Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Menu, Shop, Chop

When losing weight, or just trying to get healthy, clients often tell me the hardest part of staying on track is the planning.  To eat well balance meals and snacks every day we have to plan ahead.  Is it tedious?  Sometimes.  Is it time consuming? Kind of.  Is it worth it?  Absolutely.  Here's what it takes to make sure you always have healthy foods around.

1. Make a menu:  This is where routine comes in handy.  I know we always have eggs for breakfast, Ryan always eats yogurt for snacks, and I typically bring salads for lunch.  Supper is where we have the most variety.  But even here there is still a lot of stability.  Many of our favorite recipes call for similar ingredients, or at least nothing too crazy.  Stir-frys can include any meats and veggies, meat loaf can be as simple or complex as you want it, and baked chicken thighs go with any number of roasted veggies (even frozen).  Planning 3 main suppers per week typically leaves us with enough leftovers for one or two nights, possibly a hot lunch option, and not sooo many groceries around that things start to go bad.

Frozen turkey patties and corn.
2. Take stock: Now that you have a list of ingredients that you need, go through your pantry, fridge, freezer and make sure you know what to buy.  What do you have that you want to use up?Don't wing it!  Otherwise you will end up with 3 jars of chili powder, and rotting lettuce in the back of your fridge.

3. Write a grocery list:  If you need a specific amount of something (ex: 2 pounds pork loin) write it down. Again, you run the risk of coming home with only 1.5 pounds, or an entirely wrong cut of meat.  Without a list it's also easy to forget little odds and ends such as mustard, coconut milk, or fresh herbs.

4. Prep foods:  After bringing groceries home, take the time to prep some foods.  Cut carrots and celery and bell peppers and put them in containers or snack bags.  Dice onions and store in glass containers.  Pull leaves off kale stems for easy use in eggs or soup.  You can easily store kale in a ziplock bag or even in the plastic containers that precut lettuce comes in.  Freeze meat that you are not planning to use right away.  If something comes up, you don't want it to go bad.  Frozen meat can be placed directly into a crock-pot before work, so you're guaranteed to come come to a great smelling house and warm meal.

Roast Beets While Chopping Veggies
Beet greens blanched for later use
Veggies chopped for the week

5. Cook:  This can be done simultaneously while prepping.  Boil eggs for snacks.  Bake sweet potatoes or winter squash while prepping other foods so they just have to be reheated at meals.  Sweet potatoes can also be placed whole in a crock-pot for 6-8 hours.  Form meatballs or turkey patties and freeze for an easy quick meal.  After prepping veggies, use some of them to make a crock-pot stew.  It will cook while you finish up any other activities around the house.  Use the leftovers for lunches, snacks, and dinners.  Blend up several smoothies and freeze for breakfasts or snacks.  Any time you turn on the oven or grill, make extra!  Even if it's just one serving.
prepared shepherds one day, baked it for supper the next night.

6. Repeat: Some people find that taking one Saturday a month, and cooking up extras of many different items including chili, egg bake, protein bars, grilled chicken, wild rice or quinoa.  By planning ahead, you'll have easy proteins and healthy carbs available.  Proteins are typically the hardest nutrient to have available quickly, so if you're just starting out, focus your efforts there first.  A few hours spent prepping and cooking one day, will save you time, money, and stress in the future.
egg bake that will be frozen for quick breakfasts.
What changes can you make in your routine, so you always have healthy meals and snacks ready to go?


  1. To freeze the egg bake would you cut it in individual serving sizes and wrap each one separately?

  2. You got it! Actually I'm eating some right now that I just reheated in the toaster oven.

  3. Wow freezing in serving sizes is a great idea! Never thought of it for some reason. Thanks, I'll definitely do this too from now on.