There is immense value in planning and preparing a weeks’ worth of meals in advance if you have a busy lifestyle. The first thing to be done is to plan the menu for the week so that you are able to create a grocery list.
If you are a keen cook, then browsing through recipe books or on the internet for nutritious recipes would be helpful. Decide the protein that you wish to use for your meals and choose the vegetables that you desire then armed with the list of ingredient for your weekly meal plan, take the time to go and shop for those ingredients.
It is an idea to prepare as many vegetables as possible once you return from your shopping trip, chop onions and carrots, grate zucchini ready for a quick stir fry wash and dry the lettuce. Bag the prepared products and store in the fridge.
Grating cheese is an advantage as it is useful for taco’s or lasagne, and it will store well in the fridge. Meals are a lot easier to prepare if you have a well-stocked pantry. Be sure to have the basic sauces and condiments that enhance many dishes.
Sometimes the weather plays a part in what you feel like to eat in cooler weather, so the value of planning a week’s worth of meals If the prediction is for cooler weather pays off especially if soup may be the thing to gets your taste buds fired up. A slow cooker is a wonderful way to prepare hearty nutritious soup that will last a couple of meals. Soups will freeze so if you find there is extra to your requirements for the week, freeze the leftovers and that will give you a head start on another week’s meal plan.
The value of planning a weeks’ worth of meals will benefit if you vary your menu a little, prepare a few of your favourites dishes but also be adventurous and try out new recipes that are easy to prepare and will freeze well. That way you won’t get bored with the same old thing week in week out. You may be comfortable with theme nights during the week, such as pasta night, fish nights, chicken night or beef night. If
you decide on pasta for Monday night, make sure you balance that out the next night with a nutritious meal that contains vegetable or salad. When making the sauce for pasta, double the quantity so that there is enough for another dish.
Sunday night dinner may be roast night, so if you are cooking a chicken, try cooking two, so that you have one ready for sandwiches and salads through the week. While the oven is on why not prepare and cook a lasagne dish using the extra sauce It will store in the fridge and will be ready for another meal during the week.
Purchasing pre-cut vegetables, although a little more expensive is a time saver as they are able to be added to a meal quickly to allow you to have a meal on the table in a short space of time.
When cooking casseroles, double the quantity and freeze the extra ready for a meal later in the week. Be careful not to overload the freezer or refrigerator as it is too easy to push a prepared meal to the back and then it’s forgotten. If you wish to be super organised, list all the prepared food and place the list on the refrigerator door to remind you what is in there.
The value of planning a weeks’ worth of meals is particularly beneficial to a busy working wife and mother and to singles who struggle to have a work and social life balance. Planning a weeks of prepared meals in advance will save money and allows more time for relaxing.
A sample of two nutritious meals
Roast Chicken Noodle soup.
1 cup chopped onion, 1 cup chopped carrot, 1 cup chopped celery,2 teaspoons olive oil, 1 clove garlic, ¼ cup all-purpose flour, ½ teaspoon dried oregano, ¼ teaspoon dried thyme, 6 cups reduced sodium chicken broth,4 cups peeled cubed potato,1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 cups cooked diced chicken breasts,2 cups yolk free noodles, 1 cup fat free evaporated milk.
Sauté the onion, celery and carrot in oil until tender, add the garlic, cook for a further minute, stir in flour, oregano, thyme, and seasoning until blended. Gradually add the broth, potatoes and salt, once it has begun to boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the chicken and noodles and simmer for a further 10 minutes. When ready to serve add the milk but do not boil. Serves 8.
Spiced Braised Beef with Sweet Potatoes;
½ lb chuck steak cut into chunks, 2 sweet potatoes cut into ½ inch thick rounds, 2 large potatoes peeled and diced, 1x 15oz can tomatoes,1 red onion cut into wedges,1/2 cup dried apricots,2 teaspoons ground cumin, 2 teaspoons ground ginger, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 ½ cups couscous, 1x150s can chick peas rinsed, 11/2 ozs baby spinach, ¼ cup chopped roasted almonds.
In the slow cooker combine all the ingredients except, the chickpeas, the spinach, couscous and almonds. Cook on high for 4-5 hours or on low for 7-8 hours. 1o mi utes before serving prepare the couscous as per directions on the packet. Add the chick peas to the cooker and heat through for 2-3 minutes, stir in the spinach and serve with couscous and sprinkle with almonds.
N.B. If you wish to freeze this dish omit the spinach and couscous. Cool to room temperature and divide into the appropriate servings. Will freeze for up to three months. To reheat, thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Cook in a cover pot for 20 -30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the spinach and serve with couscous.