Life is busy, and before you know it, prioritiesâ€”like eating healthfullyâ€”go out the window.Â The key to successÂ is to have a plan and do your best to stick to it. Keeping on track is easy when you already have a weekly menu lined up and good foods in your home; otherwise, you risk impulse eating something not-so-great and regretting it.
You might think advance planning requires adding time to your already busy schedule. According to wellness pioneer Dr. Frank Lipman, though, research shows that the average American watches more than five hours of television each day, yet spends barely half an hour on food preparation. Take a good look at your less-than-productive hours and put them to better use by developing a smartÂ and manageable food strategy.
Plan and make meals to get you through the week by mixing and matching what you have on handâ€”whole, healthful foods in a variety of colorsâ€”with supplements from the grocery store. Be creative, but don’tÂ overburden yourself trying to whip up something too fancy or intricate. Instead,Â spotlight one ingredient in multiple ways throughout the week. For example, grill up someÂ chickenÂ to use one night for dinner and on another day for lunch, shredded in a whole grain wrap. Hard-boilÂ enough eggs to have forÂ breakfast one day and to toss into a mixed greens salad a couple ofÂ days later. Cut up a bunch of carrots into sticks; putÂ halfÂ into snack bags andÂ cook up the other halfÂ into a simple glazed carrot side dish.
Consider the following:
- Check your calendar every week and markÂ off the days where you will realistically be able to grocery shop, cook, eat dinner at home, or bring leftovers with you for lunch at the office.
- Inventory your kitchen by writing down everything in your fridge, cabinets, and pantry, and grouping like items together on your list (meats, veggies, nuts, etc.). Toss any item that’s expired. Based on your calendar and kitchen inventory, design meals to last you the entire week. There are plenty of websites and smartphone apps like SupercookÂ and BigOvenÂ that can generate recipes based on what you already have on hand. Shop for any items you need to add/replace. Click here for *FREE* downloadable templates to help you with inventorying, shopping, and meal planning.
- Cook for the week. Prepare what you can in bulkâ€”a pot of chili, steamed string beans, mashed sweet potatoes. Divide everything up into small containers or snack bags and freeze/refrigerate them. All you have to do from this point forward is refer to your weekly meal plan each day or the night before, then defrost, reheat, or assemble your meals accordingly.
Planning ahead and preparing meals for yourself or with your family not only puts your mind at ease, but guarantees nourishment for your body as well. Regularly inventorying your kitchen, planning a weekly menu, and having a shopping strategy will save you frustration later on, so honor and appreciate the time and effort that went into creating your healthful and delicious meals.
[A version of this article was written for, and first appeared in,Â YoffieLife.comÂ on May 25, 2014.]