Happy Sunday! I hope you had a wonderful weekend. I got away with girlfriends for 24 hours of much needed girl time in Newport Beach. Thanks to everyone who reached out after my last post – the week ended on a high note and I’m feeling better about juggling everything. Now it’s time to prepare for the upcoming week.
I feel like the phrase “meal prep” has been a big buzz word in the fitness world over the last few years, more so with the body building fitness community perhaps than the running community, but it’s fair to say that it’s a hot topic. Maybe I’m joining the party a little late on this one, but I thought it might be useful and/or interesting for others to get a glimpse into how I prepare for meals each week.
Step 1: Costco: The Staples
To give you an sense of our shopping and eating habits, we mostly shop at Costco and Trader Joes, with the occasional Whole Foods or Jimbos (which is similar to Whole Foods) stop for things we prefer to get there (such as fresh fish). Mike goes to Costco every other week and stocks up on what we consider staples: bread, almond milk, eggs, spinach, avocados, red bell peppers, broccoli, oranges, and bananas. We buy those things every single time we shop. Then when we run out, we also pick up oatmeal, brown rice, canned black beans, canned tomatoes, or frozen black bean burgers. We also might throw in some brussels sprouts, asparagus, berries, beer or wine when we’re feeling really crazy! That’s it though. We don’t even browse the aisles – we just pick up what we know we need and leave, rarely even eating a sample! It’s quite a boring process. But, we eat all of these things regularly and I know they will be in the fridge and pantry at all times, so it makes meal planning easier.
Step 2: Mapping It Out
Our Costco list rarely changes based on what I’m cooking for that particular week, so I do not need to hold off on a Costco run if I have not yet mapped out my meals. Trader Joes on the other hand, must be done after I map out meals. This sounds a little more complex than it is. Basically what I do is get out a blank piece of paper and write down the days of the week on it. If it’s currently Sunday, I’ll probably write Sunday-Thursday down. I start by thinking about what is in my fridge currently and/or what I had planned to make the week before and I didn’t.
My goal is 4-5 home-cooked dinners and at least one “side dish” as I call them, that can be made in advance and goes along with sandwiches and salads for lunch (this is usually a soup, chili or cold lentil or quinoa salad). Outside of the side dish, I don’t really plan for lunches because I basically rotate between salads and sandwiches that can be made out of the staples. Out of those home cooked dinners, I probably get creative only once or twice a week, probably less now that I’m working full time with an infant. And I kind of always plan for at least one night a week to be a pick-up food night. Now that Siena is eating solids, we’ve actually been eating out less since I know that she most likely shouldn’t be eating anything from a restaurant (too much salt or not cooked soft enough for Baby Led Weaning). Recently I am trying to plan for a meal with leftovers for at least 1-2 nights a week. Mike and I both eat a lot and I tend to make dinners just large enough for the two of us for one meal (or maybe even slightly smaller than what Mike would want!) so sometimes when I plan for leftovers, we end up eating it all anyway. Yikes.
My meal inspiration comes from my rotation of favorites (I literally have a Pinterest board called “tried and true recipe favorites”) as well as easy recipes that I’ve made up over the years (such as tempeh burritos or butternut squash tacos). I’d say most weeks I make at least one Mexican inspired dish, one curry and lately, one fish dish. Even though I may map out which meals we’ll eat which nights, I definitely don’t follow it exactly. Once I’ve got an idea of what I want to make, I create my shopping list for Trader Joe’s, looking up the recipes if needed.
Trader Joe’s: The Specifics
Although I have staples that I get pretty much every time I go to Trader Joe’s (such as almonds), this shopping trip changes week to week based on the meals I mapped out. I really try to get to Trader Joe’s on Sunday so that I don’t have to deal with it on the weekdays and can make at least the side dish that we’ll be having all week. But, sometimes (like today!) that doesn’t happen and the TJ’s run is Monday.
If possible, on Sunday I will try to do a few things to make the week easier. I’ll make a big batch of a soup, chili or quinoa salad. I’ll put the almonds in tupperware for snacks for the week. Ideally I’ll make a dinner that has leftovers (often I’m cooking dinner while also making the chili or soup at the same time) for Monday or another day’s lunch. Tonight, I didn’t do any of that and instead went out for fish tacos with Mike. I plan to head to Trader Joe’s right after picking up Siena from daycare tomorrow and I’ll make a big batch of veggie minestrone that’ll serve as both our dinner and a side dish for the week.
How do you plan out your meals for the week? Where do you usually shop for groceries?