I am usually very on top of my meal planning game. In my last blog post, I wrote about how cooking meals at home leads to better diet quality and this is why I take the time to plan my meals, shop, and cook each week. Even when it seems like a chore, I force myself to do it. In addition to my desire to maintain a healthy lifestyle, I simply love to cook. It is like therapy when I have the time to do it.
Time is a huge barrier for so many people! In the next month, it is also a challenge for me. I happen to be traveling almost every week so having fresh food around and cooking as I normally do just isn’t going to happen. At the same time, I want to prevent myself from living on restaurant food and eating out every day. I hear from so many people that meal planning, in general, is a burden. It is a task that they don’t have time to do. For all of you who are with me on this, I came up with a potential solution - The No Plan Meal Plan.So, what’s the plan?
Head down to your favorite grocery store without a plan or list. When executing the No Plan Meal Plan, I prefer to shop at Trader Joe’s. With their specialty products and combos, they have lots of creative options to keep this prep plan from being boring or redundant. As you are roaming the aisles of TJ’s or another fine food establishment, here’s the key to implementing the plan: Shop in food groups to build your meals. Look for products in the following order of importance:
- Grains/Carbs (preferably with fiber)
- Stuff to "spice it up"
In my scenario, I need options for up to three weeks. I will not be doing any major shopping or cooking for that long. Therefore, I need frozen (or items that can be frozen), packaged, and shelf-stable products. Fresh foods can supplement if needed.
Fun Fact: Frozen foods are just as nutritious as fresh, if not more so! Veggies and fruit are typically frozen at the peak of their ripeness and nutritional value. Make sure to check the ingredient labels to see if anything was added. It should list one (maybe 2) ingredients.
Start in the frozen foods section. First, scan to see what is available and then zero in on what catches your eye and tickles your taste buds. Think of this as a treasure hunt - What can of magical products will I find? What combos can I make?! Sounds thrilling, right?
Let’s look at what I bought in food groups, and “For Fun” definitely a food group:
Organic Rainbow Cauliflower
Organic Soy Beverage Unsweetened (Soy Milk)
Organic Sweet Italian Chicken Sausage
Organic Brown Rice & Quinoa Fusilli Pasta
Melodious Blend of Green Garbanzo Beans, Red & Green Lentils (with a touch of tomatoes & olive oil)
Peruvian Style Chimichurri Rice with vegetables
Organic Fuji Apples
Fresh Blueberries (I will need to restock these)
Thai Yellow Curry Sauce
Organic Butternut Squash Soup
Butternut Squash Ravioli
Fully Cooked Falafel
And my breakfast staples…
Admittedly, I got excited and went a little overboard with my options. Now I can take those groups and make some delicious and healthy combos. Here are a few combos:
(Some olive oil, garlic, salt/pepper and dried herbs that I already have with this one.)
These combos do involve some cooking, but it is minimal and done in 30 minutes or less. Pair with a nice glass of Riesling or your favorite wine for a scrumptious and nutritious meal!
Want to learn how to cook nutrient-dense, high-protein meals that you can feel good about eating? Sign up for The Chopping Block's Eating the Winter Weight Away coming up on February 4 at 7pm at Lincoln Square. In this hands-on class, you'll learn how to make:
- Arugula Salad with Blistered Cherry Tomatoes, Quick-Pickled Red Onions, Almonds and Mustard Vinaigrette
- Seared Lemon Chicken Breasts with Charred Onion Sauce
- Creamy Herb Farro with Wilted Leeks
- Roasted Green Beans and Mushrooms with Balsamic and Parmesan
- Sweet Potato Soufflé