Meal Planning and Prepping Tips
By now, most of us have heard all about the benefits that accompany meal-prep. Saving money, time and eating healthier are just a few of them (which are all true!). However, even knowing all of that, meal-prep is not always easy to implement. It requires planning and creating a new routine, which can be one of the most difficult activities to take on.
Andrew and I have meal-prepped individually for a while, but moving to plant-based eating over the past two years changed things a bit. In addition, we were living together, which meant we were not only learning new recipes, but we needed to plan and collaborate to make prepping more efficient. We’re now into a routine and are really happy with it so we thought we’d share in case it helps you get a process in place!
Step 1: Meal Planning
Getting Organized with Google Sheets
Each week, we use the below template that we created within Google Sheets to plan out our meals. It’s where we decide what we will make, house the recipe link if needed, list ingredients we will need and create our shopping list. As you can see, it is categorized by the day and meal.
*For a copy of the template, click here: Menu Planning Template
Andrew and I prep a bit differently. Although we both repeat breakfasts and lunches throughout the week (which saves a ton of time and money!), Andrew repeats his meals a lot more than I do. For example, he makes 5 identical power/ buddah bowls for the entire week and he always has cereal with berries for breakfast. I need more variety so I plan for a few different lunches and breakfasts.
Below is an example meal plan for Monday-Friday. For ease of viewing, I’ve added only my breakfasts and lunches in this spreadsheet, and we eat the same dinners at night.
- Breakfast: As you can see, I alternate between 2 types of breakfasts throughout the week. These are the breakfasts I eat every week, however sometimes I try other fruit or mix-ins which is where the Ingredients category is helpful. I usually don’t use recipes for breakfast.
- Lunch: I change this up pretty often from week to week, but I keep it simple and easy to put together. I use recipes more often for lunches, so keeping track of this is very helpful to pull the ingredients from.
- Dinner: I cook during the week and Andrew cooks on Saturday and Sunday (sweet deal!). So I’m often planning out just a few meals that will make enough for leftovers on alternate evenings. Another great time-saver.
Once we have everything planned out in the spreadsheet, we look through the ingredients column to create the shopping list (see last column in the template). We determine what we have on hand in the house and only list the items we need to buy.
At the grocery store, I pull up the list in my Google Sheets app on my phone and we get what we need!
Saving Recipes in Instagram
I’m sure everyone has a method for saving recipes, mine just happens to be in Instagram because that is where I spend a majority of time perusing new chefs and taking note of interesting or more efficient and easy to make recipes.
Below is a snapshot of the home screen of the Veggie Campus Instagram page on my phone. The symbol that is circled is the ‘save’ symbol that appears on the bottom right of each Instagram picture you view, no matter who’s profile it is. If you click on that symbol on someone’s picture, you can see all of your saved pictures by going to the same symbol on your profile home page and clicking on it.
Then you will see a grouping like the below, and you can make collections similar to how your pictures are organized in your photo app on your phone. I look through these to prep for the week, and suggest creating a ‘meal prep’ collection.
Step 2: Meal Prepping
We grocery shop on Saturday each week so that we are not spending all day on Sunday shopping, and cooking. Saturday shopping has become such a habit of ours at this point that it often trumps other plans, or we plan around it. That should tell you that this meal-prepping routine has been very beneficial for us!
Shopping on Saturday not only frees up more time on Sunday, but the grocery stores are usually less crowded – bonus.
As mentioned above, while we are shopping we open the meal prep google sheet on our phone and go down the shopping list column and get the ingredients we need. We don’t veer from this list very often, except for maybe a few items here and there, and our bill has stayed the same each week. It only changes if we go to a specialty store for our items instead of our regular grocery store which rarely happens.
Food Preparation/ Cooking
Now that we’ve purchased all of our ingredients, cooking and preparation of our meals happens on Sunday. Our kitchen is a bit small, so I usually prep in the morning and Andrew gets his meals together in the afternoon. The most food preparation centers around lunches so we can just grab em and go.
- Andrew’s routine: I will be sharing meal plans later this week for you to download as samples for both men and women, but here is an example of Andrew’s recipe and prep tips for a Buddah Bowl he eats pretty often. Since Andrew keeps his breakfasts the same, he doesn’t need to prep for those and centers his prep around lunches. He makes 5 bowls for the week and has got it down to a science. This past week he changed up the ingredients based on a wrap we had in Moab, and it only took him 30 minutes or less to put everything together. I’ll be sharing that recipe and plan this week!
- Caryn’s routine: My breakfasts change only slightly, and are smoothies and muesli/ granola bowls. For the smoothies, I’ll chop up fruits ahead of time and sometimes put them in a container together, separated for the day of the week. This speeds things up a lot. I also freeze bananas and have those on hand to throw in. For lunch, I will chop all of the vegetables and put them in containers, make lentils or quinoa and store in another container and some sort of a sauce. Unlike Andrew, I combine everything in the morning, pulling from the different containers to make a lunch. Even if I’m working from home, I’ll still prep some items which saves a lot of time to just throw some food in a bowl and have it easily accessible. Since I make dinner for us during the week, I’ll prep a few items that I can have ready ahead of time lentils, quinoa or chopped veggies. I refer to the google sheets A LOT during dinner as this has all of my recipes and is a quick reference guide.
- Consider any dinners you may have out during the week or work lunches so you don’t buy to much and have to throw out food
- Think about planning only for 3 days to start,
- Don’t forget to think about what you will eat Sunday night while you are at the grocery store if you haven’t already planned for this over the weekend!
- Make new tabs in your google spreadsheet for each week so you can refer back and reuse a weekly plan if need be. I also have one tab where I’ve started to save recipes I like for breakfast, lunch and dinner from each of these other tabs. Nice to have it all in once place!
NEXT UP THIS WEEK: Stay-tuned as we will be sharing tips for road-trip meal prepping later this week, as well as sharing sample meal plans for a week of meals you an download!
We’d love to hear from you – what are your meal-planning and prepping tips?