When You Can't Plan Much Else --> Plan Your Weekly Meals
by Jordan Blanco
One area where we can retain control right now is weekly meal planning.
In fact, it’s imperative to plan ahead. Most restaurants and cafes are closed in communities around the world, and take-out options may be limited, depending on where you live. Also, with many grocery stores announcing limits on the number of people in a store at any one time, the opportunity to pop down the store for something is no longer practical! In fact, I’ve started to dread going to the grocery store!
Our household has been meal planning for a few years. I’m an amateur triathlete with a busy job and a hungry husband who works full-time, commutes 2-3hrs a day (WFH right now!) and also trains for triathlon. Maintaining a stocked pantry and fridge as well as planning many of our meals in advance is something we’ve had to do to stay on track with our health and sporting goals. Below are a few best practices we’ve learned along the way.
Plan for leftovers → Start the week with a dish that will serve as leftovers for lunch later in the week. Make double or triple quantities of it!
- Baked pasta dishes such as lasagna, vegetarian or beef chili and curries with rice often taste better the next day anyway
- You can also freeze a portion or two for the following week.
Use themes → Whether it’s “Meatless Monday” or “Taco Tuesday”, I have themes that I repeat from week to week for dinner. I don’t have to think about what we will eat on Tuesday, it’s always tacos… but I do select whether it’s meat, fish or vegetarian tacos so we retain diversity from week to week.
Limit the number of new recipes each week → Many of us have more time right now but be careful about overcommitting your time and energy to cook each day. My weekly plan always includes basic recipes/meals that I’ve cooked before and require minimal work. Below are some of my favorites:
- Grilled steak with chimichurri sauce and roasted brussel sprouts
- Sheet pan salmon with grilled veggies
- Grilled chicken with roquefort and tomato salad
Sheet Pan meals FTW → My biggest pet peeve about cooking at home all the time is the cleaning up required! I’ve learned to scan recipes to get a sense of how “messy” the kitchen will be afterward. Sheet pan meals let you cook a variety of vegetables and proteins on the same sheet pan so there’s minimal clean-up afterward.
Always have a jar of homemade salad dressing → Homemade dressing will keep for 3-4 weeks in the fridge. It’s easy to have a Bell jar of dressing on hand at all times to make it easier to “whip up a salad”!
Batch chop veggies for salads → Whether it’s dicing some carrots, slicing bell peppers or halving cherry tomatoes, you can do this at the beginning of the week and store in separate containers. This allows you to assemble salads quickly for lunch or dinner within minutes. It helps if you have that jar of dressing on hand too!
Protein to go → It’s also handy to have a bunch of prepared protein items ready to go. Ideas include boiled eggs, home-made tuna salad or a rotisserie chicken that you can pair with a salad for lunch in minutes.
Which meals to plan? → Don’t over plan and leave yourself with too little freedom for variability during the week. I mostly plan evening meals for the week in our household and leave breakfast and lunch more free form.
- Breakfast → oatmeal or toast with scrambled eggs and fruit
- Lunch → leftovers, tuna/chicken salad
Don’t forget snacks → I don’t usually plan a ton of snacks (mostly because my husband doesn’t normally work from home), but it’s been a new addition to the grocery list as we are spending almost all of our time in the house. More fresh fruit, nuts for snacking as well as a bar or two of chocolate are the new essentials.
Jordan is the MALO republic community partnerships manager. She also has roles as a pro triathlete business manager, endurance coach and content producer for endurance-related businesses and media. She is a 16-time Ironman finisher and 9 time Kona qualifier, Find her at http://avidendurance.com and @jordanblance on Instagram.