We all know how hard this year has been. 2020 is becoming a bad word, the brunt of many jokes and memes. I never imagined that we would still be wearing masks, social distancing, and not being able to sit down in our favorite restaurants to enjoy time with family and friends. Working from home is another thing that has become normal throughout 2020 for business or industries that are able to offer that option.  Actually, it is proving to make a lot of sense and may end up being preferred by employers and employees alike.

This year has brought many changes in the way we work, the way our kids attend school or virtual classes, and the way we eat, get, and prepare our food. Many meal delivery plans bring everything you need in one box right to your door and all you have to do is make the meals.  Another option is grocery delivery programs which take your list, shop for those things and deliver them to your door. My personal preference is to bargain shop, look at ingredients and compare brands or products. I like to prepare my own meals and I love to meal prep. This gives me the control over ingredients, portions, and picking healthy options and gives me a sense of pride in the finished product while enjoying the fruits of my labor.

I thought I would share some of the tips and ideas that I use and often share with my clients. Making healthy lifestyle choices when working from home, in a hurry, under stress, or trying to make changes for the better is easier when you plan ahead and prepare. 

  • Don’t overthink it!  It doesn’t have to cause stress, it is meant to relieve stress. Pick a day that works best for you to plan the menu, do the shopping, and then ultimately preparing and packaging the food.  The way you package the meals can depend on if you are doing this for lunches or dinners for yourself or the family. You can use mason jars and recycle your old fruit or applesauce cups to package your meals. For example, you can make a small yogurt parfait with granola in the cup and yogurt with fruit in the mason jar, or put veggies in the mason jar and hummus in the cup. Most of those cups fit the top of a wide mouth mason jar and the lid screws over perfectly. You can also use plastic bags and freeze smoothie packets. Or, freeze individual bananas and mash them when they start to go bad so they are available as needed or use 3 at a time for banana bread.
  • Make a plan of action.  Once you’ve decided that you’re going to prepare meals for the week, that is half the battle. Sit down with your planner either alone or with the family if you want to make it fun and involve everyone. Come up with a menu. When doing this, I consider meals for that particular week that will use some of the same ingredients.  For example, if you plan on cooking a whole chicken, stuff the cavity with lemon, onion, garlic, and rosemary and serve it with a side of steamed broccoli and brown rice. You can then plan to use the leftovers for a stirfry.  Simply make extra rice, use the leftover chicken and broccoli, and then add onion, peppers or any veggies you desire.  You get the idea!  
  • Keep it simple.  You don’t have to be a gourmet chef to plan a menu or meal prep. You could do a week of comfort foods. Think of some childhood favorites!  Shepherds pie, tater tot casserole and meatloaf.  In all of those meals, the main ingredient is ground beef. Personally, I do not eat red meat so I substitute ground chicken or turkey- yes even in meatloaf and yes, it is still very tasty!  You can make extra mashed potatoes when preparing for the shepherd’s pie and use them for a side with meatloaf or make open face meatloaf sandwiches! I am getting hungry just thinking about it!
  • Love your choices.  Part of the success of meal prepping is loving the food you choose to make!  There is no point in taking the time to make things you normally wouldn’t eat just because it is part of a plan that you found on google.  You want to look forward to and enjoy the meals that are waiting for you, so make it your own.  
  • Reward your efforts and reap the rewards. To name a couple:  
    • Save time and energy.  By doing this all in one day, you set yourself up for less stress throughout your week. You won’t have to think about what’s for lunch or dinner, if it will be ready in time, or if you have all of the proper ingredients. Think of the relief you will feel each time you pull a meal out after a long, exhausting day.
    • Save money.  More and more people are ordering take out and those last minute decisions lead to costly ones to your wallet and waistline. If you decide last minute to use Grubhub, UberEats or the like, you will also be paying a hefty delivery fee, other fees, and don’t forget about the tip! Not to mention portion control and ingredients are in your hands.  

Once you have the mindset to take control of your time, money and health, it all comes together.  Choosing to make your own meals using whole foods as opposed to processed foods whenever possible is a much healthier option.