Rather than starting with a recipe, I thought I would use this post to discuss something that I just started doing in the past couple weeks. It is probably not a new concept to some, but for me, it was game-changing. I have become the "bag lady". After some reflection, I have decided that I tend to make the wrong choices about food when I do not plan ahead. I get hungry, and I need a quick fix so I go for the nearest and most convenient option, and it is usually unhealthy. For me this would occur when I woke up and rushed to get to work in the morning and during lunch at work. To remedy this I started planning out meals (at least breakfast and lunch- I'll get to dinners in a later post) for the upcoming week in advance. Here is how this works:
1) Think of about 2 -3 simple, lowfat "snack" items for breakfast and 3-4 for lunch that are easy to pack in a bag or small container. (See examples below.)
2) I make a list of items I need from the store to make these meals/snacks and enter it onto a free list app on my phone so I don't forget it. I always was forgetting my "Post-it" grocery lists..!
3) I go to the grocery store and only buy what is on my list. I prefer to go on either Friday or Saturday to leave my Sunday open for prepping, but that works with my schedule, so do what works best for you.
4) On my prepping day, I gather all said items together that I plan to eat that week for breakfast and lunch and prepare everything in advance. I prepare as many items as I can simultaneously. Depending on what items I choose, it has taken me anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours. For example, I boil the eggs while I chop red peppers.
5) Individually portion out items (You can portion by count, calories, or weight, but I am not usually this detailed about it.) and store in sandwich bags in either the fridge or a cabinet. Let me add that this is not incredibly environmental-friendly, but it could be if you used reusable containers rather than sandwich bags.
6) Now in the morning I simply grab whatever prepackaged snacks/meals I feel like having that day, throw them in my lunch bag (or the kids' lunch box!) and go. I try to alternate what I have every other day so I don't get too tired of one item.
No fuss on busy workday/school mornings. And it keeps me honest. Of course this does take a time investment up front, and it assumes that you will have a decent chunk of time on the weekend or on a weeknight to prepare, but if you can block out a time, I find this really works well for me. I am not flustered in the morning, I am not stopping for fast food throughout my day, and I am eating healthy, mostly-unprocessed foods in appropriate portions.
So here is an example of what I bought, prepped, and "prepackaged" this month for my husband and I. Each week's prepped meals lasted us about a week to two weeks.
Shopping trip 1:
Hard-boiled eggs (1 per bag x 12)
Apples (no need to prepackage)
Part-skim mozzerella String Cheese (already prepackaged)
Red pepper slices and carrots (handful per bag x 10)
Mini egg frittatas (Recipe coming soon!)- (1 x 12 bags and frozen)
Prep note: I hard-boiled eggs while I chopped red peppers. Packaged peppers and carrots while egg frittitas cooked and cooled.
Shopping trip 2:
1 batch of low-fat homemade chicken salad and Orowheat 12-grain bread (*I made the chicken salad in advance and you can prepackage it into bags or containers to grab separately from the 2 slices of bread in the morning.)
Bananas (no need to prepackage)
Oranges (no need to prepackage)
Chopped broccoli florets (handful in each bag x 8)
Low-fat yogurt (already prepackaged)
Prep Note: Chopped and bagged broccoli and then made chicken salad and portioned it out. Done.
Shopping trip 3:
Mini egg frittatas ( a new flavor) - (1 x 18 bags and frozen)
Large container of favorite tossed salad (*placed either in large covered bowl to eat from all week or in individual containers for lunches)
Snap peas and carrots (handful in each bag x 10)
Red seedless grapes (handful in each bag x 10)
Sliced cheddar and colby cheese w/ crackers (6 small slices of cheese from a block and 4 crackers x 6 bags)
(*I would now advise not to go ahead and put the crackers in, as they did get soggy.)
Trail Mix (almonds, dried cranberries, and dark chocolate chips) (3 Tablespoons x 15 bags)
Prep Note: Cleaned and bagged veggies, grapes, and cheese while frittatas cooked. Then made trail mix while I waited for frittatas to cool. Then bagged and threw frittatas in the freezer.
I challenge you to give this a try for one week. Obviously tweak it to fit your family's needs. You may need to buy/prep more, the more people in your family. And buy healthy choices that you enjoy! If you give it a try, let me know how it goes. Happy eating!