We get asked all the time how we make home cooked meals that are delicious and good for us while juggling little kids, work, and the demands of our busy lives. We know that cooking for your family does not have to be stressful or time consuming or complicated. Keep it simple, be prepared and you too can create healthy food that you will enjoy making and eating!
Follow these top tips to make meal prep a cinch and get cooking! We suggest you set a realistic goal to prepare one more meal at home this week than usual—breakfast, lunch or dinner. Now get chopping!
Stock Up. The key to healthy meals on the fly is a well-stocked pantry. We always have staples on hand to be able to whip up a nutritious meal for the whole family in minutes. Rice + beans + salsa + frozen veggies + pumpkin seeds becomes a Mexican burrito bowl. Keep some of our essentials on hand and you may not need to reach for the take out menu as frequently!
- Grains: brown or wild rice, quinoa, whole rolled oats, whole grain or bean pasta.
- Condiments: salsa, pasta sauce, mustard, vinegars, oils, hummus, coconut oil, nut butters.
- Frozen: spinach, kale, vegetables, berries, bananas, ground meat, chicken, turkey.
- Cans/Jars: beans, tuna, tomatoes, preserves.
- Other: spices, superfoods, nuts.
Wash and Chop. Prep your veggies when you bring them home. Wash them and cut them into snackable sized pieces. Having them at the ready means you will be more likely to reach for them when the noshing urge strikes. It also saves so much time when you need it most—the dinnertime rush.
Cook Once and Use It Lots (and Freeze). You will always have a healthy meal at the ready if you cook in bulk. It takes no extra time to boil 10 eggs instead of the two you want to eat for breakfast or to make three cups of quinoa instead of one. By cooking in quantity, you can reuse ingredients in different ways while cutting time and dirty dishes! Your roasted veggies from dinner become a sandwich filling the next day for lunch or omelet ingredients for breakfast.
We also love making dishes that store or freeze well like mini frittatas, healthy muffins, big pots of chili, soups and beyond. Grab a dish out of the freezer in the morning and it will defrost in the fridge while you go about your day, ready for you to just reheat and serve for dinner.
Ideas for Bulk Cooking
- Grains: make a big pot of quinoa or rice. Use for side dishes, lunch bowls, breakfast porridge, even in meatballs
- Oats: make a big batch of oatmeal, granola or overnight oats and have breakfast ready for the week
- Roasted veggies: while you are washing and cutting your vegetables, roast a pan or two of your favorites. Toss them in oil with your favorite spices (salt, pepper, garlic powder and turmeric is a no-fail). They make a simple side dish or can be added into a wrap, salad, quinoa bowl, omelet, and beyond.
- Roasted chicken: roast an extra chicken when you are cooking dinner. Shred it to make tacos the next night or as a pizza topping, top a salad, toss it in your pasta, add it to a soup.
- Hard boiled eggs: on-the-go-energy, perfect for any snack or meal
- Ground Meat: Cook up a few pounds of ground beef, turkey, or chicken. Add to pasta sauce, tacos, chili, put on top a roasted sweet potato,, use it to fill a wrap, add it to your salad.
Plan Ahead.You don’t have to plan exactly what you are going to eat for every meal of the week, but think ahead through your week. When will you certainly be eating dinner at home? What meals will you be out of the house to eat? When do you have an especially busy or rushed day? When does your biggest temptation strike? The answers to these and similar questions will direct your prep plan. If mornings are your biggest struggle, make frittata muffins and overnight oats and store them in single serve containers ready to grab and go.
Have Fun. Your worst-case scenario is that your dish doesn’t turn out well so you end up having to order in after all. Big deal! Have fun in the kitchen. Choose new flavors and ingredients, find recipes that excite you, be inspired by new tastes and seasonal produce. Put on some music, have a glass of wine. Cooking can be fun and relaxing and fulfilling if you don’t take it too seriously! Get your kids involved and watch them cultivate an appreciation and curiosity around food—where it comes from, how it is made, and the joy of sharing in a meal!
Christine Beal Dunst and Stephanie Rapp are the co-founders of Embody Wellness Company, your health and lifestyle concierge, specializing in creating customizable holistic wellness and nutrition programs targeted to accomplish your goals in a lasting way. For more information, visit EmbodyWellnessCompany.com