For many people, one of the biggest For many people, one of the biggest challenges when it comes to Eating Clean is that it requires more or most of their meals to cooked, instead of using pre-packaged and processed foods. In order to help you to make the most of your time during the week, but also to ensure that you stay on track, I wanted to share with you the 7 Steps that I use each week to plan and prep my food. This has been a game changer for me and for many of the people that I work with, so I hope that you find this helpful!
Step #1: Plan out your meals for the week
The first step is to take a look at your upcoming week and see what you have coming up. In a perfect week, you would be able to eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and 2 snacks, but the reality is that your week may not always be so set in stone. You may have a team lunch at work on Tuesday or take your kids to soccer practice on Wednesday nights or even have a birthday party dinner on Saturday night. So the first thing that you want to do is pull out your calendar for the week and figure out the days that you will eat food that you have cooked or when you have to eat out. This was a big mistake I made when I first started prepping my meals, I didn’t take in consideration the days that I would be going out to eat, so I had way too much food for the week. (Side Note: On the days that you eat out, don’t use that as an excuse to eat like crap, still make the cleanest choices you can make.)
To get some inspiration, Google “Clean Eating Recipes” or check out Pinterest for Clean Recipes. Click here to check out my Pinterest board that I created especially for Meal Prepping and Clean Eating. It might be helpful to print out any recipes that you find that you want to make for the week. Another thing to think about is that you can eat leftovers for lunch or dinner the following day, so you don’t have to cook a meal every single day of the week.
Step 2: Create a Grocery List for the week
Next, take a look at your meal plan for the week and the recipes that you printed out. Go through each meal and write down the ingredients that will be needed to make your meals and snacks. I like to organize my list by the following categories so it makes my grocery shopping trip easier and quicker.
- Grains/Dry Goods
- Sauces & Condiments
- Spices & Herbs
Step 3: Kitchen & Pantry Check
Before you head to the grocery store, do an audit of what is in your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer to see if you already have any of the ingredients on your grocery list. This will prevent you from spending unnecessary money on items that you already have and also save time and space. I used to forget to do this step and always ended up with more food than I needed, which normally went to waste. So don’t skip this step!
Step 4: Go Grocery Shopping
Now, you have your grocery list and it is broken down into various categories, this was done purposely to make your shopping trip as efficient as possible. Remember, Fruits, Veggies, Dairy, and Protein will be on the perimeter of the grocery store, so you may want to get those items first and then move to the inside of the grocery store to save even more time, instead of aimlessly weaving up and down the aisles.
Remember, since you are eating cleaner, about 80% of your cart will include those items found on the perimeter, which will also help to make the trip easier and quicker.
Step 5: Cook Proteins & Grains
The first thing that I do when I get home is unload my groceries and take another look at the Meal Plan for the week. Based on the first 2 – 3 days, I will cook the proteins and grains that will be used. I will usually do another protein and grain cooking day on Wednesday or Thursday for the next 2-3 days worth of proteins. I will season and bake a pan of 2 – 3 chicken breasts or pieces of salmon or throw a tenderloin into a crockpot or throw some chicken or steaks onto the grill. I tend to eat quinoa and brown rice with most of my meals so I will cook a big pot of both and store them so they are ready to use as sides or main dishes. Since, these items require cooking in an oven or on the stove or a grill, I do these first, as they will need time to cool before storing them.
Step 6: Wash, Cut & Prep Fruits and Veggies
While the proteins and grains are cooking, I start to wash all of my fruits and veggies and do any chopping that needs to be done for recipes, like dicing onions and peppers for sauces or stir fry. I find that these take up the most time when creating meals, so doing this in advance always helps. I also steam or roast some of my veggies like Sweet Potatoes and Broccoli or even a mix of Pepper, Onions, Mushrooms and Squash, so they are easily available to use in dishes, sauces, omelets, and side dishes.
Step 7: Store items into containers and bags
Once you have your items washed, chopped, cooked, and prepped, now you want to go back to your Meal Plan Guide for the week and begin to separate items and ingredients for each meal. I love using BPA free plastic containers or glass containers to store my foods. I also use Ziploc bags to store fruits and snack items, like 10 almonds, ½ cup of Baby Carrots, Red Pepper Slices, etc. I also like to create some containers as to go meals, so I may add a chicken breast, ½ cup of quinoa, 1 cup of the roasted veggie mix into one container and that will be lunch or dinner for one day. This makes it easy to grab and go, if I am short on time.
Ultimately, the key is to use Meal Planning and Meal Prep as a chance to make sure that you are staying on track with your Clean Eating. It may take an hour or two at first on your designated Meal Prep Day, I typically do Sundays, but the more you do it and the more you find meals, recipes, and ideas that you like and work for you, the easier it gets. So don’t get discouraged and if this is a completely new concept for you, it may take some time, but in the end you will save yourself time, money, and calories!
For more information on Clean Eating, download my free Clean Eating Guide.