meal planning

3 Ways to Simplify Meal Prep

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 easy tips

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.

Eating should be flexible!

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

Plan weekly theme nights and incorporate leftovers into your meal plan.

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.

 
virtual dietitian nutritionist
 

 

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

If you don't want to DIY but are dying to try cauliflower pizza - you can now buy it in the store (or on Amazon). Try this one or this one.

 

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.

 

Or if you need a little extra help with meal planning, take a look at my meal planning services here.

DIY No Rise No Yeast 3- Ingredient Pizza Dough

Sometimes you just want pizza. It's an easy go-to and even healthy meal. But, who has time (or patience) to actually use yeast and wait for it to rise? Not me! Maybe on the days I plan ahead, but I'm not always that organized.

Sometimes you need a quick last minute meal and lucky for you I have the perfect solution. I made this just the other night- we got home late and needed a quick-fix dinner. I whipped up this dough, threw on some leftover spaghetti sauce, veggies, and cheese and called it dinner (and then lunch the next day).

It can be easy and affordable to buy the pre-made, Pillsbury pop-open can of pizza dough, but I'm personally not a fan of the hydrogenated oils (trans fat) and other mystery ingredients inside. There's a local bakery here in Bozeman that makes pizza dough and sells it at our local grocery store. For the longest time, this is what I would get until I discovered this super easy recipe (thank you, Pinterest!) and made it my own. As much as I love the local dough, at $2.69 each you can make your own for far less, with ingredients you likely already have on hand: flour, beer, and baking powder. (I'll be honest, it doesn't rise quite the same, but I think it tastes great nonetheless). 

I've tried making this with a few different beers. I've had the best luck with the local, lighter beers. I've used a local Amber Ale and a lighter Pale Ale and could not taste the beer at all. Last time, I used Budweiser (unfortunately, all we had), and it definitely had a slightly Budweiser taste. It was edible, but I probably won't be doing that again. Really any beer will work, play around with what you like. I'd recommend a more mild tasting one.

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Ingredients:

3 cups bread flour (I've also used whole wheat and white whole wheat, the bread flour rises a bit better)
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 12 oz good beer
~1 Tbsp pizza seasoning (or Italian seasoning, Herbs de Provence, etc. - whatever you have)

 

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. Mix ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.
2. Spread on a lightly floured surface and roll flat into your desired pizza shape.
3. Lightly brush or rub on a bit of olive oil.
4. Bake for 3-5 minutes until dough is set.
5. Add sauce and toppings (more veggies, less cheese!).
6. Return to oven and cook for ~20 minutes, or until cheese is melted and lightly browned.

 

8 Tips to Reduce Food Waste in Your Kitchen & Spring Vegetable Lasagna

Happy Earth Day! It was a beautiful day here in Bozeman. I spent the day outside biking, floating, and relaxing. How was your Earth Day Weekend?


 
 

In honor of Earth Day, this month's Recipe Redux challenged dietitians and healthy food bloggers to make a recipe in ways that prevent food waste. This is the first Recipe Redux I've participated in and am excited to have partnered with Katie Pfeffer-Scanlan, a Colorado dietitian and food blogger at One Hungry Bunny Preventing food waste is important to me, so I included a few tips and Katie created an amazing lasagna recipe using vegetable scraps.


I’m a big proponent of reduce, reuse, recycle and I love applying it in the kitchen. It’s estimated that approximately 30-40% of food produced for human consumption is wasted -from farms to processing facilities to grocery stores and restaurants and even in our own homes. Food waste is a national concern not only because of the millions of Americans going hungry each day but also because of the economic and environmental impacts. So...

 

Why Should We Care About Food Waste?

 

When we waste food, we’re also wasting valuable natural resources, including land, water, labor, and energy…

  • 25% of our freshwater supply and 300 million barrels of oil are used to produce food that is wasted
     

Food waste is a huge contributor to methane production...

  • Landfills are one of the largest sources of methane production in the country and food waste is the largest component filling up our landfills.
  • According to National Geographic, “Producing the food we throw away generates more greenhouse gases than most entire countries do,” that’s 135 million tons of greenhouse gases each year.

 

Over 40 million Americans continue to go hungry each day…

  • That’s 1 in 7 people going to bed without dinner or not knowing where their next meal will come from

 

We’re throwing money in the trash...

  • As a country, $250 billion dollars each year, to be exact.
  • The average family in the U.S. throws away an average of $640 each year in food waste alone.

 

(You can read more here, here, and here.)

 

Did you know 39% of food wasted is fruits and vegetables?

As much as it bothers me to see someone de-stem a strawberry along with another good ½ inch of perfectly edible strawb, or to see someone throw out a whole broccoli stalk and only eat the tree tops, I know there are things I can be doing better as well. There are plenty of reasons to waste less, and I think we can all do our part.

