As a health coach, I often see clients who lead busy lives and don’t have too much time to cook dinner when they get home in the evening. Sometimes they’re just too exhausted from the workday to prepare a big meal. Often they are ravenous when they leave work so they stop for take-out or end up eating junk food at home. With a little forethought and planning, mealtime can be a breeze and dinner will only take a few minutes each evening.
6 Meal Planning Tips for Busy Weekdays
Plan Our Your Meals for the Week – This may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s really important. Pick out what you want to make for each meal and make a list. It’s best to stick with simple meals that don’t take hours and hours to pull together. While you’re at it, plan out what to have for breakfast, lunch, and snacks too, even if it’s just a matter of packing up leftovers or grabbing an apple on the way out the door. If you’re feeling uninspired and have no idea what to make, pull one of those dusty cookbooks off the shelf and browse through the recipes to see if anything catches your fancy. Also try visiting a few vegan blogs (like this one!) for dishes that might appeal to you.
Go Shopping – I’ve heard from people who do their grocery shopping for a few meals at a time or even on a daily basis. If you’re strapped for time on workdays, it’s a good idea to do your shopping at once so that you have all of the ingredients on hand for a week’s worth of meals. It’s probably best to do shopping on weekends, when there’s more free time in your day.
Pre-Cut Your Veggies – People have told me that chopping vegetables takes too much time and they’re too tired to do it when they get home from work. If this is the case, I suggest chopping everything as soon as you get home from the grocery store. Chop it all and put it in containers in the fridge. Most chopped veggies will keep in the fridge for a week or so. If you really, really hate chopping veggies, buy them pre-cut. Pre-cut produce can cost a little more, but if buying them means having a nutritious home-cooked meal rather than stopping at the pizza place around the corner from the office, the cost is worth it.
Cook Ahead of Time– Some people find that doing all of their cooking on Sunday and then heating something when they come home on weeknights works best for them. Dishes like casseroles and stews reheat well. I often make a big pot of rice or quinoa at the beginning of the week and serve it with meals for the next few days. When I worked in an office outside of my home, I used to make three huge salads on Sunday night. Making multiple salads took the same amount of time as making one, and I knew lunch was taken care of for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Cook Once, Eat Twice (or Three Times) – I’m a big fan of eating leftovers, because it means less time in the kitchen every day. (Although I do love to cook.) Think about dishes that you can get more than one meal out, such as lasagna and curries. Leftovers work well for lunch and sometimes even breakfast. If you don’t want to eat the same thing two days in a row, rotate your meals so that you’re eating leftovers every other day.
Use a Crockpot – I love my slow cooker, and it can be a lifesaver on really busy days. If veggies are pre-chopped, they can just be thrown into the crockpot with a few other ingredients in the morning and a warm delicious meal will be waiting for you when you get home from work. Crockpots can also be used for breakfast dishes, making the first meal of the day easy-peasy. I often cook steel-cut oats in mine, but just about anything from tofu scramble to hash browns can be prepared in a slow cooker.
What meal planning tips help you get through busy weekdays?