How to Meal Plan for the Super-Swamped

Too busy to figure out meal planning? Healthy living pro and Entrepreneur in Residence Brooke Thomas breaks it down to the basics.

From Brooke: I’ve found that if I don’t plan ahead for good choices to eat throughout my busy week, I am more likely to wind up eating fast, fried or fake foods out of desperation or lack of preparation. There’s only one problem. Some of the most common meal planning methods don’t work for me. I really tried to set aside half my Sunday to prep, but after going to church and having lunch with family or friends, there was always something to do that took priority. I tried making a giant pan of chicken breasts to eat throughout the week but I got so tired of eating chicken. I even tried freezing crockpot meals but I would forget to take them out to thaw the night before! I decided that if this was going to work, the ‘one-size fits all approach’ wasn’t going to do. I needed a plan that was flexible, offered variety, and didn’t take half of my weekend. Here are my top tips that have been super successful with my busy schedule.

Find two hours any day of the week to plan

It doesn't have to be the weekend. It can be Monday night or Saturday morning, whatever works for you. You just need two hours.

Let your schedule influence your plan

Yes, meal planning can be different every week. Don’t even think about choosing recipes until you’ve checked your calendar. If you have a late meeting on Tuesday or are meeting friends for happy hour on Thursday, you will need to adjust your plans so that what you prep doesn’t go to waste. Schedule your most complicated meal for the day you have the most time to cook. Consider the weather, too. If it’s supposed to rain, you don't want to plan to grill.

Use your leftovers

Plan at least one meal that makes great leftovers or can be repurposed—like my crockpot chicken (recipe below). Eat it the next day as it is or cut up the chicken and make chicken salad. You can even use the bones for stock to make soup and freeze it.

Throw in a new recipe

Pinterest is a fast way to add a little variety to your usual line up. The kitchen should be a fun and inspiring place or you won’t want to spend much time there.

Don’t blow off breakfast!

At my house, it’s a safe bet there will be at least one morning you are running late and scrambling to get out the door. This veggie fritatta is great to make and eat all week.

Plan for snacks

I always make a week’s worth of grab-and-go snacks so I don’t end up eating a candy bar or chips.

Inventory your pantry

See which ingredients you’ve got and what you’ll need to get. Last-minute trips to the store are a fast way to derail your day and stress you out! I always keep my ‘just in case’ items in stock: lemons, limes, avocados and canned beans (garbanzo, cannellini and black beans are my musts).

See what can be done ahead of time

Pre-sort smoothie ingredients into freezer bags. Marinate meat. Cut up veggies. I’m a slow chopper so cleaning and cutting veggies ahead of time is giant time saver later. Chopped vegetables like carrots, onion and peppers will last about five days when refrigerated in a properly-sealed plastic bag. Zucchini noodles and cut butternut squash will stay fresh in the fridge for 3-5 days. When storing veggies in plastic bags, make sure to poke some holes in the bag to allow for proper air circulation.

Check your mindset

Meal planning doesn’t have to be a chore. A busy life can often be stressful, but I look forward to my “meal-prepping” time. It’s a relaxing break for me. I turn up the music, turn off my phone and block out the world for a bit. It’s a great feeling to know that I am not just doing something good for myself and my family but that I’m making everyone’s week ahead easier. Here are a few of my favorite recipes to get you started and help you plan ahead for your week: How to Meal Plan for the Super-Swamped

HONEY GARLIC CHICKEN WINGS
By Brooke Thomas from 360YourLife.com

 

Ingredients 2-3 lbs chicken wings (approximately 20-30 wings) 2 Tbsp coconut oil ¾ cup raw local honey 1 ½ Tbsp minced garlic 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil Salt & pepper to taste
Directions Coat crock pot with coconut oil and turn on low In a large mixing bowl, combine the honey, garlic, EVOO, salt and pepper. If the honey is too thick and sticky, heat the ingredients over the stove Add wings to the mixture and coat. I use gloves to reduce the mess and make sure everything is coated completely Transfer wings to the crock pot and cook on low 4-6 hours or high 3-4 hours For crispier wings, take the coconut oil and flash fry the wings on high for one minute first, then put them in the crock pot

 

Download recipe card here


10-25_bt_meal_planning_chicken

SIMPLE SLOW COOKED ROTISSERIE CHICKEN
By Brooke Thomas from The Thankful 30

 

Ingredients For the chicken: 1 whole free range chicken 1 cup chopped onion 5 carrots, cut in thirds 5 celery stalks, cut in thirds 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil Salt/pepper to taste
For the spice rub: 1 tsp dried thyme 1 tsp garlic powder 1 tsp paprika ½ tsp cayenne Salt/pepper to taste
Directions Remove giblets and innards from the chicken Rinse chicken and pat dry Rub EVOO all over the chicken and massage completely Combine spices in a bowl Spread salt and pepper over inside and outside of chicken Rub on spice mix Chop all veggies and throw in the bottom of the crockpot Place chicken on top Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours

 

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How to Meal Plan for the Super-Swamped

 

BLACK BEAN HUMMUS
By Brooke Thomas from The Thankful 30

 

Ingredients 1 can garbanzo beans 1 can black beans 1/3 cup of tahini 6 cloves of garlic 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil 2 Tbsp lemon juice 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar 1 tsp sea salt
Directions Put all ingredients in a blender and blend them together Refrigerate, then serve

 

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How to Meal Plan for the Super-Swamped

OVERNIGHT APPLE CINNAMON OATMEAL
By Brooke Thomas from The Thankful 30

 

Ingredients Coconut oil 2 apples cored, peeled and chopped
Dry ingredients: 4 cups gluten free oats 2 tsp baking powder 2 tsp cinnamon 1 tsp sea salt
Wet ingredients: 1 can full fat coconut milk 1 cup water 2/3 cup maple syrup 2 Tbsp chia seeds plus 6 Tbsp hot water mixed (egg replacer) 2 tsp vanilla
Directions Grease bottom and sides of crockpot with coconut oil and turn on low during prep time Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl Make the chia egg Mix together all wet ingredients in a separate bowl and add chia egg and chopped apple Pour wet ingredient bowl into dry ingredient bowl and mix together well Pour ingredients in crock pot Cook on low for 6-7 hours and eat immediately.

 

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