4 Meal Planning Tips for the Busy Cook

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Are You a Busy Cook?

Here is another guest post from my friend, Kelli Worley.

Are you trying to eat healthier, but find yourself running out of time?  It can be done, with just a little planning.   Here are my top tips for eating well when you’re short on time.

  1. Plan ahead.Once a week take some time to plan out your menu.  It can be as elaborate or simple as you want it.  Personally, I just plan our dinners, but some of you might find it helpful to plan lunch and/or breakfast as well.  As you jot down your menu, take a look at your calendar so you can see what nights you need quick dinners and what nights you have more time to cook.  At our house, Thursday night is sandwich night and the weekend is when we typically prepare more time-consuming meals or try new recipes.
  2. Let someone else do the menu planning for you.There are numerous websites, cookbooks, and blogs that have menus already planned out for you.  I recommend the following resources:
  1. Make wise use of leftovers. There’s a concept called, “Cook once, eat twice”, coined by the Beef Council.  The idea is to use the ingredients for your main dish in another recipe later in the week.  This saves time by having to cook less and money by not throwing away leftovers.  For example, cook a pork roast one night and use is to make sandwiches or soup another night.  Several resources that teach this are listed below:
  • Cookbooks by Robin Miller
  • Weight Watchers article:  Cook Once, Eat all Week
  1. Let someone else do the work for you. Buying ready-to-cook items can be a big time saver.  Some examples of quick and healthy foods are frozen vegetables that come in a steaming bag, quick-cooking brown rice, shredded cheese, bottled sauces, pre-cooked meats, and marinated meats.  Just be sure to read the food label first!  Some of these prepared foods are high in sodium.  Please note: I’m not recommending the boxed or frozen meals, like Hamburger Helper or Bertolli frozen meals.  Although those are okay in a pinch (and probably better than fast food), they are high in sodium and usually high in fat.  If you do buy some frozen meals for emergencies, read thisWebMD article first.
  2. Prep your own ingredients.If you’re short on money too, buying ready-to-cook items will increase your food bill.  Instead, take an hour a week to do your own prep work.  Shred a block of cheese and freeze what you won’t use in the next few days.  Dice onions and peppers and freeze in individual plastic containers.  Make a pot of vegetable soup to snack on for the week.  Cook up some brown rice and freeze some for later.  (I recommend adding a little water before you heat it up in the microwave.)  Before cooking a casserole, freeze half for another night.

The bottom line: to meet your health goals, all it takes is a little planning ahead and the right the tools.  It’s worth it!

Do you plan your meals ahead of time? What works for you?

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Kelli Worley, MS, RDN, LD is the owner of Nutrition Solutions where she helps adults and children feel better and gain energy and confidence.  She loves seeing her clients feel happier as they make simple and realistic lifestyle changes.

In addition to one-on-one nutrition counseling, she frequently leads grocery store tours, holds recurring group classes, makes personalized meal plans, and provides speeches to local businesses.  

Kelli earned her Master’s degree in nutrition and completed her dietetic internship at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas.  She received her Bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. She specializes in weight management and wellness.

When she’s not immersed in nutrition, she is spending time with her husband and four little girls.  She also loves to run, cook, read, cycle, and craft.  You can reach her at www.intentionaleating.net.

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