Do you ever think that if you had a personal chef eating healthy would be a lot easier? I get it — cooking and meal prepping is hard, especially if it’s new to you or you don’t have a good system in place. But there are ways to make it simpler and I promise it’ll end up being worth it. Here are my seven best tips to implement for a week of easy, fast and healthy meals.
- Make a plan before you go to the grocery store.
Make a list of what you’ll need for your meals and snacks for the week — and stick to it. This allows you to not only spend less time wandering the aisles, but also saves you from spending extra money or buying items that’ll go unused.
- Have your groceries delivered.
If you dread going to the grocery store or if your week is jam-packed, take advantage of this convenience. Most stores have this as an option, many of which are free if you spend a minimum amount of money. You could also use a pick-up service, where all you have to do is drive up and someone will load your pre-ordered groceries into your car.
- Stock up on staples.
These are great pantry items to keep on-hand so you always have a meal you can easily throw together:
- Canned, low-mercury skipjack tuna or wild salmon
- High-quality protein powder
- Nuts and seeds
- Healthy oils, such as extra-virgin olive oil, unrefined coconut oil or avocado oil
- Lentil or brown rice pasta
- Organic tomato sauce
- Pumpkin or sweet potato puree
- Quinoa or rice
Stocking your freezer is also helpful. Things like frozen greens (such as spinach and kale) and organic berries are good for smoothies, while frozen vegetables are an easy add to a protein for dinner. (I love to roast mine for 30 minutes at 400 degrees with avocado oil or walnut oil and sea salt.) You can keep high-quality animal proteins in the freezer, too.
- Make smoothies for breakfast.
Smoothies are a quick and easy way to sneak a lot of nutrients into one cup. And the best part is, everything you need to make a smoothie can be kept in your pantry or freezer. Include a source of healthy fat (such as an avocado or nut butter), fiber (such as flax, chia, or hemp seeds + leafy greens) and a quality protein powder, and be mindful of the amount of fruit you mix in.
- Block off only one hour of meal prep time per week.
You could spend hours prepping all your meals, but, personally, I’d rather spend my free time with family and friends. That’s why I recommend strategic prepping: prioritize the most important things that’ll set you up for a successful week.
For most of my clients this typically involves coming up with a game plan, cutting up and sometimes cooking vegetables, as well as preparing a protein to freeze for later use. One of my favorite things to do is to always have a big Pyrex container filled with cut up, colorful veggies I can add to salads or grab for a midday snack.
To keep it under an hour just requires a bit of strategy. I recommend beginning with the protein (which typically takes the longest to cook), following that with any cooked vegetables and, lastly, washing and cutting the rest of your vegetables.
- Utilize kitchen gadgets.
The Instant Pot is at the top of the list here. I resisted this tool for months and I am so regretful I didn’t buy it sooner — you can use it to prepare nutritious meals within minutes. I’d also add to this list a high-speed blender (Nutribullet is great for single-serve smoothies) and something to spiralize vegetables (Inspiralizer is my personal favorite).
- Cook protein in the crockpot or Instant Pot.
I often use both to cook soups and stews in the winter, but also year-round for cooking proteins. The Instant Pot comes in particularly handy if you’re using protein from your freezer — cook it directly in the Instant Pot and pair it with some sautéed frozen veggies and a little healthy fat for dinner in no time. I also prefer to double or triple the recipes so I have leftovers to eat for future lunches and dinners.
To give you an idea of how to put some of these meal prep tips into practice, take a look at this example for one week.
Weekly Meal Plan
Before beginning the week, there are a few things I would prepare on Sunday to make my life easier throughout the week. They are the following: roast sweet potatoes, hard boil eggs, cook rice or cauliflower rice, and wash and cut vegetables that I will be using throughout the week. This can easily be done in under one hour and will save you time and stress as you are preparing your meals.
|Monday||Smoothie – https://LOCKHART-WELLNESS.COM/super-greens-smoothie/||Salad* with rotisserie chicken, roasted sweet potatoes* (made the night before), tomatoes*, broccoli, and nut/seed of choice with homemade dressing (EVOO, balsamic vinegar, seasoning/s of choice)||Barbacoa burrito bowls – grass fed roast (made in the Crock Pot or Instant Pot), served with rice or cauliflower rice, veggies*, manchego cheese and avocado. (recipes online)|
|Tuesday||Overnight Grains – layer in Mason jar: ½ C buckwheat groats, 1 serving Vegan protein powder, ¾ C unsweetened non-dairy milk, 2 Tblsp ground flaxseed, 2 Tblsp nut butter, ½ C frozen blueberries*, ¼ C coconut shreds, 1 Tblsp molasses, ½ tsp cinnamon||3 hard boiled pastured eggs, apple* + nut butter and cut up colorful veggie crudités* with hummus or guacamole to dip||Pastured chicken sautéed with frozen veggies*, and topped with stir-fry sauce (or create your own with tamari, mirin, & sesame oil)|
|Wednesday||4-6 chicken or turkey breakfast links or patties (I like Applegate Farms) with berries* and 1 oz nuts||Salad with dark greens*, canned skipjack tuna, nuts, black olives, and colorful veggies* with homemade dressing like above||Souper Bowl Soup – https://LOCKHART-WELLNESS.COM/souper-bowl-soup/ (made in the Instant Pot for even shorter cook time) served with a side salad*|
|Thursday||Smoothie – layer in blender: ¾ C frozen berries*, 2 handfuls baby kale or spinach*, 2 Tblsp hemp hearts, 1 Tblsp nut butter, 1 serving Vegan protein powder, ¼ C Pom juice, 1 C unsweetened non-dairy milk, 1 tsp turmeric||Bean burger warmed in skillet (I like Impossible or Beyond Burgers), topped with slice of manchego cheese, pickles & served with leftover roasted veggies* & peach* slices||Salmon sheet pan dinner (wild-caught salmon, quartered baby potatoes* with your favorite green veggie) -several recipe options available online|
|Friday||2-3 pastured egg scramble with spinach*, red onion, & any other colorful veggies* you have around with ½ avocado and berries* on the side||Leftover salmon served on a bed of greens* and your colorful veggie crudités*, pumpkin seeds & homemade dressing||Dinner out! Remember, we follow an 80/20 rule which provides some flexibility with meal planning. Enjoy, but don’t go overboard. J|
As you can see, nearly everything that takes time to prepare is prepped ahead of time. And those that aren’t are things that can be easily cooked in the Instant Pot or crockpot.
You’ll also notice there are some repeat meals in this meal plan — this saves on cooking time and the amount of ingredients you need to purchase. And, there’s also room to change things up. For example, just because you’re planning on salads two times for lunch doesn’t mean the exact same items have to go in that salad both days. Same goes for the smoothies. In fact, adding variety is good for your body.
Like I said, cooking and meal prepping doesn’t need to be intimidating, challenging or time-consuming. I encourage you to try adding these seven tips into your routine — you’ll save time during the week, spend less on food, waste less food, and be able to enjoy easy, healthy meals all week long.