There are so many factors that need to be taken into account when planning a meal for you and your family that it can often seem like a daunting task- especially if you’re not used to doing it weekly. If you’re like me, I’m sure you’re constantly looking for healthy lunch ideas and supper ideas to prepare each week so you don’t have to spend the extra money dining out. The key to preparing great food is to think about what excites you and what flavors you love- and work with that. Here are a few useful tips to help you get your weekly meal plan in tip top shape.
- Choose your meals based on seasonality; if you’re not sure what’s in season, take a trip to your local farmers’ market and ask the growers what is at its best right now. There’s nothing better than fresh, organic, seasonal vegetables and fruits and you’ll have to do less work at home to create good flavor because these foods are soaring with incredible, fresh flavor that doesn’t need much more then a bit of sea salt and pepper. Purchasing produce that’s in season also helps to keep the cost down!
- Think about what dishes can be done in advance and possibly even frozen beforehand. When I cook for people, I always aim to have at least one course made in advance, such as bean burgers. Many dishes can be prepared right before the final stage then kept in the fridge until you’re ready to serve. For instance, this is a great plan for salads. You can add the fruit and salad dressing at the last minute and have the salad prepped and ready in your fridge all week.
- Think about the people you’re preparing food for. Is it yourself only? You and your husband? A family of 6? What flavors do these people enjoy? I often think it’s nice to give your family one ingredient they might not have tried before, however it’s important to think about accessibility and make sure you don’t spend too much time trying to find particular ingredients. Keep it simple. Steam asparagus- add olive oil, fresh lemon and sea salt. Done. See? Do that for any veggie. Or pop it into the oven and roast it- slice potatoes into 1 inch cubes and put them on a baking sheet with olive oil, dried rosemary and sea salt at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes or until tender. Simple, cheap and easy!
- Try to get a good balance of texture, color and types of cooking (steaming, poaching, roasting, raw, etc) in your menu and try not to overlap ingredients. I also recommend not making too many dishes that are heavy and rich because it’s too complicated and probably not that healthy anyway. Keep it simple. Steam some broccoli, toss it into a large skillet with chicken breast and red peppers, gluten-free soy sauce, sea salt and pepper. DONE! Serve with a side of freshly ripe avocado.
- Work out a time to plan your meals for the week; make a note about what times different items will need to go into the oven, etc. This will allow other people in your family to help you if you are running late that day from work and need someone at home to preheat the lasagna for you before you arrive- so it’s ready in time for dinner. This stops you from getting flustered and allows you to enjoy and take part in the chat at dinnertime.
- Write down five easy balanced meals you want to prepare for the week ahead on a Sunday night. Then, break each of these meals into ingredient lists and take a look at what you have in your fridge/pantry to see what you’ll need to purchase for your meal prep.
- Decide which days of the week will be dedicated cooking nights and which nights will have the food prepared already from a previous day in the fridge. Try to make enough food so that you have leftovers for lunch the next day- or to freeze for the following week.
- Don’t be a hero. Don’t TRY to be a hero. You can’t do it all. You can’t be perfect. None of us are. Just do the best you can and don’t be afraid to ask for help. The whole point about eating at home is to have good conversation, fresh, whole foods and lots of nutrition in every bite. I hope my recipes inspire you to go into your kitchen and create something simple, yet extraordinary!