If only there were more hours in the day. How many times have you wished (maybe even begged) for that?! We all know what a world of difference good food can do for us and want to fuel our families and ourselves well…but how’s a girl to find the time to do it all!? The ‘not-so-secret’ secret to better meal planning and time management? Meal Prep.
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I’m SO excited to have my dietitian colleague Lindsay Pleskot here again to give us her expert tips on meal planning like a pro! Lindsay is the mastermind behind The 3-2-1 Method for meal planning which she will explain later in the post. Lindsay is FULL of wisdom when it comes to meal prep and planning and I’m thrilled that she is joining us to share her secrets for success! I’ll let Lindsay take it from here!
Hey guys! It’s Lindsay here again! I have to admit, the thought of meal prep used to make me gag. With images of five identical containers lined up for the week, eating the same bland food every day, no thanks! Luckily over the years, through a lot of trial and error, I have found game changing tips and tricks that give meal prep a whole new meaning.
Today I’m breaking down the 6 essential steps to meal plan and meal prep like a pro to save HOURS every week while still getting the variety you crave, and delicious, healthy meals on the table every night of the week.
We’re also going to be doing an Instagram Live on the @fraichenutrition account this Thursday (January 11th) at 12 pm PST to dive deeper into these tips and show you exactly how to use these steps to become a meal prep pro! We’ll both be on there live to make sure you have no questions left unanswered so make sure to join us for that too!
- Stock Your Kitchen with Staples
The planning really starts with having the staples on hand and ready to go. This will shorten your grocery list and shopping time, and will likely leave you with enough to throw something half decent together on those desperate nights when life just happens. Here are a few of my faves that I always keep stocked.
- Olive oil (for cooking below 350F)
- Avocado oil (for higher heat cooking, up to 500F)
- Chilli powder
- Italian Seasoning Blend
- Chilli Flakes
- Garlic Powder
- Onion Powder
- Stock or broth (veg, chicken or beef)
- Hot sauce
- Brown or wild rice
- Canned Goods
- Canned tomatoes/tomato sauce
- Black Beans
I like to keep a list on the side of the fridge or in the pantry to keep inventory of the big items I have stocked. This way when I’m doing my meal planning I can quickly refer to it and know what I’m working with.
- Plan Around 6 Key Ingredients
Truly, this is all it takes to prep for some killer meals for the week! I teach my clients a super simple way to organize their prep for the week with The 3-2-1 Method. All you need is 1 hour per week to prep the following ingredients:
These will be the core ingredients that you prep and plan around and will give you everything you need to create a variety of nutritious, balanced, and super tasty meals every night of the week!
- Fill In the Gaps With “Fast Foods”
I’m not talking about the Mickey D’s drive through here. These are foods that are pretty much ready to go as-is. This is the SECRET to creating completely different meals every night while only having to prep 6 ingredients (which limits weekly meal prep to just 1 hour).
For dietitian approved “Fast Foods” think:
- Corn tortillas or whole grain wraps
- Bins of greens like kale, spinach, arugula or mixed greens
- Healthy sauces and spreads like pesto, good quality tomato sauce, nut butters and hummus
- Ready-to-eat veggies like baby carrots, snap peas or cherry tomatoes (or even bagged salad mixes!)
- Greek yogurt, tofu, canned beans and cottage cheese
You catch my drift.
4. Make Grocery Shopping a Breeze (I’ve got two for you here!)
(a) Organize Your List By Section of the Store
This will save SO much time and frustration not having to run back and forth (especially if you have little ones in tow!) Start with the perimeter of the store where the whole foods are (in their least processed natural state), working your way into the middle of the store for anything you need to grab from the aisles. I separate it into the these categories:
Dairy and Alternatives
Canned Goods and Spices
Check for anything you already have at home, then plug your 6 key ingredients into their designated columns and finish by filling in the gaps with your fast foods.
(b) Order Online
If you want to take it one step further and really make your life easier, shopping online can be a game changer! There are so many options from grocery pick-up to delivery right to your door. Just Google to see what’s available in your area!!
