Thursday, April 23, 2015

The in's and out's of Meal Prepping and Planning

What is Meal Planning? 

Meal Planning is when you sit down and figure out what you are going to eat for your meals for a week, two weeks or some even do a month. I meal plan for a week at a time, it is more manageable for me at the moment, eventually I would like to meal plan for a month at a time. But start where you feel comfortable. I LOVE Pinterest for meal planning, I have my "go to" meals that I make at least once every 2 weeks, but I like to try one or two new recipes each week. 

So why Meal Plan?

Meal planning tells you what to buy at the grocery store. When I meal plan, I sit down with a calendar and a notebook and I write in my meal for the specific day, I meal plan breakfast, lunch and dinner for every day of the week; are there days that I miss a meal or end up ordering pizza instead, of course. So when I am looking at my recipes that I am making, I mark in my calendar which day I will be making that meal and then I flip to my notebook and I write out the ingredients that I will need to purchase at the store, I go through my entire week and look at my grocery list and determine if I need to factor in a few more things for snacks, with three young kids they need their snacks and I have to make sure that I have accounted for them.

How do you know how much to buy?

I purchase more veggies then what is called for in my recipes, because we eat them raw as snacks (I will get more into this in the Meal Prepping section). I always have at least 5 different fruits in my house at all times; banana's, raspberries, peaches, apples, Clementine's, grapes, kiwi, mango, pomegranates, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, pineapple are among the most common that we have at our house. We really love fruit and veggies and the kids love to grab an apple and go outside and play or grab a carrot stick and watch a movie, etc. I also account for leftovers for a lot of lunches or salads, it is so easy to reheat leftovers or find another way to use them in another meal later in the week (again I will get into that more in Meal Prepping section).  Other than adding fruit and more veggies I really don't add anything extra to my grocery list, I make sure I have the ingredients that I need for my meals and snacks and that is all I need, because you are eating clean and healthy so if you buy too much or extra then you are wasting food because it will go bad. 

How to grocery shop at the store.

When I grocery shop at any grocery store, I shop 99% of the time around the perimeter of the grocery store. I do this because everything in the middle of the stores is processed, aka CRAP! Yes I mean it is CRAP! Yes I do get my Quinoa and Ranch, Ketchup, Oatmeal, and a few select other items from the middle of the store, but I am EXTREMELY particular about what I am getting from the middle of the store because it is important to eliminate as much processed foods as we can, my children however are ADDICTED to Ketchup and Ranch. I only buy what is on my list and I buy the veggies and fruit that is on sale with the exception of a few that we just enjoy too much not to have at the house; example carrots, broccoli, apples, grapes, and a few others. The wonderful thing is that if a recipe calls for specific veggies and they are not on sale that week, then swap them for veggies that are on sale and you won't miss them, no recipe is dependent on specific veggies, maybe there are but I don't follow that, because if a recipe calls for Red Peppers but the Green peppers are on sale that week, no one is going to notice or if celery is on sale instead of Peppers I will swap them in instead. Luckily my family likes all veggies so I can do that pretty easily. If a meat is on sale buy enough for two weeks instead of one, I went to the grocery store two weeks ago and they had whole chicken's on sale and I bought 4 because it was just an amazing deal and I would have bought 10 if they had 10 out there, but they only had 4 so I grabbed them and threw the other 3 in the freezer. I am not saying go out and buy ALL the meat that is on sale, but if it is on sale and you know you will use it weekly (like I use a whole chicken every week), then feel free to take advantage and buy a few extra and save some money for the next few weeks. 

What do you do with those grocery's once you get home???

I am so glad you asked!! Get them ready to use! This takes time, so I choose to do my meal prepping on Sunday's, husband loves football and I love to meal prep and the kids are buzzing between the two of us, makes for an amazingly relaxing Sunday. 

What is meal prepping?

Meal Prepping is when you pull out your meal planning calendar and figure out what you can make in-advance so that cooking during the week goes quickly and with less thought and less dirty dishes, who likes doing all those dishes anyway? NOT this girl! 

What do you do?

I start with making my whole chicken and chicken stock, then I make hard boiled eggs, I then begin cutting my veggies and fruit (I store them in Ziploc bags or Tupperware depending on what it is), if I have berries I rinse them and lay them flat on a paper towel until I am done prepping and then I put them in Tupperware. I take some (not all) of my veggies, whichever combination you choose, and throw them in the oven to roast them.  I put my Quinoa on the stove to cook and I fry up ground turkey and toss a few veggies in the pan and toss together (this is part of my breakfast most mornings). After the veggies are done roasting, I will mix together muffins for the kids to eat for breakfast, and I mix up overnight oats in mason jars (our kids are obsessed with Oatmeal and I love being able to control what is in their oatmeal, plus we get to change up the flavors). I will make mason jar salads some weeks as well, I generally make at least 4 of these each week because Hubby will take them to work with him if he won't make it home for lunch. I cook a few pieces of Tilapia, at the same time I will bake a sweet potato. These are all just examples of what I do on any given week, some things will change, I don't make Tilapia every week, it depends on what I have on my menu for that week, some weeks I have Tuna for a lunch menu instead of Tilapia. Each week meal prepping is different, I do have a few items that I always make NO matter what; whole chicken, quinoa, hard boiled egg, cut veggies and fruit, roast veggies, bake sweet potato are among them, the other things can change weekly.

So how does it work?

We use chicken a lot each week so I love having shredded chicken in the fridge it is so easy to make salads or stir-fry's with or any recipe that calls for chicken toss it in and you eliminated the need to cook, talk about QUICK meals! The Meal prepping is great and essential for lunch time and snacks in my household because those are the times that we need quick meals, since I am home most of the day I generally toss my dinner in the oven or crock-pot or on the stove in the morning or mid afternoon so it is done around dinner time, but with lunch the kids and I are usually busy out exploring or doing something fun and we need to be able to eat quickly before dropping Porter off at preschool; this is where Meal Planning makes the full circle. You have to prep to be successful but you also need to plan so you know what you prepping for, which meal do you need chicken for, which meal do you need roasted veggies, etc. They really do go hand in hand. 

Then what?
Put your food in the fridge and admire your handy work... 

Next... DISHES! Try and talk your kids into helping.

(It really isn't this bad.. well not always)

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