June 25, 2014

Guest Post: Meal Prep

Morning friends, Today one of my best friends is taking over my space. I will definitely be trying out some of her tips and tricks. Thanks for being here today T.

{picking my own green beans... apparently they do grow vegetables in Arizona!}

Hello! I'm Tera and today I will be talking to you all about meal prep and planning. A big thanks to Lauren for letting me take over her blog for today. When she asked me a while ago if I wanted to guest post I was super excited but felt I didn't have anything to write about. I got to thinking and realized I love reading blog posts about meal planning and prep and I've learned a lot about it in the past year, so why not write about that?
{grocery list for the week}
A little over a year ago I moved from just outside of DC where I was a half mile from a grocery store, a mile from my office and a 5 minute drive from almost everything else I needed on a daily basis to a small town in Arizona with just a Walgreens and a Dairy Queen. In addition to that I also commute 60 miles one way to and from work. Somehow in that hour commute I don't even pass a grocery store. If I forget something for dinner one night (unless it is a lime - the gas station I pass carries those) I'm pretty much out of luck without adding an hour or so on to my drive home. I love eating healthy and being active but having so much less time was making that difficult. Between that and having less time in the mornings and evening to make meals I pretty quickly came to the realization that planning out my meals for the week and grocery shopping really efficiently on Sundays is what needed to happen.

Now I have a good routine that helps me pack my breakfasts and lunches to eat at work and get dinner on the table every night at a reasonable time. The routine is pretty basic but it seems to work for us. I read blogs and browse Pinterest regularly for meal ideas and always try to use fresh ingredients and keep processed foods to a minimum. Having staple meals and a few new ones each week handy is helpful when planning out our week. It all starts with my CSA farm box (a weekly box of fruits and veggies I get from a local farm). By Wednesday at midnight I need to have my order placed. The produce isn't necessarily the same every week so I order what looks good to me and use that as the basis for our weekly meal plan. Based on what I know I have coming in the farm box I start to put together a meal plan for the week and a grocery list on my iPhone usually on Thursday but definitely by Sunday when I go to the grocery store.

Some typical meals we have are chicken and bean bake, tacos, spaghetti squash or a crockpot meal. We also throw in a night or two of going out and usually I try one new dish a week. Once I have the list in place I look through the recipes to see what I can prep on Sunday once I get home from the grocery store. I always make hard boiled eggs for snacks at work, homemade almond milk for my oatmeal and try and prep other items for lunches and dinners ahead of time. For example, with the chicken and bean bake I can get everything chopped and seasoned and put it in the refrigerator in a baking dish covered with plastic wrap so I just need to throw it in the oven when I get home from work. I can usually also prepare a crockpot meal in the crockpot dish and put that in the refrigerator. Spaghetti squash and other veggies (like sweet potatoes or beets!) can also be baked in advance since those take 45 minutes to an hour to bake. Some other things I have made ahead are: brown rice or quinoa, baking muffins for the hubby's breakfast, putting together fruits and veggies in individual baggies for smoothies, chopping up veggies or making salads and homemade dressing for the week, making homemade nut butter or whole wheat pizza dough, baking chicken or making soup.

{making salads for lunch for the week}

{super easy homemade salad dressing}

Making your own dressing is so quick, is usually healthier than bottled dressings AND tastes fresh and delicious. The basic recipe is just an acid and a fat of some sort. In this case equal parts lemon juice & olive oil. I just put the ingredients in a tupperware or mason jar and shake before using. I added dijon mustard and dill to kick it up a notch this time. You can also use balsamic vinegar instead of lemon juice and easily make healthy creamy dressings like ranch using greek yogurt. Try this recipe for a simple honey mustard!

{making almond milk: almonds, water, vanilla and a pinch of salt}

I love making my own almond milk because it takes just minutes, I can make exactly the amount I will use for the week so there is no waste, there are no additives or preservatives and it's super cheap because I only use a handful of almonds!

{food prep is complete!}

Doing all this prep for a couple hours on Sunday makes getting dinner on the table on week nights so much easier. The key is taking the long lead time items out of the equation on week nights by cooking them all at the same time on Sunday. The oven is already hot and you can usually cook multiple things at one time saving you a couple hours throughout the week. Having the list of recipes for the week and a running grocery list also helps out immensely because I spend less time at the grocery store and usually don't have to go back midweek. It also saves money because I tend to only buy what is on the list and all the ingredients are used by the end of the week. If we have a change in our plans for the week unexpectedly I can also shift around which nights we eat what and bump a meal or two to the next week that doesn't have ingredients that will go bad quickly. Another thing it helps with is bulk shopping at Costco. Since I have meals planned out a few days in advance I usually have my freezer stocked with proteins we eat often and I take out everything we need for the week on Sunday so it is thawed out for the night we need it.

Right now my meal plan is a little different than usual because the hubby is gone and I don't make as many elaborate meals or eat as much meat while he's gone but here is a good example of meals for me for a week. Lunches were all prepped on Sunday and dinner was finished up in 30 minutes or less each night.

{making whipped banana oats at work takes 3 minutes in the microwave}

{whipped banana oats made with almond milk and chia seeds - coconut and raspberries on top)
{overnight oats takes just a few minutes to prep the night before}

{stuffed sweet potato, boiled egg, banana}
{salad with homemade dressing & a boiled egg)

{chopping veggies on sunday makes for a great on the go snack all week long}

 {delicious and healthy green smoothie}

I can make a smoothie in minutes by making individual smoothie packs and putting them in the freezer until I'm ready to use them. It saves me from having to gather all the individual ingredients. I usually put half a banana, a half a cup of another fruit (berries, peaches, mango, pineapple, etc) along with some spinach or kale in the smoothie pack and then just toss the contents of the bag in a blender with enough coconut water to get everything moving. If I'm looking for a little more staying power I add a quarter cup of Greek yogurt and a tablespoon of chia seeds for a punch of protein.
{tilapia, sauteed green beans and cauliflower puree)
I hope these ideas help to show you that putting a little extra effort in on the weekends can help make healthy eating all week long so much more simple. Most of the time delicious homemade meals can even take less time than grabbing take out and is definitely better for you and your wallet! Please let me know if you have any questions or would like recipes for anything I talked about.
Your turn!
What are some simple meals you make? What staples do you always have on hand to make dinner in a pinch? Do you have a Sunday meal prep routine?


  1. For starters I don't know how you can live so far away from everything. I'm right around the corner from everything, even the airport. I moved to the country for a year once and it was torture. All your meals look so so delicious, especially the green smoothie! I will be taking some of your advice! Thanks!

  2. YUM! We make our own italian dressing similar to the one you talked about here! I haven't dabbled with any other yet though, but I want to venture out! Our go to meals are usually salads, a chicken salad with fresh fruits and a greek salad. Those are my favorites! Quick, healthy, and super tasty!!


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