If you saw my last post on meal prepping you saw that it is not always easy, but with a little planning it can be doable. A lot of time the biggest hurdle is figuring out what to buy. You want ingredients that keep for at least a few days, preferably a week. You also want to ensure you do not get sucked into the same old, same old day after day because that can become boring. Well, with a little planning and creativity, meal planning can be fun, delicious, and sustainable over time.
I have a technique that helps take some of the guest work out of creating a menu. Instead of focusing on specific meals to make, you focus on food groups (vegetables, proteins, starches, and fats) and ingredients that can be consumed in a variety of ways. When you start to think in terms of these bigger categories, the process becomes a little less scary, since there is more flexibility involved. As a bonus, by thinking about your meals in these larger terms, the process can easily be tailored to your specific preferences. If you don’t eat pork, don’t buy pork, if you detest beets, stay away from them. Additionally, prepping the ingredients, instead of complete meals gives you the ability to mix and match.
If you are ready to start simplifying meal prep, follow this formula for a week of meals — regardless of dietary preferences:
- Buy a total of seven vegetables broken down into:
- 1 salad green: ex. romaine, butter lettuce, red leaf
- 1 leafy green: ex. spinach, kale, mustard greens
- 1 spiralized vegetable: ex. zucchini, carrot, beets
- 4 colorful veggies: ex. bell peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower
- Four protein sources including:
- 1 ground meat: ex. beef, veal, pork, chicken, turkey
- 1-2 canned meats: ex. tuna, salmon, chicken, sardines
- 1-2 whole-food sources: ex. eggs, tofu, turkey, fish
- Three sources of starch: ex. sweet potatoes, butternut squash, legumes
- Three sources of fats: ex. avocado, olive oil, nuts, seeds, coconut oil
From there, the possibilities are endless. You can create:
- Salads using the salad green and some (or all) of the colorful veggies, and a protein. Add one of your fat sources and a complete meal is ready to go.
- Soups by dumping in all the veggies, one protein source and starch.
- salmon or tuna cakes with the canned meats. A side salad and some avocado can round out the meal.
- Spaghetti and meatballs with the spiralized vegetable and ground meat options.
- Create a stir-fry with your colorful veggies and protein of choice. Don’t forget some fat (maybe nuts or a hearty drizzle of coconut oil).
- Burgers are always a sure thing. Top with loads of veggies and/or a side salad.
- Keep it simple by roasting one of the protein sources and serving it with a veggie of choice and a starch.
- Breakfast hash with all the veggies and an egg on top.
By purchasing seven vegetables, four protein sources, and three each of starches and fats you can create enough variety for a whole week. If it sounds a bit daunting to purchase all this food as once, then think about dividing it up in first part of the week, and second part of the week. If you prefer more variety, feel free to throw in another vegetable or protein into the rotation. This is a guide, not rules, so anything is possible. And if you are looking to shop on a budget make sure to check out my post that outlines ways to make that happen.