Well-Being//

Reduce Stress with Meal Planning

Take the stress out of your week with a little prep work.

Image courtesy of Unsplash

Planning meals in advance will save you hours each week. What you do with all the free time is up to you.

Meal prep sounds like another daunting task to add to your already far too long list of things to do. But if you find yourself frazzled, feeding your kids too much pizza, and dreaming of the day you feel energized from your diet, meal prep is your Golden Ticket.

Step 1: Start small.

Choose one day during the week that you will prepare meals for the days ahead. Make a week’s worth of meals and freeze the latter part of the week for the fresh-factor.

Step 2: Head to the grocery store.

Compile a list of items you will make. Now is not the time to overwhelm yourself with endless and elaborate Pinterest recipes. Keep it simple. Basic meals for your first prep will help set the foundation for the habit to form.

Example list to get you started (vegetarian options included):

Protein

Lean ground turkey or tofu 
Chicken breast or meat substitute 
Salmon
Whey or plant based protein powder

Carbohydrate

Quinoa 
Sweet potato
Zucchini or spaghetti squash 
French green beans
Strawberries
Banana 
Rice cakes 
Oatmeal

Dietary fat

Peanut Butter/ Sunflower Butter/ Almond Butter
Avocado 
Coconut oil/ Olive oil

Diary

Nonfat Greek yogurt 
Low fat cottage cheese 
Almond milk 
Eggs

Recommended appliances to simplify the process

Crockpot 
Instapot

Prepare lean proteins to mix with carbohydrate and vegetables. Frozen chicken breasts can be placed directly in the Crockpot using a liner. Set and after a good night’s rest, you will wake up to perfectly cooked chicken that is easy to shred. Plus kiss cleaning up goodbye and just toss the liner in the trash. Under the gun to produce dinner in less than 6- 8 hours? The Instapot can create an entire meal in minutes. Soft or hard boiled eggs are finished in less than 6.

Feel free to choose minute- rice, quick oats, or vegetable steamer bags to expedite the process further.

After the meals are prepared, place the complete meal in a container. You can also keep items separate for mix and match meals during the week. Using a digital food scale will help to evenly portion serving sizes and give you an accurate total of what was used from your grocery run and refine the list as needed.

You will save time each day- all meals are planned- as well as money- “Oh, crap! Work ran late, and there is absolutely nothing to eat at home- better grab take-out (again).” On top of that, the probability that you will be substituting high- quality, homemade food for low- quality, fast food is high. Soon, you will notice a boost in energy as well as aesthetic changes reflecting your positive choices- win/ win!

Meals that can be created from the above list:

Ground turkey and zucchini noodles
Salmon and French green beans 
Chicken breast with sweet potato topped with almond butter 
Oatmeal topped with strawberries 
Breakfast smoothie with protein powder, almond milk, and banana (add coffee and skip the Starbucks run) 
Tofu, quinoa, and chopped vegetables 
Eggs and spaghetti squash hash browns

Snacks from the above list:

Cottage cheese with banana or strawberries 
Soft/ hard boiled eggs 
Banana and peanut butter 
Rice cake and peanut butter 
Greek yogurt mixed with protein powder

The convenience of eradicating daily dinner planning from your schedule will be motivation enough to continue. Soon, meal planning will become a habit. At that point, adding variety to your meals, experimenting with new items, and increasing the complexity will be manageable. Complex routine changes rarely last, but small, simple changes get the ball rolling. Start slow, walk before you run, and reap the benefits of meal planning for the work week.

Originally published at medium.com

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