How to meal plan like a pro

Many of us live fast-paced, busy lives rushing from one commitment to the next. When we’re frazzled we tend to lean on our favourite restaurants and cafes to cook for us and power our bodies through to the weekend.

The problem with this is that we’re not cooking our own food. We’re relying on others to nourish our bodies. Cooking allows you to become aware of what is going into your mouth and what you are really eating. Cooking is a non-negotiable for healthy eating.

Photo: @brownpaperbagnutrition Instagram

Photo: @brownpaperbagnutrition Instagram

Meal planning is a skill many of us are yet to master. I’m continually adjusting and simplifying my preparations for what works around different events. I generally have a loose plan and meal ideas up my sleeve so I feel prepared while saving time and money on mid-week dashes to the supermarket and compromising on quality ingredients. Consider this formula to streamlining your week:

Get inspired

First, I spend 10-15 mins getting some inspiration from recipes on Pinterest, Instagram, or sites like Goodfood.com.au, or revisiting my dog-eared cookbooks. Meals that include plenty of greens, root vegetables and proteins like frittatas, soups, salads and curries are generally winners. I also consider what ingredients I have leftover in the fridge and pantry from the previous week and use what I have stocked.

Head for the growers tent

I visit local farmers markets most weekends and head straight for the growers tent where I buy bunches of the leafiest, steamiest vegetables I can find: English spinach, kale, cauliflower broccoli, beetroot, beans, sweet potato, carrots, garlic, onions, roasting herbs like rosemary, sage, thyme and coriander. I then poke around the other stalls to tick of remaining ingredients on my list.

Don’t be so fast to put away the shopping

With arms full of veggies, meats, cheese, nuts and eggs I lay all produce out on the bench ready to start preparing it straight away, I put away only the items that need chilling. It’s important to keep the momentum up as it cuts the back and forward time of putting the shopping away, only to pull back out again later on. If I can’t hang around home for a couple of hours, I keep the produce in a big bowl and on the kitchen bench to let it stare me in the face until I make the time to settle into the preparation later that day.

The prep phase

1. Root Veggies

I start with root vegetables first, chopping roughly and tossing into a baking tray to be nestled alongside garlic cloves, sprigs of rosemary, salt, pepper and olive oil. I save time by leaving the skins on and not worrying too much about the dirt. If you’ve bought your veg from local and organic growers you are going to have some lovely microorganisms clung to the roots of your vegetables that are beneficial for building good gut bacteria.

2. Baked greens

Bake broccoli, cauliflower and squash on a separate tray with olive oil and finish with lemon juice and vinegar.

3. Activated nuts

For improved digestion and nutrients, I soak the nuts in salty water for a day then lay on a tray and bake on very low heat the next day.

4. Bone broth

Finally, I make a super simple fresh batch of bone broth. It takes no time at all to throw in the off cuts of my the vegetables, onion, garlic and meat bones into the slow cooker to kick of a beautiful broth and ready in 12-24 hours.

Chicken broth batched and ready for the new week.

Chicken broth batched and ready for the new week.

5. The cook once, eat many times philosophy

Once you have roasted vegetables out of the oven, bone broth and activated nuts you have the basis for a number of meals. Create large quantities of each meal to then proportion out for multiple meal times.

Breakfast: Over the weekend make a root veg and leafy green frittata, cut up and freeze for a packable breakfast.
Lunch: Make large green salad with the roast veg, activated nuts, fetta, lemon juice, olive oil and your choice of proteins
Dinner: Your roast veg can be turned into a soup with a sprig of thyme, broth and a little cream or natural yogurt. It takes minutes to pan fry fish or chicken along side warmed leftover vegetables and garlicky greens.

There are huge benefits to taking the time to prepare your food. Not only is it a fantastic creative outlet, there is great satisfaction in pulling out crackling roasted vegetables from the oven and eating while hot and crispy. By simply planning and thinking ahead, we start to prioritize our health around our schedules, not the other way round.

Post originally appeared in The Juice Daily