Freestyle Anti-Inflammatory Meal Prep for Winter in About an Hour

https://youtu.be/yl5GdkP1UfQ

So if you haven’t heard of “freestyle” anti-inflammatory meal prep before… it’s because I made it up. 😬

It’s basically when you don’t have time to put together a meal plan, so you go and grab just random seasonal produce, and in this case winter produce, and prep it ahead of time so that you can just make meals on the fly throughout the week.

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

So this is a really great way to start thinking in terms of more plant-forward meals and this is how we get healthy anti-inflammatory dinners on the table when we have just those dumpster fire weeks and weekends where everything is just complete chaos.

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

So truly, the basic steps of freestyle anti-inflammatory meal prep are:

  1. Shop
  2. Chop
  3. Roast
  4. Store
  5. Create meals

Shopping for your anti-inflammatory meal prep session

For this freestyle meal prep session I chose winter produce, which you can find a list for in the Freestyle meal prep guide ☝. So I grabbed a pumpkin, spaghetti squash, butternut squash, purple cabbage, kale, and collard greens.

We promote eating seasonally at TRUEWELL for a few reasons:

  1. Eating seasonally costs less
  2. You’re not getting produce that came from halfway around the world (in other words–you’re getting produce more local which means much more flavor, less transport and less chance of it getting harvested before it’s ripe), and
  3. Studies have shown produce that’s grown IN SEASON actually has substantially greater values of vitamins and phytonutrients than those out of season.
anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

(And just to be clear on why I didn’t roast the pumpkin in my video… my kids freaked out about me roasting the pumpkin–cause they wanted to decorate it, and I had canned pumpkin in the pantry, so I used that for the meal that week…Long story short, kids ruin everything. 😂 Kidding. sort of)

Chopping veggies for your anti-inflammatory meal prep

So I started out with the spaghetti squash.

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

These used to intimidate the heck out of me but they’re actually pretty cool. For this session I cut the squash in half lengthwise, then cut strips; but I think it’s actually easier to just roast the halves and then scrape the insides out from those large pieces.

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

I have also learned that even scraping the seeds out is much easier when they’ve been roasted first.

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

So lay the pieces out evenly on a pan.

I use a BBQ grill mat liner, which I’ve learned is amazing, nothing sticks to it, which you can grab here:

{Some of the links are affiliate links, meaning I earn a small portion of the proceeds if you purchase it, with no additional charge to you.}

Next I started on the butternut squash. Cut the ends off, then cut it in half vertically.

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

Lay each half on the pan face down.

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

Then I started on the leeks. I peeled a few of the outside leaves, cut the end of the bulb off, then cut a slit down the center before chopping it. The dark green ends usually get pretty tough, so cut the white part and some of the lighter green part, then put it on the pan to roast as well.

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

Some of this produce is really best cooked right before eaten, as it’s sauteed or put into soups. But the squash always needs to be cooked anyway, and I also knew I wanted to put the leeks into a soup. So for sure these all needed to be roasted.

Roasting vegetables for anti-inflammatory meal prep

My normal base seasoning is salt, pepper, and garlic powder, which you can add or wait until you make your dish—And then roast it at 350 degrees F for about 25-30 minutes.

(For squash, it may take a bit longer to get it soft enough. You want to be able to scoop and scrape easily or else it will take forever…)

Then I got to work on the kale, and I knew I just wanted it for kale chips. You would think the bags of it already chopped would be more convenient, but I’ve found it takes longer to pick out all the stems than to just buy a bunch of it and trim them off myself.

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

I do a sort of scraping motion with the knife to get the leaves off, but you can also fold it in half and do just one cut to get the stems out.

Once all the leaves are torn and in a bowl, add oil, and massage it to soften the fibers.

For kale chips, don’t salt it until they’re out! They shrink and can turn out way too salty.

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

Kale chips go in the oven for about 20 minutes at 300 F.

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

Storing your anti-inflammatory meal prep vegetables

While that was cooking, I started cutting the greens.

I started on the collard greens. I wanted these to go in a soup, so I just washed them, trimmed them up the same way as kale, then store them in a baggie in the fridge until I need them that night.

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

👉 A method I’ve found useful is using a large 4-cup measuring cup to hold the baggie in place to put food into during meal prep if you don’t have the baggie stands.

