It's really easy to fall into the trap of "too busy" and let the simple but important things in life get left behind. You know what I'm talking about...the gym, taking walks, reading for pleasure and most importantly for me, healthy home-cooked food. It happens to the best of us, but the Girl Scout in me knows that preparation is your best friend for these situations. So over the years I have developed what I consider a fool-proof plan to ensure that at the very least I'm eating healthy, homemade breakfasts, lunches and dinners throughout most of my week (leaving room of course for spontaneity and fun!). I'm not going to go into the dinners...because honestly that's what my weekly menus that I post every Sunday are all about so I think you all get my strategy there. Plan the full week of dinners in advance, do all of the grocery shopping at once and then just stick to it ensuring you plan your leftovers for the busier nights of the week. If you're new to SavoryGirl here is my original post explaining my weekly dinner menu philosophy. What I haven't shared is what I do for weekday breakfasts and lunches...it's pretty simple and many might call it boring but I figure weekends, dinners and eating out are where I get my variety so if being a bit boring during the weekdays keeps me healthy so be it!
Breakfast...my go-to choice here is a smoothie and a hard-boiled egg. The beauty of this plan is that I make a full batch of smoothies up and boil/peel all of my eggs on Sunday so all I have to do is grab them out of the fridge in the morning and enjoy while I'm getting ready (see - efficient with morning getting ready time too!). My smoothies are pretty straightforward...for 5 smoothies I puree 2-3 bananas, a mix of 2-3 frozen fruits (blueberries, pineapples, peaches, mangos, whatever you prefer), about a cup of OJ, another 1-2 cups of almond milk, a Tablespoon or so of wheat germ and a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg. If you want higher protein then you can also add a couple spoonfuls of almond butter or peanut butter. Basically you want a full blender to make 5 servings...then pour them into 3 glasses (freeze the other two so they last until the end of the week) and put saran wrap on the top, making sure to push the saran wrap down to the surface of the smoothie so no air gets in and pop them in the fridge. For the eggs I simply boil them up, peel them, sprinkle them with salt and pepper and pop them in an air-tight container in the fridge. In the morning I just microwave my egg for about 20 seconds (I prefer them a bit warm, stir up my smoothie (they can separate a bit in the fridge) and enjoy! All of this prep takes 20 minutes max once you get in a routine. Easy breezy.
For lunch my go-to is a nice big healthy salad...but chock full of yummy stuff not just lettuce, because I get hungry during the day especially when I work out in the morning. So the secret here is: it takes just as long to make 5 salads as it does to make 1. Trust me, it's true...this is more intuitive with the smoothies and eggs but it's just as true here. Simply line up all of your containers and fill them up in an assembly line fashion. My favorites are spring mix of lettuce, thinly sliced red cabbage, sliced red pepper, sliced mushrooms, carrots, chickpeas or beans and a handful of nuts or sunflower seeds. Sometimes I'll also throw in some canned sliced beets or leftover cooked up grains I have on hand like quinoa or wild rice. Then I put the lid on all of them and pop them in the fridge...it's important that you don't put dressing on them until right before you eat them, otherwise they'll get too soggy. For dressing I fill a small container with a mix of walnut oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and just use that all week long. Of course you could also just keep a bottle of your favorite dressing at work. Then I also bring in a week's worth of fruit to snack on and other small snacks...I find if I fill my fruit bowl at work with all of the fruit I should eat during the week I'm much more likely to do it because I don't want to waste it or lug it back home on Friday. Neat trick that works to keep me full and healthy.
Ok - so I bet at this point you're like, really? Smoothies, an egg and salad every day all week long week after week? And my answer is, kind of. This is my go-to approach...and I have been known to do it a few weeks in a row, although I do often have lunch meetings out once or twice each week which helps breaks it up. But I do have back-up breakfast and lunch options for when I do start getting bored. But the key is whatever I decide on, I have to be able to make a full week's batch on Sunday. Homemade Museli is my other go-to breakfast option...simply rolled oats, cut up dried fruit and a mix of nuts. Soak in water overnight, drain the first morning and then keep in the fridge all week eating like cereal each morning. My other go-to lunch option is soup...any kind of soup. This of course tends to be a bit more labor intensive than the 20 minutes to make my salads, but it's nice to have homemade soup to eat all week...and bonus if you make a big batch freeze some so then you can alternate leftovers in with your typical salads. Really, once you get the hang of the Sunday routine and figure out how much or little prep time on Sunday works for you the options are unlimited! But really...let's be honest, we all have 40-60 minutes on Sunday to prep breakfast and lunch for the whole week you just have to choose to use it for that.
The last trick is to bring everything for the week to work on Monday! Trust me...this is key. Otherwise you'll forget lunches throughout the week when you're in a rush or simply decide in the morning that "you don't want salad today! (insert foot stomp here)" and then end up eating out more than you planned while also wasting food you already have at home. Plus, having all of those healthy lunches/snacks stocked at work will make you think twice about eating out or grabbing unhealthy choices...good for your health and your budget.
So next time you find yourself complaining that you just don't have time to eat healthy or "cook" during the week as much as you'd like to, think about trying this approach...and if you do let me know how it goes or if you have any of your own tips and tricks to share!