or·gan·i·za·tion (n): the action of organizing something
With having such a busy schedule, a 2-plus-hour commute and training for a half marathon, I need to stay organized.
Planning my weekly groceries and meal prepping is a part of my routine and our household doesn’t function well without it. I also like to keep a tight grocery budget and keep our food waste to a minimum. All these steps keep me fueled, on track and on budget.
A little back story about meal prep and why it’s important to me:
When asked what type of “diet” I follow, I usually cringe. I spent my teenage years obsessing over calories and macronutrients, weighing and measuring everything I would consume. I sacrificed a lot of family dinners, holidays, and events because I would not be “able” to eat the food that would be served. That, or I went but ate cold fish and broccoli out of a plastic container.
It honestly wasn’t until I found running in the spring of 2018 that I discovered there are runners of every size. I then realized I could find a balance between being active and food for health reasons and enjoyment not just weight loss.
Meal prep is no longer meant to control what and how much I eat, but to give me more time with my family, to do things I enjoy (including running) and spend less time in the kitchen!
So, if you’ve ever gotten sick of asking yourself “what’s for dinner tonight?” or stared at the fridge hoping something would magically appear, the tips below may help you [cooked meal not included]!
The first step is to look at your family’s calendar. Are you going to be rushing to an after-school event? Do you have any appointments or errands planned? Keep those in mind because these are the days that rollover meals will be a lifesaver.
Gather your local grocery flyers or download the Reebee app to see what’s on sale so you can base your week’s dinners on that. For example, last week shrimp was on sale and I had the biggest craving for shrimp and tofu stir-fry [recipe below]. I then began building the meal starting with the protein (shrimp and tofu) baby corn, peppers, and mushrooms. Paired with rice, this was not only a complete meal but would feed my spouse and one or two dinners and two lunches, making it very cost effective.
I repeat step 2 for every weeknight I will be cooking dinner and build a chart so I know when I need to pull meat out of the freezer or cook the produce that may go bad faster at the beginning of the week. If I am running out of ideas, I refer to my favourite food blogs and Instagram accounts for inspiration. We do, however, have a lot of meals constantly on rotation because we really enjoy them.
Here is an example of what our dinners may look like:
Week of April 21- 25, 2019
|Meal||Chicken fiesta bowls||Baked salmon with sweet potato and green beans||*Rollover*
Chicken quesadillas with green salad
|Meatloaf with mashed potatoes and broccoli||Cripsy tofu and shrimp stir fry|
|Protein||Salsa chicken||Lemon dill salmon||Salsa chicken||Meatloaf (lean ground beef)||Shrimp and tofu|
Side / Starch
|Corn, green onions, shredded lettuce, cheese, sour cream, black beans and/or quinoa||Steamed green beans and oven roasted sweet potatoes||Large green salad||Mashed or roasted potatoes and steamed and broccoli||Baby corn, mushrooms,
peppers and rice
After planning dinners for the week, I tackle breakfasts and snacks. Since I am a creature of habit, breakfast for me includes eggs and my morning snack is always veggies and hummus. Sometimes I may change these completely but most times it’s simply a variation.
Here are few breakfast and snack ideas that are quick to make and keep well:
- Egg muffins with cantaloupe and a slice of toast with peanut butter;
- Overnight oats made with almond milk, chia seeds, cocoa powder, and sliced banana;
- Egg, ham, and cheese breakfast sandwiches with strawberries;
- Fruit smoothie made with greek yogurt plus a scoop of your favourite protein powder
- Baby carrots, celery and snap peas with hummus and crackers
- Peperette, cheese string and trail mix
- Hard boiled egg and fruit
- Banana with peanut butter
- Greek yogurt
Exactly what it sounds like: making two separate meals with one main ingredient. Not only is this a time saver but budget friendly too as most ingredients can be used twice i.e. cheese, sour cream, green onions etc.
Take chicken breasts, for example, four chicken breasts in the crockpot with half a jar of your favorite salsa, cook on low for 5-6 hours. You will end up with delicious shredded salsa chicken that you can serve with corn, beans, sour cream, shredded lettuce and cheese on a busy Monday night. The leftovers can be used on Wednesday for chicken quesadillas on whole wheat tortillas and a big green salad. Dinner will be ready in 15 minutes!
I usually leave a day in between the two meals so I don’t get sick of eating the same protein.
Once I know what my meals will look like I create a grocery list and separate each item into categories such as: dairy/meat, fruits and vegetables, pantry items, and other.
I do this for two reasons: so I don’t forget anything and also because I hate crowded places and want to be in and out of the store as fast as possible. If you are extremely low on time and also hate crowds most stores now offer free grocery pick up. You order on the store’s app and simply pull up and park and your groceries are brought to you. I have yet to explore this option as I personally enjoy choosing my meat and produce myself.
Hopefully you are still reading this and not feeling too overwhelmed, I know meal planning seems complicated but if you take 15 minutes to sit down and plan your meals I promise it will be worth it. Not only will you save money but you will have extra time to focus on what matters most to you.
I am so thankful for taking the time to plan and prepare my meals every week, I hope these tips will help you prepare for success!
1 block extra firm tofu
1 lb deveined, uncooked shrimp (21-25 ct)
2 cups bok choy
1 cup mushrooms
1 cup peppers
1 can baby corn, drained
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp toasted sesame seed oil
1 tbsp ground ginger powder or 1 tsp freshly grated
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp broth of your choice, I used chicken
1 tsp sriracha
1 tbsp honey
toasted sesame seeds (optional)
Thaw shrimp in a bowl with cold water, peel shells.
Wash and cut all the vegetables into bite sized pieces, mince garlic
Pat dry tofu block on all sides with paper towels, cut into bite sized cubes (about 1×1 inch)
In a large pan, add 1 tbsp of toasted sesame oil and bring to medium-high heat. Take one of the tofu cubes and put it in the oil, it should sizzle right away. Add as much tofu as you can without crowding the pan, I usually have to do this in two batches. The goal is crispy tofu so you will need to flip the tofu cubes on each side until crispy and golden brown, about 1-2 minutes per side. Repeat this step until all the tofu is cooked and crispy on all sides. I recommend a splatter guard over your pan for this step as the tofu still contains water and may cause some light splatter.
While the tofu is cooking, prepare the sauce by whisking all the ingredients together in a bowl. This would also be the time to prepare your rice if you are serving it with the stir-fry. Drain shrimp and pat dry with a paper towel, set aside.
Bring a second large pan or wok to medium-high heat, add 1 tbsp of the sesame oil and add the minced garlic and vegetables. Cook until tender, around 5-7 minutes.
Once the tofu is cooked remove from the pan and place in a bowl, set aside. In the same pan you cooked the tofu in, you will be cooking the shrimp but before this lightly season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Add the shrimp and cook until pink, about 2-3 minutes a side. Depending on how many shrimp you have in the pan, this will take 4-6 minutes.
Add the crispy tofu, cooked shrimp, and sauce to the cooked vegetables. Mix together well and bring heat down to low, cook for another 5 minutes. Serve with rice or quinoa. Can be topped with crushed peanuts, toasted sesame seeds, green onions, and extra sriracha.