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

The mustard greens got trimmed up the same way, and I wanted to sauté them later in the week, so I just store them in a baggie in the fridge as well.

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

Then I started on the cabbage. Peel those tough and usually dirty outer leaves, then chop it into slices, then into smaller pieces. I wanted to sauté it later in the week, so it goes into a baggie as well to store in the fridge.

I also grabbed some pears as a last minute add-on.

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

These can be peeled, but the skins are usually actually less tough than apples, so eating the skins is pretty yummy. Make sure you get the core out, it does have seeds like apples.

I chunked it up because I wanted to add it as a snack on top of Greek yogurt.

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

One trick is to cut the bottom off so it sits flat, then the top small part, then use an apple corer and slicer to slice it just like you would apples.

If you’re going to pre-cut them, they do also turn brown like apples, so add a bit of lemon juice to keep that from happening and store them in a container in the fridge.

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

Lastly we take the roasted veggies out of the oven and let them cool.

I put the leeks into a container to go in the fridge.

Then I started on the butternut squash. I’ve found using a grapefruit spoon with a serrated edge make scooping the seeds and flesh out really easy.

But I also sometimes use an avocado slicer to scoop it out. You can also use a paring knife to slice around the edges before scooping the flesh out.

I put it all in a container and seal it to store in the fridge.

Spaghetti squash can be a bit tricky. It definitely needs to be soft enough. But you can use a fork to scrape the spaghetti parts out into a container. Then store in the fridge.

And lastly, I pulled the kale chips out. Then I season with garlic and salt so it doesn’t get oversalted before because it shrinks. Scoop them into a container and enjoy as a snack.

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

Create anti-inflammatory dinners for the week

The meals we put together with this freestyle meal prep session were…

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

Pumpkin alfredo on spaghetti squash with grilled chicken…

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

Leek and cauliflower soup

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

Sauteed chicken sausage and red cabbage

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

Creamy Collard Greens Soup (with butternut squash)…

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

And for a snack I had a Winter Pear and Yogurt Bowl.

And as promised, to grab the FREE Freestyle Meal Prep printable guide, that is gonna help you have all the instructions on how to do this so you can just have it there for your backup plan; it has ideas for meals and even flavor pairings for winter dishes .

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

Know someone that would love to learn Freestyle Anti-Inflammatory Meal Prep? SHARE this post! 💖

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

Inflammatory Thanksgiving Foods to Avoid this Year

I’m SOOOO ready to be inflamed, in pain, and on a blood sugar and energy rollercoaster for weeks because of all the Thanksgiving foods that cause inflammation that I’m ’bout to stuff my face with!!! … said no one ever.

Honestly, the holidays can be so chaotic and stressful, I don’t understand the loads of inflammatory foods being added into the mix.

I get that there’s a lot of ‘give yourself a break and enjoy the holidays without feeling guilty’ mantras and advice floating around this time of year. But to be honest, those people don’t usually have (or acknowledge) inflammatory, blood sugar, or metabolic issues that wreak havoc when we binge on inflammatory foods.

So it isn’t really about the guilt. It’s about an entire month (or three) of our bodies and brains being completely out of balance just for the sake of a couple of meals.

On the other hand, it’s nice to feel some semblance of tradition during the holidays (and avoid irritating questions from Aunt Edna about why we’re not eating) as well.

So here are the top 5 inflammatory Thanksgiving foods to avoid this year, with swap suggestions.

Feel GOOD this holiday! Grab our Healthy Holiday Swap-Out Planner!

(1) Vegetable and seed oils

Not only are these types of oils extremely inflammatory due to the refining process, but they also contain omega-6 fats which are inflammatory.

To make matters worse, some Thanksgiving foods are fried. When oils– especially ones that are already inflammatory– are heated to super high temps and reheated, you’re adding a hefty amount of inflammatory free radicals to the mix.

It can be really difficult to avoid these when you’re using already processed foods in recipes. And you can guarantee these types of oils are used in pre-made foods and recipes.

👉 Instead, make recipes from scratch and opt for oils like avocado, extra virgin olive oil (only for non-heated foods), or coconut oil (organic, unrefined).