In this recipe, Katie geniusly blended up her leftover veggie scraps to make an amazing lasagna and put her perfectly good vegetable scraps to good use. She then used her leftover ricotta to make cheesecake squares and her leftover blended veggies in paella. The girl’s a genius!

spring lasagna.jpeg

 

How Can I Do My Part?
8 Tips to Reduce Food Waste in Your Kitchen

  1. Leave the skins on your potatoes
    Not only is peeling the skins off your potatoes wasteful, but also strips the vegetable of it’s amazing fiber content.

  2. Use the stems of chard, spinach, kale and other veggie scraps in smoothies, pastas, soups, sauces, casseroles, and lasagnas

  3. Buy multi-purpose ingredients
    Choose ingredients that can be used in multiple recipes. Instead of letting your leftover ricotta sit for weeks until it gets moldy try making lasagna, cheesecake bars, muffins, pancakes, or a sandwich spread.

  4. Save your scraps
    Just like Katie did, you can puree your veggie scraps for a lasagna or paella or use the scraps to make a soup stock.

  5. Go to the grocery store with a plan
    Meal planning and meal prep are great for organization, family dinners, weight loss, and overall nutrition and also help to reduce our waste from the start. Without a plan, it’s more likely our produce will get left to rot in the fridge.

 
If you need help with meal planning, getting back on track, or getting more organized, check out my meal plan subscriptions  here . Sign up for your Free Trial (no credit card required!).

If you need help with meal planning, getting back on track, or getting more organized, check out my meal plan subscriptions here. Sign up for your Free Trial (no credit card required!).

 

 

6. Repurpose your leftovers
I can only eat the same meal over and over for so many days in a row. But by repurposing your meats, beans, soups, roasted veggies, whole grains, etc. you can easily create a brand new meal from the same delicious leftovers.

7. Use your freezer
Preserve your leftovers, meat, bread, baked goods, and soups by tossing them in the freezer to eat later on. If bananas, strawberries, peaches, etc. are starting to go- slice them up and throw them in the freezer too. They’re great in smoothies, purees, or dessert sauces.

8. Don’t be picky about sell-by dates
Buy the milk that ‘expires’ today, it’s likely on sale and will last another week, otherwise it will just get thrown out!

 

 

And now for the recipe... Be sure to check out Katie's site for more healthy and delicious meal ideas. Enjoy!


spring lasagna.jpeg

Healthy Spring Vegetable Lasagna

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
(Total Time: 1 hr, 5 mins)

*Note: This recipe requires a few different steps. To shorten cooking time, prepare the filling and tomato sauce earlier in the day or the night before.

 

Ingredients

12 "no boil" lasagna noodles
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, part skim (set aside)

Tomato Sauce*:

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes, no salt added
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Additional vegetable scraps of your choice, optional

Vegetable Filling:

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large head of broccoli, finely chopped (stalks and leaves too!)
1 cup green peas, thawed if frozen
4 cups raw spinach leaves
1/2 cup vegetable scraps of your choice**
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano

Ricotta Filling:

2 cups low fat ricotta cheese
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil on medium high. Saute the garlic and red pepper flakes for 30 seconds to 1 minute until fragrant.
  3. Stir in the tomatoes and vegetable scraps. Simmer for 5-10 minutes. Stir often, breaking up the tomato pieces with a large spoon to make a sauce. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. To make the ricotta filling, combine the ricotta cheeses and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Stir to combine. Set aside.
  5. In a large nonstick skillet or saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil on medium high heat. Saute the broccoli, peas, and vegetable scraps for about 5-7 minutes to soften.
  6. Add in the garlic, dried herbs, and spinach. Cook for only 1-2 minutes (to keep the garlic from burning) until the spinach leaves have wilted. Remove from heat and set aside.
  7. In a 9 x 13 oven-safe baking dish, pour in tomato sauce to just cover the bottom (about 1/2 to 1 cup). Layer the lasagna noodles crosswise to fill across the width of the pan, should be about 3-4 noodles each layer.
  8. Next, cover the noodles with a layer of the ricotta filling and then the vegetable filling. Repeat until you have three to four complete layers of noodles.
  9. Top with remaining sauce and sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese. If the lasagna looks dry, feel free to pour in up to 1/2 cup water to soften the noodles prior to cooking.
  10. Cover with tin foil that is lightly greased with cooking spray (this prevents the cheese from sticking to the foil).
  11. Bake for 30-40 minutes covered, then 5-10 minutes uncovered. Let the lasagna sit for a few minutes out of the oven before serving (this allows the noodles to soften more just before serving).

Notes:
*If you prefer store bought sauce, replace the sauce portion with your favorite brand.
** For the scraps, feel free to pulse in a food processor to finely chop.

 

Kathryn Pfeffer-Scanlan MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian with over five years experience in the inpatient clinical setting and now expanding her expertise in the health and wellness industry as a recent transplant to Boulder, CO. Katie is passionate about cooking and food photography, sharing her culinary adventures on her food blog, One Hungry Bunny, and exploring her new Rocky Mountain surroundings. Follow Katie on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.