For many people, cooking is a lost art. With longer commutes, two-income households and super convenient food available at every corner in every single store, it has fallen out of so many people’s routines. Sometimes this is because they never learned how to cook in the first place and for others it just fell off the priority list as life got more hectic. However, the health consequences that accumulate over the months and years of eating out too much are clear and a significant issue I see with my clients.
That said, telling someone, you need to cook more is much easier than it sounds. There are many steps that go into developing a cooking routine that works for an individual that is both doable, tasty and manageable. While we give every client recipes and meal ideas right out of the gate it can still be completely overwhelming to have so much net new to process.
I thought it might be helpful to share exactly how I meal prep for our family of four. And using the term meal prep is deliberate. Meal prep is cooking for leftovers; not cooking to eat right away.
It’s a routine that’s evolved over the years, and I think it’s more refined right now than it’s ever been. I’ll also acknowledge I do benefit from mostly working from home and being my own boss, but we also have kid extracurricular activities six days a week, so the evenings are definitely not idle. For starters, we have always focused on:
- Batch cooking, so we always have leftovers in the fridge.
- Weekly grocery shopping, so we always have some fresh produce in the house.
- Buying protein in bulk so it’s less expensive and the freezer is always stocked with something we can cook up in a pinch. We also focus on buying pastured and wild caught protein, which is harder to procure, so buying in bulk helps a lot for that reason as well.
Here’s our basic meal plan for the work weeks:
- Breakfasts: Alternate between eggs, oatmeal and Greek yogurt for the girls (I skip the yogurt); Jeff makes his own superfood breakfast of fish, avocado, pico, sprouts and sauerkraut (it’s hardcore, I know).
- Lunches: We cook up all the food on Sunday for lunches, which are basic grilled meat, vegetables and roasted sweet potatoes or kabocha squash and a piece of fruit; for the girls lunches they take salads with meat, lunches similar to ours or make a sandwich with carrots and fruit.
- Dinners: Combo of leftovers and fresh cooking.
Weekly dinner template:
- Monday – fresh cooked seafood.
- Tuesday – tacos with fresh guacamole, but basically reinvented leftovers otherwise. I’m pretty sure this is the genius of tacos.
- Wednesday – poke or grocery store sushi; by Wednesday I want a night off and this treat makes everyone happy.
- Thursday – something from the InstantPot.
- Friday – make your own with leftovers because usually there are some and we need to clean out the fridge before things expire.
Then when I go to meal plan and grocery shop for the week, it is really just fill in the blanks instead of a blank slate every week. The only thing I’m really looking for is new ideas for Monday and Thursday. Everything else is pretty much on auto pilot because lets be honest too many recipes can make cooking take forever! Once I know what I’m cooking, I also write it on a white board on my fridge, so everyone in the family can see and refer to it.
Here’s what I typically do for Sunday cook-a-thon:
- Grill fish (two pounds for Jeff’s breakfasts for the week), chicken breast or thighs (6 pounds) and either pork tenderloin (2 pounds) or ground turkey (2 pounds); occasionally we’ll rotate in steak.
- Roast sweet potatoes or kabocha squash.
- Roast three cookie sheets of assorted other vegetables. This week we did onions, bell peppers, mushrooms and cauliflower; sometimes it’s cabbage, chard, broccoli or brussel sprouts.
- Prepare a large salad.
We season everything with either Magic Mushroom powder, Everything But the Bagel, Montreal Steak Seasoning or 21 Salute spice mixes. Again simple and speedy.
It may seem like a lot of cooking on Sunday, but it’s scaled to the four of us eating from the kitchen for almost the entire week and we can do all of it in a couple of hours. The the main cooking I do the rest of the week is super quick on Mondays and Thursdays.
The net effect is that there is a variety of different foods available all week, each week. If I ever have extra time to cook up a new experiment, I always can, but I don’t feel pressure that I have to do it. Also everyone knows the routine, so I don’t field a ton of “what’s for dinner?” questions and when my Sunday is packed, Jeff knows how to step in and help.
Like everyone the weekends are more varied depending on what all is going on with our activities and fun stuff. We may indulge in pancakes or waffles for a breakfast, the girls may cook a meal for us; we may cook or we may go on a date one evening. Occasionally we will go out for brunch, but we mostly try to keep up with cooking at home because the food is a little less decadent even when we make treats, the portions are certainly more reasonable.
Have a system that works for you or a certain place of the week that you get stuck? Let us know in the comments and see if we can brainstorm some new approaches.