Welcome to another blog post!
This will probably be one of my most important blog posts as of yet as I feel meal planning is paramount in determining a smooth and stress-free week.
Meal-Planning – Why do it?
Meal-planning keeps me on track in eating nutritional, healthy food which in return, makes me feel physically and mentally well. It’s also a ridiculous amount cheaper cooking your own food instead of buying meal deals or meals out all the time (which always helps when you are a student who spends far too much on other things!) Although time-consuming, I try and dedicate one day of the week (Sunday evening) to cooking my meals for the week, or atleast half the week. I try and buy my food on Saturday morning as Sunday is packed with people and the shops close early. I have a couple ways in which I meal plan depending on how my days of the week are looking
1. I cook dinner and lunch at the same time
For example, I will cook 2 portions on Monday night – one for dinner and one for lunch the next day. Normally I do this if I do not have many deadlines for the week as I will have time to cook every night.
2. I cook meals for Monday-Wednesday, Wednesday – Friday
Monday and Tuesdays are my busiest days of the week by far (9-5 Uni!) so I always try and cook for them to get it out of the way. Thus, by the time I get home, I can work and have time to ride and go to the gym! Wednesdays are when my Uni schedule starts to ease up a bit as I finish early, so I can get back home and cook my meals for the rest of the week till Friday lunchtime.
3. I cook lunch and dinner meals from Monday lunchtime-Friday lunchtime
This is when I go all out! If I have a really busy week ahead – placements to apply to, essays, labs, posters, training and organising socials, I will cook all my meals in one go. This is what I normally tend to do as my weeks are very full up. Yes, it does mean that I will probably be in the kitchen for four hours at a time, however it means I can just grab my food and go if I’m on the run. It feels so nice having meals ready for you that you know are homeade and healthy! Once the weekend hits, I tend to relax about my meal planning as my eating is not structured around my Uni schedule (don’t want any whale-calling tummies in lectures). Despite this, I do prep my breakfast (overnight oats) and pre-workout smoothie for the next day as it only takes 5 minutes and saves me time in the morning.
Tips to Meal Plan
Well, what do I eat?
This really is an individual preference! It really is based on personal research into recipes and foods you like to eat. My favourite place to get recipe inspiration is Pinterest as I can save recipes I am interested in onto my ‘boards’. Pinterest has just about every topic on it and is a great database to join for inspiration on anything! It’s been a huge help in finding low FODMAP foods and recipes to aid my meal plan. Additionally, I love looking at websites such as my favourite MindBodyGreen, as they have informative, holistic nutritional advice that is interesting to follow. Again, it is completely personal preference and up to you which recipes or type of diet you choose to follow.
How do I plan the week out?
I normally plan it out as I said above – my Monday’s dinner will be my Monday’s lunch. As a result, my meal plans normally look like this:
- Monday: Lunch – 1, Dinner – 2
- Tuesday: Lunch – 2, Dinner – 3
- Wednesday: Lunch – 3, Dinner – 4
etc etc… you get the idea hopefully! This carries on until Friday lunchtime.
Additionally, I will simultaneously cook or make snacks that I can grab on the go such as hardboiled eggs etc.
After researching the type of recipes I want to include in my meal plan, I will number the recipes (as above) and then look at doubling a single-size portion. From this, I will create a shopping list that I will need for my week’s meals.
Find what works for you
Make sure your shopping days stay close to the days you cook. As I mentioned prior, I try and shop on Saturday early morning before it gets busy and then cook on Sunday evening.
Meal-Prepping Tips – When it comes down to it
1) Containers, containers and containers
I’m literally obsessed with them. I have so many lying around my house it’s ridiculous. It’s important to get ones that are re-usable, fit all your food, are anti-leak and also can be microwaved. I’ve found Amazon the best place to get them off of as it’s cheaper to buy in bulk and they are good quality. Make sure to buy enough for the week’s meals if you are cooking all in one go.
2) Make breakfast/snacks in advance
As previously mentioned, I will hard-boil around 5-6 eggs for the week and just keep them in the fridge if I get a bit peckish. Make sandwich bags one of your best friends and use these to hold your snacks that you can just throw in your bag. Additionally, I always make my breakfast the night before so it saves me time in the morning. Also, I tend to just chuck my ingredients for my pre-workout smoothie into my Nutri-bullet cup and don’t blitz it up until I want to drink it the next day. For breakfast, I just whip up some overnight oats and store it in the fridge overnight (takes less than 2 mins). My easy go-to recipe is:
- 1/2 cup Gluten-free Oats
- 1 cup Koko milk
- Tbsp Flaxseed
- Small handful frozen blueberries
- Tbsp Whole Earth Smooth Peanut butter
3) Cut veggies/portion and place in sandwich bags
This is a good tip that I’ve only started implementing this year. If you won’t be cooking for the whole week in advance, cut your vegetables up or portion up foods in advance and throw them into sandwich bags. That way, when you are ready to start cooking, you don’t have to spend the extra 10-15 minutes prepping and can start straight away.
4) Buy pre-packaged foods or frozen-cut foods
This may be more expensive, but using pre-packaged food such as rice/quinoa and frozen already-cut vegetables is the best. Sometimes I don’t have time to wait 40 minutes for the rice to boil so it’s easy to just get those microwavable bags and just chuck them into a salad or similar meal. Or you can buy boil-in-bag rice, which is super easy to do as you don’t have to check it every couple of minutes (I dislike cooking rice, can you tell?).
5) Cook the meal that takes the most attention last
I normally tend to use the oven first if I’m roasting vegetables or fish as I don’t have to keep checking up on it every five minutes. If I need to use the hob, I will do that last as it requires most of my attention so the food doesn’t burn.
6) Clean as you go along!
Cooking for the whole week gets that kitchen messssssy. Make sure once you’ve finished using something, immediately wash it and put it away if you’re done using it. It makes the process so much more efficient and easier. TIP: Get aluminium foil to put on your baking tray so you don’t need to wash it everytime you use it – works a treat!
I know meal planning and prepping seems trivial time-consuming, but once you’ve got it down to a T, it’s so easy and you will realise the huge difference it makes to organising your week. The best thing about it is that once you’ve figured what works for you, you can do it every week until you feel like switching it up. Let me know if you have tried any of these tips and if you meal-prep/plan!