The Best Advice on How to Prepare Weekly Meals from a Dietitian

Preparing weekly meals can be daunting, I feel you… 

But so is going out every night, spending unnecessary money and eating a low quality diet. 

Over time this will likely lead to a chronic condition like diabetes, high blood pressure or cancer. Backed by the fact that eight of ten older adults have at least one chronic condition.

Thankfully, there’s a better way. It starts with meal planning and prepping. I don’t mean making 7 nights worth of meals on Sunday only to lose your enjoyment of the dish and order out anyway… (not only wasting time, but money too).

I’m going to teach you how to set small goals, component meal prep and be smart with your ingredients choices. 

The 5 Benefits of Preparing Weekly Meals

  1. Saves time: say you have rice on Monday, then plan Tuesdays meal to include rice as well. Double your portion Monday and save 10 – 45 minutes on Tuesday.
  2. Saves money: we spend an average of $15 on a fast casual meal (Panera, for example), this meal feeds you once. Ooor…get a box of brown rice, chicken sausage and 2-3 fresh veggies and the latter will last you several meals, or feed a family. 
  3. Improved Diet/health: Have you ever come home ready to eat only to dive into a bag of chips? It’s true that when you have food that is ready (or semi-ready) to eat, then you’re more likely to eat healthier and feel better.
  4. Greater mindfulness: Again, when you have a plan and a nutrient dense meal is ready-to-eat there’s less of a chance you’ll get hangry. You’re more likely to sit down, slow down and enjoy your meal, which means honoring your body.
  5. Reduce food waste: when you plan out your meals (and stick to the plan), you save! FeedAmerica states there’s a shocking 39% of food waste in homes annually! 

7 Tips on How to Prepare a Weekly Meal plan

Preparing weekly meals may seem daunting; try implementing these 7 tips and you’ll be amazed where they take you!

1. Don’t be too ambitious.

That’s right! There are 7 days in the week. Plan 1-2 days with meals that don’t require a recipe (egg omelet, anyone?), plan another 1-2 days for leftovers. That leaves just 3 or 4 days of actual meal planning, totally do-able!

2. Overlap ingredients.

This trick is especially helpful with fresh produce. Here’s how to do it: If you’re planning shrimp tacos with cabbage and cilantro; use the remaining rice, cabbage and cilantro for soup or a grain bowl the following day. 

3. Cook once, eat twice.

This is mix & match meal prepping. Unlike traditional meal prep where every meal looks the same (BORING!); mix & match provides you with options like extra grains, proteins, sauces and roasted veggies. Just double the portion when you cook and mix & match for a different meal the next day!

4. Use in-season produce.

This not only saves time but is often tastier, more nutritious and makes finding ingredients and recipes easier.

5. Choose fast ingredients.

By this I mean a fast cook time. I love seafood, legumes & eggs because they’re delicious and most can be cooked in under fifteen minutes (usually more like ten)! Much quicker than proteins like chicken or beef.

6. Make a Sauce.

Sauces can make a meal. Make a tahini sauce for a salad and use many of the same components to make a grain bowl (with tahini sauce) the next day. Swap out one or two ingredients and change the format for a whole new meal. 

7. The three S’s.

Get familiar with making soups, salads & smoothies. This simply means find food formats that you enjoy and learn the basics of how to prepare them. When fruits and veggies are going bad, create one of these dishes to extend the foods life, no recipe required!

Get Ready to Prepare Meals for a Week…

If you consider yourself a beginner cook, first take the words of a favorite food inspiration of mine, Alton Brown, “Everything in food is science. The only subjective part is when you eat it.”

Meaning have fun, and play. With this right attitude, let’s begin… 

  • Make a plan (refer back to #1 in previous tips).
  • Choose cooking techniques that tend to be forgiving, such as slow-cooking, roasting and semi-prepped (like canned beans and par-boiled grains).
  • Always read the recipe entirely, ideally in advance in case there is preparation required.  
  • Then re-read the ingredients (and directions) just before the cooking process, i.e. like before it goes in the oven, or just before getting it on the stove. To make sure you didn’t forget an ingredient (or step)!
  • Use kitchen tools that speed up the process like a good chefs knife, mandolins and food choppers.
  • If you don’t know how to do something, youtube it, or phone a friend.
  • Taste as you go. 
  • Remember the basic elements of salt, fat, acid and heat

Now you Know How to Prepare Weekly Meals like a Boss

Now you know that a little meal planning can help you hit many of your other life goals like saving money, being more mindful and living a healthier life.

Like any habit you want to form, start slow, be efficient with your time (like double batch cooking) and find what works for you.

Finally, don’t over-complicate healthy eating. Plan tons of color and variety, that’s it. Keep the nutrition simple.

When we get too rigid (like eating the same thing everyday, (AKA old-school meal prepping), we get stressed and bored. Which sends us to the grocery for a bag of M&M’s instead. 🙂 

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