- Limit Your Weekly Meal Prep to 1 HOUR!
I know meal prep can seem daunting but trust me on this one, your [no longer] frazzled mid-week self will thank you! It will save you HOURS throughout the week and because you were a smart planner and only have 6 ingredients to prep, you can get your entire weekly prep done in just 1 HOUR! The key is the order you prep in.
Step 1: Carbohydrate. Start here. Once they’re cooking, they’re pretty much hands off; use this time to get your other ingredients ready!
Step 2: Proteins. A bit of hands-on to season or cut up but again, once they’re in the oven or browning on the stove top, you can leave them to do their thing while you finish up.
Step 3: Veggies. Always do these last! You’ll have free time while your carb and protein are cooking so this is the best way to maximize on time efficiency! Wash and cut up your veggies so they’re ready to grab and go throughout the week. A key to nourishing, feel-good meals.
- Store for Success
You should be feeling pretty darn good about yourself right about now! We’re all about saving time here, so to truly limit your prep and grocery shop to just one time per week, there are two tricks.
Paper towel (or reusable cloths): Wrap each type of vegetable in paper towel, this will soak up any excess moisture so that your veggies don’t get soggy and last all week. Store your wrapped veggies in airtight containers in the fridge and you’re good to go.
Freezer: You can literally freeze just about anything. Meat, beans, grains, veggies…you name it. Your prepped protein and grain won’t last the whole week in the fridge so you’ll want to store about half of each in the freezer right after you prep. Take them out mid-week for more quick, stress free meals.
And voila! You’ll be singing a whole different meal prep tune. To try it out and see how simple it can really be, I’ve got this free downloadable 5 Day Meal Plan for you guys (Click Here to Download) complete with an organized grocery list, prep instructions, meals and snacks.
If Meal Planning and Meal Prep is one of your feel good goals or intentions for 2018 and you’re looking for a more complete program, check out my full 28 day reset, The 3-2-1 Method 4 Week Meal Plan. 4 weeks of complete meal plans, grocery lists, weekly meal prep and storage instructions, recipes, swap guides and more, all ready to go for you! You can find all the program details including how to sign up right here.
We want to help you guys get started for your best feeling year yet, so for anyone who joins in the next week (by January 19th, 2018) we are throwing in a couple of extras to sweeten the deal!
1. A free copy of Lindsay’s Smoothie e-book
10 delicious smoothie recipes, all designed to provide everything you need for a filling satisfying smoothie. Low sugar, high protein and high fiber to balance blood sugars and keep you fueled. (Note: these smoothies can all fit interchangeably with the breakfast recipes in The 3-2-1 Method for additional options)
2. Entered into a draw for a giveaway for a FREE KICKSTART 1:1 COACHING PACKAGE with Lindsay ($455 VALUE)
- 1 x 60 minute Initial Consultation to get you started
- 1 x 60 minute Follow Up Session to work through any challenges or barriers
- 1 x 30 minute follow up for long term planning to keep you on track
- Unlimited email support between sessions
For more information and testimonials from other 321ers head here.
Do you struggle with meal prep and planning? If you have any other meal prep questions, leave them in the comments below!
We had LOADS of questions from the Instagram Live session, and wanted to share them with you all along with our responses of course!
Your top questions…and our ANSWERS!
Hey guys! Lindsay here again.
We just wanted to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who joined us for our very first Instagram Live last week! Tori and I had so much fun doing it and getting to connect with you guys in this way!
We were thrilled with the response from you; hearing that you learned a lot and have started trying out some of the strategies makes us so happy! A lot of you had questions about The 3-2-1 Method and the full 4 week program so we wanted to make sure we got to them all before the bonuses expire! We are extending the bonus smoothie e-book and draw for the 3 session coaching package with me until Wednesday (the 17th) as we are getting this post out a little later than planned!
Here are some of the questions you guys have been asking. If we missed anything, don’t be shy to shoot either one of us an email or reach out on Instagram!
- Will this plan work for a family?
