Meal Planning and Prepping for Busy Brisbane City Folk
As busy Brisbane city folk, life is busy and our days are often filled with time consuming obligations such as work meetings, appointments and deadlines. Then there’s the family commitments like sports, school, family time, personal time and the list of things to do just goes on and on.
This can make it a challenge to create that ever-wanting work-life balance. However, half the battle is acknowledging that this challenge exists; the other half is recognising what we can influence. While we may not be able to control certain aspects like work or school schedules, meal preparation is something we can definitely influence and manipulate in ways that directly benefit a vital element of life—our health. Here we have eight great ways to reduce your time in the kitchen and help you meal prep your way to a healthier diet, improved body composition and a better work/life balance.
Tupperware. Investing in some reusable containers is critical to meal-prep success. We need somewhere to put our delicious cooked meals, right? Always purchase a variety of sizes to accommodate different meals and side dishes and make sure to choose easily packed containers (such as an all-in-one option) that allows you to pack lunches and snacks for work and/or school.
Menu Plan. It happens every week— having to make that less-than-enthusiastic trip to the grocery store to hunt for inspired dinner ideas. Prior to grocery day, take a seat and write up a plan of meals for the week. This can be a fun activity for the whole family. If you have kids, encourage them to provide input and suggestions (keeping in mind healthy options). Planning ahead for your meals automatically results in the creation of more than half the grocery list. This way you not only go to the grocery store with a solid plan but it also helps with the budget as you skip on buying those random purchases.
Start by selecting a protein, maybe a different protein each day of the week, and think of a meal that uses this protein as a base. Next you need to think about your carbohydrate to fat ratio and construct a meal plan that is nutritious, clean, tasty and works with your goals.
Prep Produce Magic. Select one day a week that is devoted to prepping your produce, the day your groceries are purchased is ideal because the produce is at its freshest and your mindset on your meals for the week is clear. Most of meal preparation is spent chopping or peeling veggies, it is always best to do this work ahead of time and store in individual containers and/or plastic bags for when you are ready to cook. Be sure to label each container according to a “use by” or “purchased on” date so you know which items to use first.
Also, make sure you label and group up ingredients for meals. If it’s easy to locate the ingredients when it comes time to cook, you’ll shave valuable time off the cooking time.
Pre-cook Grains. Once you have outlined your weekly menu, you will know which grains you will need for each meal you have selected. Instead of waiting until the day to cook these, precook the grains earlier in the week or cook a bigger batch one day if you are needing the same grain a few days later. It is simple to make quinoa, rice and pasta in advance and does not hurt to store in the fridge for easy access.
Cook Once, Eat Twice. Leftovers is a super simple way to reduce time in the kitchen. Example, if you make beef tacos one night, transform the leftovers into taco salads the next day. A grilled chicken breast with a side of baked sweet potatoes and green beans makes an excellent lunch for the following day by dicing up the leftovers and adding some spinach and a light vinaigrette dressing. You should consider making extra servings during one or two weekly dinners, therefore having an extra meal for lunches or the next night.
One-pot Meals. Crock pots and other slow cookers will most definitely become your new best friend! You can simply throw your prepared veggies, choice of protein and a sauce and/or stock of your choice in the pot, pop on the lid and let cook for normally over 4-8 hours. Then BAM, you come home to a hot and ready to go meal with minimal clean up. Who wouldn’t love that? You’ll feel like you’ve had a sneaky takeaway night but at a quarter the cost and twice the convenience.
Semi-homemade is O.K. Feeling tired or do not have the time to cook one day? That is O.K. A meal doesn’t have to be 100% “made from scratch” to be healthy. Markets and grocery stores have heaps of excellent healthy options to supplement a meal without creating any extra hassle. Making spaghetti and don’t have time to prepare a homemade tomato sauce? Look for wholesome premade sauces at your local store that are made with simple ingredients and zero added sugar. Other semi-homemade ingredient examples, frozen cauliflower pizza crust, prepared avocados, frozen riced cauliflower and microwavable rice or other grain options. Just be sure to read the labels and buy ingredients with zero added sugar.
Freeze. Utilise your freezer. Just as you can leverage leftovers, you can make large pots of homemade chilli, soups and stews that freeze beautifully and allow you to stockpile meals for busier weeks and colder winter days.
You do not have to feel overwhelmed when it comes to weekly meal prep with all the endless meal preparation steps and hours in the kitchen each day. These eight tactics can help reduce your time in the kitchen and add valuable minutes back to your week. Meaning more time to connect with family and friends.