Conquer Healthy Eating with Limited Time: My Take on Meal Planning
First and foremost, can we take a minute to thank
Irving Naxon? *Insert praise hands emoji*
He is the inventor of the Crock Pot, for those of you who don't know... More info here.
I never used to take advantage of the Crock Pot, only ever using it for soups. However, my work schedules and my husband's school and work schedule do not allow for much time spent in the kitchen during the week. So, the Crock Pot is our new best friend, and I thank Irving Naxon in my head frequently... I mean, making dinner can take only a few minutes of my weekday, plus we come home to a good smelling house, and a warm, nutritious meal?! That's amazing.
A little time spent planning ahead, can save hours of work in the kitchen and money spent on fast and convenient foods, while also increasing the nutritional value of your meals! Better yet, you don't have to eat chicken and rice every meal and can gain confidence in the kitchen. Sounds like a win-win, right?
Here is a sample of my weekly meal planning:
(I write it out on a little chalkboard in our kitchen! ...Snapped a picture a week later than the meals in this blog post.)
On Sunday, we had roasted potatoes leftover from dinner, and my husband cooked up a big batch of brussel sprouts in the cast iron--- We pop these in the fridge and use them as sides for dinner or lunch during the week.
Note: Each meal I try to incorporate all of the food groups, and always have a good ratio of macronutrients--Carbohydrates, Fat, and Protein.
Breakfast and lunch in the fridge, ready for the week ahead. See recipes below.
Next, the casserole I made was a twist on my husband's favorite childhood recipe. I added vegetables, used whole grains, used preservative-free ingredients, and an olive oil mayo to increase the nutrition.
Chicken, Rice, Broccoli Casserole
1. Preheat oven to 350F, wash and dry (2) heads of broccoli. Chop, and spread on lined baking sheet. Drizzle 2 Tbsp. olive oil, 2 tsp. garlic powder, and 2 tsp. onion powder. Roast for about 30 minutes--- Until slightly crispy.
2. In a large bowl, add: 4 C cubed (cooked) chicken breast, 2 C diced celery, 2 C uncooked minute brown rice, 2 cans of water chestnuts (drained), 1 C of olive oil (or canola oil) mayo, 2 boxes of cream of chicken soup (Pacific Organic is the brand I used, no preservatives*), add in roasted broccoli. Stir it up.
3. In 9x13 baking dish, spread mixture evenly. Take 1/2 C crushed corn flakes and 2 Tbsp. olive oil, mix and sprinkle on top. A little sprinkle of shredded cheese can be added too (I did!).
4. Bake at 350F for 45 min. Let cool. Cover with lid or tightly wrapped aluminum foil. Put in fridge!
Then, I moved on to making breakfast for the week. (I actually did this on Sunday and Wednesday because I did not have enough mason jars! It only takes about 10 minutes to prepare this breakfast, but is meant to be made ahead of time). I adapted a recipe from Skinny Taste to increase the nutrition and utilize the fruit I had available.
Berries & Protein Overnight Oats
In each mason jar, put: 1/4 C rolled quick oats, 1/2 C milk of choice (I used 2% cow milk), 1/2 Tbsp chia seeds, 1/4 scoop protein powder (I use Vega Protein & Greens, vanilla *Plant-based protein), 1/2 C blueberries & chopped strawberries, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Cover and refrigerate.
I enjoy the oats cold, but you can heat them up if you please!
Monday: This meal took 30 seconds to make!THAT is easier, cheaper, and healthier than the McDonald's drive-thru.
Quinoa Salsa Chicken
Recipe: *For 2 people. Double the dinner portion to make it last for two meals* (4) Thawed Chicken Breasts & (1) Jar of Quinoa Salsa. Throw in the Crock Pot, and turn on high for (3) hours, or low for (6) hours. Tip: Add your own quinoa to salsa, if you don't have access to this brand. --- Pair with Sunday-prepped veggies in fridge!
*Proof from my husband that this recipe is good, and that
the Crock Pot has changed our lives! Excuse the language... ;)
Wednesday: I did this about 4 hours before it was cooked, can be done up to 24 hours before.
Maple Dijon Salmon
Recipe: In an oven-safe glass dish, drizzle EVOO or non-stick spray, and put (2) thawed salmon filets. In a small bowl, whisk together (2) tablespoons 100% pure maple syrup, (1) tablespoon orange juice, (2) tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, (1) tsp minced garlic, (2) teaspoons of salt & pepper. Pour on top of the filets, and stick in refrigerator to let marinate.
-Make a little note for your loved one to stick it in the 400F oven for 10-15 minutes when they get home, or do that for yourself! Pair with Sunday-prepped veggies or a simple side salad.
Thursday: You can never go wrong with a bowl of chili!
Turkey, Sweet Potato, Spinach Chili
*Brands I Buy: Low or no preservatives added, and no artificial coloring or sweeteners.
Recipe: -Drizzle EVOO or spray non-stick spray into crockpot. -Add 1# thawed, ground turkey *Simple Truth. -Cut up (3) sweet potatoes and add to the pot. -Throw some baby spinach on top (About 3 C). -Pour 1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes -1 can (14.5 oz) tomato sauce -1 can of black beans *Kroger, or Simple Truth -Add (1) 'McCormick Orignial Chili' spice packet -Turn on High for 3 hours, or Low for 6 hours.
Top with a dollop of *Daisy, 1/2 avocado, shredded cheese *Sargento, a few whole grain crackers *Mini Original Triscuit, or all of the above.
Snacks: Mason jars are my second favorite thing when it comes to meal planning. They have measurements on the side that can be useful with portion control, and no plastic waste!
1. || Carrots, a (Sunday-prepped) boiled egg, and hummus in a mason jar --- Use cupcake liners to stack mess-free (The ones with foil liners work best as they are more sturdy.)
2 || Trail mix in a mason jar --- Roasted edamame, roasted chickpeas, cocoa pumpkin seeds, and 72% dark chocolate chips. (I'm allergic to nuts, so I use the edamame and chickpeas for a protein source.)
Attached below is a blank 'Weekly Meal Planning' sheet so you can print out, fill in, and use!
"A Sunday well spent, brings
a week of content."