Yes! The plan is laid out for 1 person (dinner recipes serve two, intended for one portion at dinner and one leftover for lunch to maximize on time efficiency). It was designed this way to make it easy to scale to the number of people using it.
For a couple:
I suggest doubling everything. This will provide breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for both. Depending on the individual needs of you or your partner , you/they may choose to add to snacks, or add a bit to the meal portions, see below for more detail on this!
For a family:
- Double it and use for dinners for parents + 1-2 kids (depending on age). If you’re doing it this way and need lunch ideas, try batch prepping a grain bowl like this or this, or check out some of the quick lunch ideas here or here.
- Triple it if you want it to still serve as both the lunch and dinners for the week (for families with 2 parents and 1-2 kids).
- For larger families, adjust accordingly or get in touch if you need some help planning!
2. Do you have any suggestions for picky eaters or kids
Picky eaters will still be able to eat a lot of the foods in the plan. For toddlers, I would suggest keeping the components of the meal separate for finger foods that they can pick and choose from (ie: rather than making a mixed meal like a stir fry or one pan meal, keep the protein, vegetables and carb separate on the plate and season as appropriate for them). With the base ingredients ready, you can sub in and out any particular ingredients, but you won’t have to cook up multiple completely different meals!
3. Can it work for a gluten free diet
Yes! The plan has minimal gluten as is which makes it easy to modify. For the few gluten containing ingredients, they can easily be swapped out for gluten free alternatives. For example – there is only 1 week with a gluten containing grain as the week’s main carb. The couscous included in the batch prep in this week can be swapped for quinoa, rice, millet, or any other gluten free grain. For crackers or bread products and sauces like soy sauce, simply swap them out for your favorite gluten free version.
For anyone looking for specific guidance, there is a gluten free downloadable swap guide available. Just email me email@example.com and I will include it with your 4 week plan!
4. Can I follow it if I’m vegetarian or vegan?
Yes! I Have a lot of vegan and vegetarian clients that use the plan. The original plan itself is not vegan/vegetarian but the 4 week plan comes with a vegan guide as an automatic download. This guide provides ideas and exact portions of plant-based options that will sub equivalently into the plan.
In your weekly prep, instead of prepping say chicken or salmon, you would simply select your preferred plant based version (tofu, tempeh, legumes etc.) and prep it instead, swapping it accordingly into the recipes. For things like yogurt or cheese, use your favorite dairy-free version.
5. I workout every day, should I be adding anything to my snacks
This will be individual but first and foremost, listen to your body! If you are feeling hungry, absolutely add to the baseline of the plan! Snacks are a great place to start. If you’re trying to gain weight and build muscle I would definitely say add to the plan. If not and you are feeling satisfied then there is no need to. A few ideas to add to the snacks include:
- Make a batch of energy balls like these or these to enjoy with your morning fruit
- Add nuts or a snack mix for a quick and easy option
- Add a smoothie
- Add a bowl of cottage cheese, Greek yogurt or dairy-free yogurt with fruits, nuts or granola
- Add an additional evening snack (the plan includes a morning and afternoon snack)
- Add a whole foods bar like a Larabar or Kind Bar or a protein bar like the Genuine Health ones
As far as when to add:
- If adding an additional snack, consider – when are you hungriest? Are you needing an extra boost as a pre-workout snack? Feeling hungry after your workout? Are you starving when you step in the door? Listen to your body and it will likely let you know when the best time would be for you.
6. Is the meal plan available every month?
Yes, this meal plan is always available, you can find it here. It’s the bonuses of the smoothie e-book and draw for the 1:1 coaching package with me that are time limited until midnight on January 17th. We will draw for the free 3-session coaching package on Thursday January 18h! The plan however can be purchased at any time.
7. Can I still have my favorite smoothie for breakfast?
Yes. The plan is designed to take all the guesswork out and provide you with lots of options but you can absolutely modify it to suit your needs or preferences. All of the meals and snacks in the plan are interchangeable between week to week so feel free to mix and match. Or if you find a favorite and want to eat it every day, by all means go ahead. There are 4 smoothies provided in the plan as well as 10 more included in the bonus smoothie ebook. You can also sub your own favorite smoothie recipe if you prefer! A couple of things to keep in mind for a filling smoothie – make sure to include a source of protein like Greek yogurt, hemp hearts or protein powder, a healthy fat like avocado, seeds or nut butter and keep the fruit to ½-1 cup to avoid blood sugar spikes. If you have specific goals, you may find that another portion or combination works better for you!
