We set you up for success with our Grocery Shopping and Meal Planning post, and most recently with our list of Food Storage Tips and Tricks. Now that you’re getting excited about cooking at home, here is some advice for how to build meals and utilize all of your ingredients and leftovers.
Building healthy well-rounded meals isn’t rocket science.
You just have to have the right tools, and the desire to experiment with cooking and flavor combinations. If you’re unsure where to start the Build-Your-Own Tray Dinner and Build Your Own Body Bowl are a great jumping off point.
Choose a day of the week for food prep.
For some, Sunday evening may work best to prepare for the start of the week. Others may start their weeks on another day, but the point is to choose a day and time that’s well ahead of any work week craziness.
Prepare simple items that take some extra time.
Some great things to do before the week begins:
- Make hard boiled eggs.
For a quick grab & go breakfast or a healthy snack.
- Cook brown rice or quinoa.
A simple base for just about any meal.
- Chop fresh vegetables.
Have them ready for sprinkling on salads, or to saute. Pro tip: keep frozen vegetables in your freezer in case of a veggie emergency.
- Build smoothie bags.
Divide smoothie ingredients into quart-sized freezer bags with plenty of veggies (not too much fruit). Add a scoop of peanut butter and a tablespoon of turmeric. Just add nut milk or water when ready to blend!
- Pre-portion your snacks.
In small compartmented containers, portion out celery sticks with hummus, carrot sticks with ranch dressing, or apple slices (sprinkled with True Lemon) and almond butter.
- Use that crock-pot!
Pop in some chicken with sliced onion, fresh herbs and seasonings and set it on low. Four chicken thighs should be cooked through in about 3-4 hours. Shred or slice and store in a container in the fridge for an easy meal starter.
- Make hard boiled eggs.
Build a few meals, but not too many.
It’s a great idea to prep lunch for the next couple of days, but you’ll probably get tired of eating the same thing over and over again all week. Your willpower for avoiding the fast-casual dining instead will be weak if you’re bored with the lunch you brought. Instead, make a couple of lunches, then a couple of “dinners” that you can pop into the freezer. They will be a nice option as a change-up for lunch, or a grab-and-heat dinner at the end of a busy day.
Incorporate any leftovers.
Leftovers have a lot of potential. Did you go out for Mexican food over the weekend? Use the beans or meat in an egg scramble the next morning, and add a handful of fresh spinach. Leftover Chinese? Saute it with some extra veggies and cook a batch of brown rice to serve on the side. How about pizza? Pull off the cheese and toppings, add on top of spiralized zucchini noodles, and bake in the oven at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.
Make substitutes and get creative!
If you are missing an ingredient, try going without or substituting something else you have on hand. For example, if you don’t have chicken for a certain dish but have cauliflower, make a vegetarian meal instead. Run out of eggs? Try tofu instead. Don’t get discouraged, just get creative with the ingredients you already have.
Check out our recipe page for more simple and nutritious meal ideas.