Work, children, after-school activities, parties, exercise, quality time with family and friends, appointments, meetings – it can all become too much! This is when it is likely that meal planning can be forgotten, and takeaway options become the norm. This can not only be detrimental to our physical and mental health, but the health of our bank accounts too!
Here are some tips to meal plan during a busy schedule:
- Pick a Prep Day
Find a day where there is time to sit and plan. Usually, planning about one week in advance is ideal to shop and prepare meals so they don’t get boring and stay within their use-by-date. Write a list, buy your groceries and plan some meals you (and your family) will love.
An example of some meal-prep dinner ideas are below. These can be for dinners or lunches during the week:
- Vegetable stir-fry (can add a protein source e.g. salmon if desired)
Monday dinner, Wednesday lunch, Friday lunch
- Lamb with Greek salad and yoghurt dressing
Monday lunch (in a healthy, pita wrap), Wednesday dinner, Thursday lunch
- Grilled chicken breast with vegetables
Tuesday lunch (chicken and salad sandwich), Thursday dinner
- Spaghetti Bolognese
Tuesday and Friday dinner (extra to freeze for the week/s after)
- Bulk buy, bulk cook
Often, buying in bulk and cooking in larger quantities can save time, money and stress. For example, cooking a large Bolognese sauce and freezing some of it is a great idea if, in two weeks’ time, you find yourself scrambling for a meal at the last minute. Dividing up stir-fries or salads into separate Tupperware containers for lunches or dinners can assist with maintaining healthy portion sizes and create quick, ready-to-go meals. Cooking extra chicken at dinner is a great idea to add to lunches the next day, such as in a healthy salad wrap or sandwich.
- Hanger emergencies!
Feeling hungry – or hangry – between meals? Instead of heading to the nearest drive through, having some emergency snacks can be a lifesaver. For example, a small serving of unsalted nuts, air popped popcorn, low-fat yoghurt pots or simply a piece of fruit can help for those in-between moments. Planning how many snacks you will have is also beneficial for your weight loss goals, to avoid overeating or grazing during the day. Mix these up throughout the week.
- Manic mornings
Preparing overnight oats, breakfast muffins, a quick smoothie or even putting your cereal in a bowl the night before can help if early mornings tend to get the better of you. Getting the kids lunches and bags sorted and packed the night before can alleviate morning stress too. Putting your brekky in a container is a great idea for commutes on public transport, or getting up a few minutes earlier to pop some oats in the microwave.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself
There is sometimes pressure to be the “perfect prepper”, and to have everything ready to go all the time. Sometimes things don’t go to plan, and you may not have time! Having those freezer meals ready to go, making quick frozen veggie stir-fries or buying an easy and healthy option from the supermarket might be a quick solution. The trick is not to give up, as each time you prepare it becomes a part of a new, healthy lifestyle routine.
There is no right or wrong way to meal plan, prep or cook. Fitting it into a busy schedule is different for everyone. Finding the best way to meal plan for you, your family and your life is important!