By Taylor Sutton, MS, RD
United Supermarkets’ Lifestyle Desk
We all know the feeling of heading home from an exhausting day of work or school with only one thing on your mind — dinner. But what happens when all you have in the fridge is a gallon of milk and some produce you may have bought last week?
The actions we take from here might sound familiar, maybe we go through a drive-thru, call a delivery service, or even sleep through it. While all of those scenarios might taste good, besides sleeping, most of the time they don’t have your health or budget in mind.
The easiest way to get out of this weekly rut is by creating a meal plan and prep schedule that is flexible to your lifestyle. Planning and preparing a single meal or even multiple meals ahead of a busy week ensures you are staying healthy, full, and relaxed after a long day at the office. Here are some tips to help you make your weeknights a little easier.
The first tip is choosing your recipes. Make a list of healthy recipes your family loves. Whether it is something as simple as baked chicken with vegetables or your mother in law’s famous casserole, making a master list of recipes you know your family will love takes out the “what” of meal prepping. Keep all the recipes in a folder or in an electronic file to make sure this list is easily accessible and there are always alternative recipes available if plans change.
The next tip is to buy all ingredients for the week at once. This eliminates having to run back and forth to the grocery store all week long. Additionally, read the sales ad and load your digital deal coupons on the app before heading into the store (or online) to stretch your dollar! To take it a step further, if you know certain items like canned tomatoes or chicken breasts are used frequently in your recipes, grab a couple extra when they go on sale.
Third tip, you need to pick one day to prepare a few pieces from your meals. For example, if you know you’re using lentils in a soup, side dish, and salad topper, precook them to decrease cooking time throughout the week. This can be done for the smallest of items, like deveining kale, all the way to baking off your proteins for the week to have ready to use.
Finally, make your own recipes. Recipes can be hard to find, but here are some great methods to create your own healthy recipe.
1. Start with the flavors. Choosing the flavor profile can help you build a better plate. Whether it is Mexican style chicken and rice, stir fry, or Italian night, utilizing these different flavors not only helps you easily build recipes, but helps change up what you’re eating throughout the week.
2. Next, start with the base of the meal. This could be anything from a salad, a bed of vegetables, or a starch such as sweet potatoes. Picking the main base can then help you diversify your diet.
3. After picking your base, pick a protein (ie: chicken, shrimp, eggs, beans, etc)
4. Last, add in healthy fillers. This can be vegetables, fresh herbs, or some low fat cheese.
5. Last, tie it back to the beginning of flavor! What are some things that can help tie your dish together? Maybe the zest and juice of a lemon, tomato sauce, BBQ, avocado, the list goes on. These toppings elevate the food we enjoy and can add in more nutrient dense choices.
Meal planning and prepping is a great way to ensure you are eating healthy while eliminating the exhausting after work dinner routine. Use these tips to get the ball rolling on meal prep and check out the blog for amazing recipes your family will love.
Pumpkin Enchilada Veggie Soup
What You Need
1lb Chicken breasts
4 c. Pacifica Chicken Bone Broth
2 cans Black beans
2 cans no salt added northern beans
1 can Fire Roasted Tomatoes
1 can Canned Pumpkin
1, 4oz can Green Chiles
1 medium Onion
2 cloves Garlic
1/2 Tbsp. Cumin
1/2 c. Enchilada Sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional toppings: Cheddar, Avocados, cilantro, chobani
How It’s Made
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Bake chicken for 25-30 minutes or until internal temperature reads 145
3. Shred chicken
4. Drain and rinse beans
5. Dice onion and garlic
6. In a large stock pot saute onions and garlic until translucent, about 5 minutes
7. Add in bone broth, beans, fire roasted tomatoes, pumpkin, green chiles, cumin, enchilada sauce, and shredded chicken
8. Simmer on low for 10 minutes then serve