week, our Sunday of summer focus is on meal planning and organization. In my career as a teacher, I ate at least two meals a day at school so preparing the week’s food ahead of time was essential. Now that I mostly work my businesses from home and am training for several long races, prepping meals in advance is helpful to keep my nutrition and fuel on track and save time during the work day. When you’re working a lot of hours or having a large chunk of your day taken with family errands or simply want to save time and money, meal planning is helpful. 

My cooking and meal prep journey has been a long one, so let me help out with some of the fun moments I’ve had over the years! Check out my top 5 tips for starting your meal planning journey!

  1. First, open up your pantry, as well as refrigerator and freezer. Take a little inventory. Toss out the outdated items, as well as the things that you bought on sale and no one likes! I am particularly guilty of doing this with salad dressings! Clearing out the clutter will help streamline your planning process. What you have on hand will be easier to see, and you’ll be able to plan your menu around those items!
  2. Now, start small with planning and preparing meals. Begin with planning one meal all week. This doesn’t have to be a big, arduous process. You don’t need to cook for 10 hours and make 100 meals in order to get organized. Meal planning and prepping saves time, money, and is generally more nutritious, so any pre-planning that you do is great! 
  3. Next, take a look at the schedule for the week. What work, school, family, etc… events are on tap this week? Let’s say that you have chosen dinner as the meal that you’ll plan for the week. Taking schedules into consideration will be helpful! If you’re going to be driving several kiddos to practice and your husband is getting home late from work, maybe that’s not the night to make homemade lasagna! 
  4. Everyone who knows me, knows my great and deep love affair with LISTS! So, the next recommendation I have for meal planning is to write it out! Jot down your plan for each night’s dinner, along with the ingredients you’ll need for each one. There are a lot of cute ideas on Pinterest if you wanted to display a menu board, or just go simple and rip out a piece of notebook paper! The recipes you choose do not have to be complicated or even made-from-scratch. Using pre-cut veggies, rotisserie chicken, and even the home-delivered meal services are great ways to save time. 

Money saving tip: cook something one night that you can use the leftovers the next night. Something we do a lot is roast a whole chicken one night and have that with steamed vegetables. The next night, we will make chicken tacos. 

5. Lastly, coordinate your trips to the grocery store or utilize a home-delivery/easy pick-up option. Personally, I abhor going to the grocery store, and ironically, I do it all the time! One way to save time in your meal planning fun, is to just shop once. You have cleaned out the fridge and pantry, looked at everyone’s schedules, compiled recipes, and a grocery list. Now, just buy a week’s groceries once, rather than going back multiple times throughout the week to pick up each day’s dinner. This is also a great way to save money, the chances that you’ll pick up more items than needed are greater the more you go to the stores! They’re very good at making everything so appealing! One more grocery store tip, download the store’s app, and use any discounts or coupons available!

Happy planning! Happy cooking! Happy eating! Have a great week!

Xo, Ellie

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