(2) Trans fats

These fats are in nearly any ultra-processed food you can find. They’ve been shown to contribute to heart disease and LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol). And although the US is in the process of banning trans fats (like other countries have), labeling laws still dictate that foods can have 0.5 grams or less per serving.

For now, all this means is that companies are using this loophole to make their serving size small enough that the trans fat amount is 0.5 or less.

👉 So check the ingredients list to make sure there are no trans fats. You’ll know if they are present because the ingredients will include ‘hydrogenated’ or ‘partially hydrogenated’ oil. If it says this, find a different option.

(3) Refined carbohydrates

Refined carbs seem to be a staple in holiday cuisine. From fried things to bread to desserts, they’re in a ton of sweet and savory recipes.

The biggest culprits of refined carbohydrate savory dishes at Thanksgiving are bread, rolls, breading, pasta, and corn-based foods.

👉 Instead, focus on proteins and veggies that aren’t covered in glazes, gravies, and dressings.

👉 In desserts, since these go hand in hand with sugar, unless you can guarantee they’re sugar-free, it’s best to steer clear of the dessert table, unless fresh fruit that’s not covered in sugar is available.

👉 A good tip is to plan ahead and bring your own sugar-free, refined-flour-free dessert.

(4) Sugar

Sugar is extremely inflammatory, and has about a thousand different names and forms these days. It’s being added more and more to savory dishes to balance flavors and sometimes make it more addicting.

What’s even worse is high fructose corn syrup. Both are added to nearly all ultra-processed foods these days. And you can guarantee all the desserts are loaded with some kind of sugar.

👉 Check ingredient labels! Ingredients have to be listed in order from most to least, so you can tell the general amount of sugar in a package– the best bet is to avoid any with sugar altogether. This may mean foregoing sweet potato souffle and the pink salad (or jello salad) and the dessert table.

Another source of sugar is also beverages. Sweet tea (mostly in the South), sodas, hydration drinks, and alcoholic drinks are huge culprits of sugar during the holidays.

👉 Opt for water or unsweetened tea, and create your own cocktail with the suggestions below.

(5) Alcoholic beverages

Alcohol seems to be a staple at the holidays for most. The problem is, being off work – and especially if you’re not the designated driver- tend to make many feel like they have a free pass to indulge to the max during the holidays.

Beer can drive up uric acid levels, which creates inflammation, wines can have sugars in them, and mixed drinks are normally loaded with sugar from the mixer base.

👉 To enjoy alcohol and still find a balance, alternate one drink with water. Hydration is extremely helpful in flushing inflammatory foods from the body.

👉 Choose dry red wines instead of beer or white wine.

👉 Mix liquor with sparkling water and a couple of drops of liquid stevia.

Tips for creating a more balanced Thanksgiving meal:

💎If you’re the one cooking the meal or contributing, it can be a lot easier to have control over what’s being served.

What we’ve learned through the years is that my husband’s and I’s families have only like two staple holiday recipes that are the same. The rest are recipes with super-inflammatory processed ingredients that the kids don’t even like.

That makes it much easier to eliminate inflammatory recipes and replace them with something much better for us.

💎We focus first on the protein and choose quality meats, and then prepare them with healthier options (ie- NOT frying an entire turkey).

💎Our second focus is on vegetables. We decide what dishes we can convert into healthier options from the old-school versions, and how we can make them taste amazing.

💎 If you’re not confident in altering recipes, search up options with the words, ‘Paleo’, ‘low-carb’, or ‘keto’ at the front, and make sure they’re sugar-free and refined-flour-free.

💎One thing my husband and I have discovered over the years is that when you experience nice restaurants- not chains- but ones with true chefs, is that they take a lot of pride in the flavor profiles and combinations of ingredients.

They also use very fresh ingredients and cook from scratch (for the most part). The result of that is incredibly delicious meals that aren’t processed, and – if the correct ingredients are used- aren’t inflammatory. The same holds true for the holidays.

Consider revamping some of your old-school recipes that use processed junk and challenge yourself to see how you can improve the health profile while maximizing the flavor profile.

Then save those in a binder for the next holiday season!

An amazing resource for doing this is a book called The Flavor Bible. We use this all the time to create new recipes or even add more pizzazz to existing ones.

