asparagus and blank paper on table

Simple Meal Planning – 3 Step Meal Prep

…simple joy by simpler living

Cooking at home is almost always healthier than restaurant eating. When eating out, you do not know all the ingredients and there usually are some very unhealthy things added to make the food taste better. So my goal is to mostly cook and eat at home. This can be difficult though. Today I am sharing ways I simplify this process to make it achievable! No matter what your job, stage of life, or disability is, there are some easy ways to simplify cooking at home. So here is my simple 3-step meal planning routine…

1. Buy in Bulk

This is the main and most important step. It involves buying ahead of time. It doesn’t really require much effort beyond that, though, because you do not have to plan meals at this point. This step is all about stocking up on good quality food at a good price. If you buy in bulk you can really save money and afford better quality food. I have just a few items that I buy in bulk that really save me money and time later. See this post for more details about what to buy in bulk.

Where to buy in bulk??

Azure Standard is the best place I have found for quality and cost. They have a great variety of organic products at some of the best prices around. I order about once every few months. Great products at great prices! Butcherbox is my go-to for meat. We also scope out some local sources for certain items. Read here for more detailed tips!

2. Decide Meals based upon Food Already Bought in Bulk

As I wind down on my typically relaxing Sunday evenings, I head to my freezer and choose a variety of meat to defrost for the week. Since I already invested time in getting the meat, this only takes about 5 minutes to think through the different nights I need to cook and pick out a variety of meats. I have found that the top or bottom of a large turkey roasting pan is the perfect size to put large meat packs in to defrost. It is large enough to hold most of the meat I need for the week, has high sides to catch any juices that may leak, and fits nicely on a shelf in my refrigerator so I can grab what is needed easily each night I cook.

Sometime on Monday, I sit down and decide what to cook with each meat defrosted. With so much on hand from buying in bulk, I typically just need to add a few vegetables so my weekly shopping lists are rather small. I start out the plan by looking at my calendar and figuring out which days everyone will be home together and which days we will not be. On some days where everyone is going in different directions, I intentionally plan to have leftovers. It might be because sports practice is too early for me to make a meal or it may be that I am too busy certain days. Whatever it may be, I plan the days I need to cook, the days I cook double so I have l will have leftovers and the days I give myself the night off of cooking by eating those leftovers. Sometimes I also just cook extra meat to have in fridge because I have found that teenage boys eat A LOT! So finding food that tastes good as leftovers is a regular part of my meal planning. One day per week, on a relaxed evening, I usually plan something new and special.

The slow cooker is my best friend for dinners. Every meat turns out flavorful and tender. The best part for me, however, is that all the work and cleanup is done in the morning. By the time dinner rolls around, I am usually tired and busy so all that is needed is to make the sides. It is also SO nice to come home after being out of the house and smell a delicious meal cooking. I am always excited that the wafting aromas are coming from MY housešŸ˜ƒ.

The whole planning process doesn’t take me more than 10-20 minutes. I usually list the days of the week with the meal next to it. This helps so I can easily do step 3 – and satisfies curious minds! Even though I usually make a general plan, I am always open to changing it, as necessary. Sometimes we have more leftovers than planned and can skip an extra day of cooking. Sometimes appointments take longer than expected, or sometimes I am just too tired to cook. So sometimes we eat out. I have a few healthy restaurant options that we have in our back pocket for these occasions. My motto is flexibility within structure. Have a plan but be willing to flex, as needed, in life.

3. Get fresh veggies or extras needed

I love summer cooking. Fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs are available in abundance from home gardens and local farm markets. Adding any of these fresh items can complete a meal easily. The easiest thing is when I have these at home but my reality is that I usually don’t have everything I need. I do, however, have a few garden veggies, my favorite farm stands and grocery stores to pick up the complements to my meals.

Summer salads are always quick and easy. Fresh corn on the cob, green beans and potatoes found at a farm stand are a delicious and simple way to complement any grilled meat. Adding fresh basil to salads, rosemary to roasted potatoes or cilantro to fajitas can turn an ordinary entrƩe into a flavorful feast! Freshly made wheat bread or corn bread adds a delicious addition to fill up hungry eaters. Whatever you choose to add at this step, having a few easy regular rotations in meals and easy places to get these items make a world of difference.

An easy way I plan meals is to cook double of my main dish. When we have it for leftovers and I have extra time, I add a homemade side such as cornbread or homemade salsa to a Mexican meal. This enhances the meal and makes it slightly different than the first time to freshen it up.

Anything from scratch will always be healthier and more delicious than pre-packaged food. This can be very complicated with a long recipe, or can be very simple by roasting vegetables then simply salting or sprinkling with a fresh herb. I usually start with fresh veggies & keep the menu simple, adding only one new recipe per week. This way simple cooking can be healthy and a simple delight!

Cooking Meals

When it comes time to cook meals, it is very easy because all ingredients are on hand and I have a plan. No last minute rushing to the store in addition to cooking is needed! This saves me a lot of time and energy making it easier to accomplish cooking from scratch at home for maximum nutrition and healing! Praying you find this easy 3- step meal prep leads to you finding simple joy by simpler living too!

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