Last week in particular was super busy. I had no time to go to the store, and on two different nights I remember coming home late with no plan for dinner. If you looked in my fridge you may have called out for pizza. Pretty much all I had was a head of cauliflower (about to go bad), tofu, yogurt, and the essential condiments. Somehow I was able to whip up a cauliflower pizza and a tofu curry in no time at all (scroll all the way down to see how I did it).
Meal prep is one of those things we seem to make really hard on ourselves. Just the sound of it is completely overwhelming. We seem to think it has to take hours out of our Sundays, and include different Pinterest-worthy recipes each night.
Remember, the whole point of meal prep is to simplify cooking and planning and limit stress throughout the week, not add to it. Below are a few simple tips to simplify meal prep and planning. Check out my meal prep workbook for more tips, recipes, planning worksheets, grocery lists, and more.
1. Start Small
When you start meal planning, you often think we need to have something planned for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for 5-7 days each week. Start by planning just 1 meal (breakfast, lunch, or dinner) for just 2-3 days out of the week.
This leaves room for flexibility and can prevent food from going bad. Sometimes things come up, plans change or you don't feel like cooking, and you don't stick with the planned meal one night - that's OK! Eating should be flexible, not rigid! If we have a different meal planned for each night of the week and plans change or one recipe makes way more leftovers than we planned on- ingredients may go to waste. Start small while you figure out what works best for you, your schedule, and your habits.
2. Keep it Simple
Don't overdo it! Remember, this is meant to help make healthy eating easier not harder. Use tricks like planning weekly theme nights or repurposing leftovers to keep planning minimal but not get sick of the same meals week after week. Try Meatless Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, Healthy Pizzas, Pasta Night, Breakfast for Dinner, Crockpot Night, Sheet Pan Dinners, etc. Or repurpose your grilled chicken into chicken caesar salad, pizza, wraps, soup, or quesadillas.
3. Stock your Kitchen and Pantry
This is probably my favorite tip, what I find helps me the best, and what I spend time with clients working on each week. When my fridge, freezer, and pantry is stocked with healthy go-to items, it's easy for me to pull together quick, healthy meals without spending hours on Pinterest looking for the perfect recipe. When I come home late after a long day, I don't stress over having nothing in the fridge, or feel tempted to stop and pick up take out on the way home because I know I'll be able to throw something together. Keep your pantry and freezer stocked with lean proteins (chicken, fish, black beans, lentils, etc.), whole grains (tortillas, bread, pasta, quinoa, brown rice), and frozen fruits and veggies (broccoli, brussels sprouts, peas, cauliflower, mixed berries, bananas).
Because my pantry and freezer were stocked, I was able to throw together 2 quick and healthy meals last week with seemingly nothing on hand.
On busy night #1 I was able to whip up a cauliflower pizza.
To make the crust, I:
1. Grated the cauliflower in my Vitamix
2. Squeezed out the extra water
3. Added 2 eggs and some Italian seasoning and mixed by hand
4. Spread it out on a baking sheet and threw it in the oven till golden brown (350 for 20mins ish)
5. Topped with cheese and veggies and put it back in for 5-10 minutes to heat the toppings through and melt the cheese
On busy night #2 - I had even less in the fridge. My friend came for dinner and brought broccoli and an onion. Somehow with my pantry staples I was able to whip up a delicious tofu curry.
To make the curry, I:
1. Sauteed a diced onion with a little garlic in a large pot.
2. Added tofu cubes, 1 can diced tomatoes, 1 can coconut milk, 2 Tbsp curry powder, a dash of chipotle spice, salt and pepper, broccoli, and frozen green beans.
3. Let it simmer for a bit
4. I then microwaved this brown rice for 90 seconds, and called it dinner.
While stocking my pantry with healthy staples, works great for me, I realize this method or these recipes may not be realistic for everyone. This isn't to say cauliflower pizza and tofu curry should be staples in your diet or even go-to meals. Your go-to meal can be much simpler - think stir fry, quesadilla, tacos, or even English muffin pizzas. It can take some time and practice to feel comfortable being creative in the kitchen. Stock your pantry with staple ingredients that you know how to use and use frequently.
I hope you're feeling a little more inspired and a little less stressed about meal prep :)
If you're curious about what I keep in my pantry, check out my pantry essentials here.