{This is an affiliate link, which means if you click through and purchase, I’ll receive a small portion of the proceeds, at no extra charge to you.}

And as promised… Grab our free Healthy Holiday Swap-out Planning Sheet! 👇👇👇

SAVE or SHARE this post! 👇

Fall Freestyle Meal Prep in About an Hour

How to Get a Week of Fall Anti-Inflammatory Meals Prepped in About an Hour With No Plan

So, it’s fall, kids are back in school … which we’re infinitely grateful for, obviously, 😁 but that makes our weeks just, like… insanely crazy…

So when we’ve got weeks like this where we’re worried about getting kids home from school, homework, after-school activities–and we’re supposed to be cooking dinner, but we’ve got logistics for getting kids everywhere…

It can get pretty nutty.

We have three kids and that’s what we struggle with every single week—

So this method has actually been a lifesaver for us so that on weeks where I don’t even have the brainpower to put a meal plan together, this is our lifesaver.

We have a backup.

And I’m gonna show you how to do that; I’m gonna show you the example meals that we made for the week with all of the produce that we got; and if you scroll till the end I’m gonna tell you how to get the GUIDE that shows you all of the details for all of this so you can keep it on hand for ANY time you have weeks like this.

And I’m also gonna let you know how to get a discount on our Fall Anti-Inflammatory Meal Planning Kit, which is 4 weeks of anti-inflammatory meals, including:

  • Dinners
  • Lunches
  • Breakfasts and Snacks
  • Smoothies
  • Desserts
  • And even Fall-Inspired cocktails!

…SO..let’s get to it!

Step 1: Choose your produce

So for Freestyle meal prep, you start out with simply choosing a bunch of SEASONAL produce- and in our shopping order for this meal prep session I got:

  • broccoli,
  • brussels sprouts,
  • kale already chopped up in a bag,
  • mushrooms, you can choose any kind,
  • sweet potatoes,
  • regular potatoes,
  • an onion,
  • and cauliflower.

And all of this was just random stuff that I know my family will eat and that gave us a pretty good variety for meals this week.

Step 2: Prep your workspace

And after washing all the produce, I pre-heated both ovens for 350 degrees F.

The tools you’ll need for your meal prep session are a large cutting board, good knives, and roasting pans- probably with a lip, and something to line it with so stuff doesn’t stick.

Now I use something I found by accident with is a BBQ grilling mat—I love these because I can cut them to fit perfectly in my pan and NOTHING sticks to them—they come in a pack all rolled up in a box.

(Some links may be affiliate links, meaning if you click on and then purchase, I’ll get a portion of the proceeds, at no additional charge to you.) 🙂

Step 3: Get your base seasoning out

So our base seasoning includes avodado oil to drizzle on, I use this to cook with because it has a high smoke point. Or you can use something like this Misto spray can where you put the oil in, pump air in to build pressure, and spray it on.

Then season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and it’s ready to go in the oven.

Want the free printable PDF guide to learn how to do this? Grab it as well as a discount on the FALL ANTI-INFLAMMATORY MEAL PLANNING KIT! Get it before the discount goes away! 👇👇👇

Step 4: Prep foods that cook the longest first

So, even though I didn’t have full meals planned out when I got all this produce, I had a loose plan for a few things. So I knew I’d want to do baked potatoes one night, so since they take an hour to bake you’ll want to do these first if you’re doing baked potatoes one night.

And for baked potatoes, you just coat each one individually with oil, salt it, wrap it in foil, and then punch some holes with a fork.

Once I’ve got those all set and into the oven for one hour, I get to work chopping everything else.

Step 5: Prep all other foods that cook the same length of time

Broccoli and cauliflower

I started out with broccoli, and just basically cut all the florets off—and if you don’t like to chop you can always buy the bags where it’s pre-chopped. It does save time, but may cost a little more.

Once these were all cut up, I put them all on the pan on one end, because I put the cauliflower on the other end.

Then I started with the cauliflower and removed that large base then cut those into florets as well, breaking some of them apart. And you can also buy these prechopped if you don’t like cutting them up- it does save a lot of time and mess.

Then I placed all those on the second half of the pan where the broccoli was. I cook these on the same pan because cook at right about the same rate.

And then I wanted a bit more flavor than just our base seasoning, so I chopped an onion into chunks and just spread it out evenly on the pan.

