It was a constant dilemma. Ride my bike to work and eat scraps/ or take out for dinner OR drive and have enough time to cook. I LOVE to cook, so this truly was a real conundrum until I opened my eyes to the obvious and started to actually meal plan. The problem with meal planning is finding a system that works for you. I feel like I have tried every single pinterest inspired meal plan/prep plan there is and I ultimately settled on my own hodgepodge version, essentially combining all of them in one way or another. Once I figured out my own routine, I actually no longer had to commute for work anymore, but I liked it so much, I stuck with it!
The No Excuse Guide to Meal Planning (the Basics)
- Have a handful of quick, go-to meals that you and your family love; and would be cool eating every week if you had to. For example, in my house, we eat a lot of pesto, tacos/quesadillas/taco salad/and the like, picnics, “sides”, buddah bowls, etc. While we don’t have each of these every week, I’m pretty sure we could and still not be sick of them.
- Keep Staples on Hand. I highly encourage you to figure out your own “staples” and keep them on hand, as much as possible. Examples would be eggs, almond milk, hummus, beans, pasta/rice/quinoa/couscous/oatmeal, canned tomatoes, nuts, dried fruit, etc. I also try to stock the freezer with frozen (unseasoned/unsalted) veggies and fruit.
- Cook in Bulk. Pasta sauces, hummus, rice, beans, roasted veggies, etc., are all incredibly easy to make in bulk. Store in the fridge for quick hodgepodge meals (my personal go-to favorites, if not my husband’s) or freeze for later use. I also try to make at least one meal each week that will freeze well – soup, stew, pasta sauce, etc. We love chili, but a batch of chili is enough for a week on it’s own, and who really wants to eat chili for an entire week? So we eat it once or twice and freeze the rest for later. This way, on those days when I really haven’t planned at all, we can still avoid calling Taco Tonto’s.
- The Freezer is Your Best Kept Secret. See above! Between stocking up on frozen veggies and freezing left over meals, our freezer is a little embarrassing packed.
- Rotate Food. Both Daily and Weekly. I know I mentioned finding your go-to meals and sticking with them, but do add variety. Try a new recipe a few times a month, switch between eggs and oatmeal for breakfast, treat yo self with take out from time to time. One of the quickest ways to fall out of the meal planning habit is to get bored with your food. Shake it up.
- Use Your Fresh Produce First. This seems obvious, but I can’t even begin to tell you how many full fridge drawers of produce I’ve wasted because I waited too long to use any of it. Make your fresh produce recipes first before turning to your freezer/bulk stash.
As I am a complete nerd, I could talk about food and meal prepping all day, but I won’t overwhelm you on one fell swoop. Stay tuned for more tips on actually implementing the meal plan as well as some of my favorite recipes! I’m on a mission to take away any excuse you may have as to why you can’t ride your bike to work 😉
If you have any tips, questions, or feedback, please comment below!