Think about the times of the year when you are the most healthy. When do you tend to eat a healthy and balanced diet versus one comprised of fast food on the run or too many calories? For me the answer is easy. Summertime! With the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables and the extra time without all the crazy extracurricular kids’ activities, I have way more time to think about what I’m eating and when. Work is less busy, too, since college students are not on campus in the summertime. But, what about the rest of the year?
The kids have been back to school now for several weeks and likely you’ve moved into a fall routine, if you’re anything like my family. For us, that means trying to find time to eat dinner let alone make it. And, at work, I often have meetings scheduled right through lunchtime! I’m so tired at night from the long work day and running the kids to practices that I am not as good about preparing my lunch. Breakfast becomes an afterthought as I rush to get to work to start it all over again. What does a busy working mom do?
You must pause and you must plan. If you find that you can carve out time on Sundays to meal prep, even if it’s just lunches and breakfasts, do it! Make yourself. You will be so happy you did when you pull the breakfast off the refrigerator shelf and the meal prep container for your lunch. I always feel better when I eat healthy. I know this. It makes me so angry when I don’t have the healthy food at my fingertips. At the same time I try not to dwell on it. We have the gift of a new day, a new week, a new month, and a new year. Every day is a day to start over. This week, I will begin anew to better plan my meals. Here’s how I do it.
- Make a grocery list, taking into account food you have at home so you can maximize your budget.
- Plan dinner for the week, including nights you will eat leftovers. Think about the weather (so you know if you can grill or not), as well as the schedule. For the busiest evenings, plan a crock pot or leftover meal. If you will have more time, add an Instant Pot meal or anything you know you will be able to handle. Add to your grocery list after you’ve decided on the meals.
- I grocery shop on Saturday so if I forget anything I still have Sunday. Plus that leaves Sunday for meal prep. I prep my breakfasts and lunches on Sunday plus I usually make cookies for the kids’ lunches. All told it takes me 90 minutes to a couple hours depending on what I’m making. Some of my “go tos” include hard boiled eggs, chia pudding, overnight oats, and stir fry meals. You can basically have a meat, grain (rice or pasta), and vegetables and put any sauce or condiment with it to make a perfect meal. If you can work in healthy fats, like avocado, even better. Scroll through Pinterest for the best meal prep recipes. There are also meal prep cookbooks you can buy, as well. Once you see how the recipes work, you can create your own. The crock pot and Instant Pot are your friends…use them!
- Each night prep anything you can for the next night’s dinner. And if you only meal prepped for a few days, pick the least busy evening during the week to prep a few more.
- Pick a “cheat day” for breakfast and lunch at work and it doesn’t have to be the same day for both meals. I like to grab breakfast out on Fridays as a reward for myself and something to look forward to. And I pick a day for lunch out that works with my schedule. Sometimes my meetings dictate that, if food will be served.
- Enlist the help your spouse and/or children to help prepare dinner each night and lunches for the next day.
- Consider bringing leftover dinner for your lunch the next day. Easy peasy.
- That brings me to the kids’ lunches. I keep it super simple: sandwich, chips, fruit, cookie, snack and healthy drink. I just buy for the week and the formula works. They like deli meet, clementines and Capri Sun the best. Snacks are everything from cheese and crackers to nuts to raisins. I don’t go crazy making sure lunches are completely and totally healthy. They are growing kids and I want them to eat during the day. I have more control over breakfast and dinner and that’s enough for me. Don’t be so laser focused that you paralyze yourself.
- Make sure you have healthy snacks on hand for evening/nighttime. You don’t want to ruin an entire day of healthy eating by eating M&Ms with your wine!
- If you have macro goals, make sure your meals line up with those goals. I shoot for at least four solid days a week where I nail my macros. If I get more, even better, but I try to be realistic and not too hard on myself.
The saying is true, “Fail to plan, plan to fail.” I know it even if I can’t always follow it. I hope these tips have been helpful for you. If you have other ideas on how to eat healthy when you’re crazy busy, please leave a comment below!