8. Will I lose weight?
Before I get into this, I want to be clear that this is not a diet. BUT, these meals and snacks are packed with nutrition – including fiber, protein, and tons of veggies to provide nutrient dense meals. This means you can feel more full and satisfied with fewer calories (but more nutrients) which leads to a healthy and natural weight balance without being deprived. So, although weight loss or leaning out will be a likely result, there is nothing restrictive about it!
9. What if I don’t want to lose weight?
Think of the plan as a base that is Dietitian designed to pack in all the good stuff. But you can absolutely add to it! As mentioned above, everyone is going to be a bit different. We encourage you to listen to your body, your hunger and fullness cues, and also why you’re eating. A few areas to start with if you’re looking to add to the plan include:
- If you’re an athlete, you may need more carbs – double up the carbs you prep and serve for a quick and easy way to add more bulk
- If you’re looking to build muscle, or feel full longer, 1.5 or 2x the protein in your lunch and dinner
- Add to your snacks – see above for ideas.
- Add a fat to your meals and/or snacks – avocado, nuts or seeds, crumbled cheese or a drizzle of olive oil are great options
- Add an additional snack like a smoothie, a bowl of fruit and yogurt or a slice of sprouted grain toast with nut butter or avocado.
10. What do you recommend if I don’t eat at home every night? Can I still use the plan?
Yes, absolutely! We want this to be a useful tool that you can incorporate into real life. Which is going to include date night, dinner at a friends, work functions… Here are my suggestions so that you don’t end up wasting food!
- Freeze any leftovers in their individual components. This works great for future weeks when you just need one component – need some rice for a quick stiry-fry? Done for you. Need a little protein boost to throw into a can of soup for a quick lunch? It’s ready to grab and go. You can literally freeze almost anything! From meat to beans or tofu, chopped veggies, rice or quinoa. The list goes on.
- Make up the full recipes and freeze as a complete freezer meal. I love having the complete meal ready to go for me as a healthy, homemade freezer meal for future weeks when I am super busy and haven’t gotten around to my prep on the Sunday. They really come in handy when you’re just back from vacation – it gives you a bit of time to get your life organized and then get to the grocery store without skipping a beat.
- Pick just the number of meals you’ll need for the week and adjust the grocery list accordingly. For example, if you’re going to be out two nights that week, pick your favorite five meals and just get the groceries you’ll need for those recipes.
11. Can I submit this to my insurance?
Registered Dietitians are covered by most extended health insurance plans. Each plan is a bit different so check with your provider to see which services are covered for you! If you need a more detailed receipt with my registration number or additional details, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’lll be happy to help with that!
If you’re interested in joining or getting more information about The 4 week 321 Method Meal Plan, you can find all the details here.
Or if you’re just getting started and want to try it out, you can download the free 5-day meal plan here!
Thank you for all your questions, we hope this helps!
Last but not least, a lot of you mentioned that you’d love to see another Insta Live, so we’ve got the wheels turning for more topics to tackle and will be starting off with an open Q&A in a couple of weeks to get to all of the questions we didn’t get around to answering. We’ll keep you posted on a date for that!
Some of the requests so far –
- Open Q&A
- Gluten free options
- Solutions for picky eaters
- Quick weeknight plant-based meals that are kid friendly
- New ingredients and their nutritional value as well as how to incorporate them (ie: Maca)
- Large batch freezer meals for families or family gatherings (meatballs, snacks etc.)
- Specific brands we like for different products like crackers, seafood, oils etc.
- Tips for Grocery shopping
- How to tackle cravings
Anything else you’d like to learn about? Thanks again for hanging out with us and we can’t wait to connect more!
Xo Lindsay and Tori