The maniac’s guide to meal planning: part 2 of 4

meal_planning_crunchweek

This is the second post of a four-part series on meal-planning like a boss–even when life’s crazy. The first post can be found here.

Last week, I asked all y’all who are ready to upgrade your eating habits to do a little homework. Specifically, I recommended jotting down when, each day, you found the most free time on your hands–be it an hour on Wednesday, four on Thursday or 30 minutes on Friday. Bonus points for anyone who used a sparkly pen to do this.

Now that you’ve got that info at the ready, do a quick recap of your time log. Which day affords the longest block of free time? That day, and that time, is your Prep Time for this coming week.

Put a sticker on your calendar.
Circle the date in sharpie.
Set a phone alarm.

Whichever you choose, dedicate this space–even if it’s just a few hours–to stocking up on healthy + tasty foods to get you through the rest of the week. Prepare now, and the hard part’s done; it’s smooth sailing for the next six days.

Because life gets nuuuts, I find that determining what type of week is approaching, then planning accordingly, to be the most efficient way of ensuring that 1) I’ve made enough of the right kinds of food, and 2) I don’t purchase or prepare anything that will end up forgotten + funky-smelling at the back of the fridge.

Enter the first type of week:

Crunch Week (in which non-perishables become your BFF)

This is the constantly-on-overdrive, commitments-every-night week. You’re at the office all day, then out for meet-ups with clients or networking happy hours, and won’t see your front door until around 10 or 11pm each night. Sound familiar?

During weeks like this, your most hassle-free option is to stock up on things that transport easily and won’t spoil. I tend to break down meals like so:

Breakfasts: A grain, a healthy fat and some natural sweetness to jazz it up. Try:

  • Making your own instant oatmeal packets! Toss plain instant oats and dried fruit into a few baggies, then either mix in some ground flaxseed OR, on Monday, stash a jar of peanut butter at work. Add boiling water from the office cooler + a spoonful of that PB (f you skipped the flax), and bam. Hot breakfast at your desk all week long.
  • DIYing some granola bars (because store-bought bars are typically craaaaaaaap). There are a bajillion good recipes out there, though I’m especially partial to this one from my girl Laura.
  • Doing the above with muffins.
  • Spreading chocolate hummus on sprouted toast.
Lunches + Dinners: Frozen produce, nuts/seeds and dry grains and beans are your secret weapons this week. Unprepared, they last forever, so no worries if you unexpectedly have to meet a client for dinner—the majority of what you bought will keep just fine in the pantry or the freezer. Try:
  • Cooking up a big—and I mean massive—helping of your grain of choice on prep day (rice, wheat berries, barley, farro, quinoa…get to experimentin’!) then portioning into Tupperware for each upcoming weekday. Or hell, just storing the whole batch in the break room fridge.
  • Stir-frying some frozen veggies and packing similarly, or tossing a bag in the break room freezer on Monday to microwave on those grains at lunchtime (the latter takes even less work—cheers to laziness)
  • Topping with your favorite nut variety (I love cashews, but choose your own adventure) or a generous scoop of beans, then smother the whole thang in some kind of awesome sauce. I particularly love this one (creamy and tangy), this one (spicy and peanuty, though I swap agave for white sugar) and this one (pesto, anyone?).

Snacks: Again, whatever won’t spoil is your goal. Nuts and seeds, dried fruits, chips that are good for you but still delicious, crackers and trail mix are all staples of my most insanely packed weeks.

These formulas–grain* + healthy fat + natural sweetness for breakfast, then grain* + healthy fat + frozen produce for lunches and dinners–are flexible enough to allow you to adjust them to your own tastes, but solid enough to keep you healthy and fully nourished, even if there’s no time to bake a casserole for two hours or stir steel-cut oats on the stove for 45 minutes.

In need of Crunch Week recipe inspiration? Follow my whole-foods based Pinterest boards (I also keep a running list of Kitchen Hacks over here).

Next Tuesday, we’ll cover Breathing Space Week (the happy balance week). Until then, may the frozen veggies be with you.

*If you prefer a grain-free lifestyle, substitute “grain” with a healthy starch–sweet or regular potatoes, squash, carrots and parsnips are good examples here.

  

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