Brussels sprouts

Next I prepped brussels sprouts, and the easiest way to do these is chop off the end piece slice them in half and lay them face down on the pan.

I arranged mine with a hole in the middle for all the loose little leaves because they get extra crispy and are a super yummy snack!

Then drizzle or spray with oil, then season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.—and they’re ready to go!

Mushrooms.

I decided to split the mushrooms and do half chopped pretty small and the other half roasted.

I chopped one half because I like to mix them in with ground meat to give it bulk and really boost the vitamin content-and my kids can never tell! I don’t precook those, so I just put them in a baggie to store in the fridge until the night I needed them.

The other half I just spread out on the pan, and I had a pack of sage I grabbed at the store as well—this is such a fragrant and nutrition-packed herb, and perfect for colder weather.

So I just chopped some of it, sprinkled it on the mushrooms, then added our oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder and it’s ready to go.

Sweet potatoes

I roughly chopped the sweet potatoes because I had loosely planned mashed sweet potates with cinnamon- my kids love those- and the rest I planned to use in my lunches during the week.

But that meant that all of them needed to be chopped.

Regular potatoes

Then I started on the rest of the regular potatoes I had. So for the ones I wasn’t using for a whole baked potato, we like to sometimes do homemade fries and this tool makes it super easy.

It’s a fry cutter and has this grid blade inside to cut the potato in perfectly squared fries.

So how it works is that you take the lid off, place the potato wedge on top of that grid, then put the lid on and push it down to force the potato through the grid. And you have perfectly shaped fries.

So I repeated this process until I got all the rest of the potatoes cut, then put them with the sweet potatoes on a pan, because they cook at about the same rate. I got them all seasoned and ready for the oven.

Step 6: Put all prepped veggies into the oven

All of the veggies go into the oven at that 350 degrees F for 30 minutes- just keep an eye out and take out anything that’s cooking a little too much.

Step 7: Any veg that won’t be pre-cooked

And the last thing I prepped was kale. Since this came in a bag, I picked out any bad pieces since it was already chopped, and planned to wilt some one night for dinner, and then would have a massaged kale salad one night as well.

So once all the bad pieces were picked out I just stored it in a Ziploc in the fridge.

Step 8: Remove veggies from oven

And when they’re done, just take all the pans out, and let them cool…

Step 9: Store prepped veggies

Then start putting them into your storage containers.

I do recommend putting them in separate containers because some veggies do have a higher water content and a lot of times they get a little bit mushy in there and you don’t want that water running into the other vegetables.

And then you’ve got all your veggies prepped for the week! You can store all of these AND your baked potatoes in the fridge until the night you need them.

4+ Meals with pre-prepped fall anti-inflammatory vegetables

The meals we cooked with our freestyle meal prep session were:

Chicken sausage with the broccoli and cauliflower,

Baked potato with shredded chicken, sugar-free bbq sauce, mushrooms, and brussels sprouts,

Turkey burgers that had the chopped mushrooms with sage built into it, and those homemade fries with Dijon mustard for dipping, and a massaged kale salad, AND

Lemony baked cod with wilted kale and mashed sweet potatoes with cinnamon.

And there ya go! That’s how to do Fall Freestyle Meal prep!

Want the free printable PDF guide to learn how to do this? Grab it as well as a discount on the FALL ANTI-INFLAMMATORY MEAL PLANNING KIT! Get it before the discount goes away! 👇👇👇

PIN IT for later or SHARE! 👇

Summer Freestyle Meal Prep for Anti-Inflammatory Dinners in Under an Hour

You know those weeks when there’s so damn much going on that you can already feel yourself teetering before the week even starts?

Well, we tend to have a lot of those around here. So even though I have a meal planning system set up with essentially my whole year of meals planned out, I still have weeks where a formal plan feels like too much to put on myself or anyone else.

So what I came up with is called Freestyle Meal Prep.

anti inflammatory meal prep

What is Freestyle Meal Prep?

Freestyle Meal Prep is what I call it when you don’t really have a formal meal plan or meal prep plan but you do know that you need food easy and ready for the week, if you’re like me and have crazy weeks sometimes where this would be really your lifeline for sticking to your anti-inflammatory diet all week with no planning.

This is really important when you’re managing inflammation and/or blood sugar levels, because your diet is the number one thing you can change to keep inflammation under control.

Now a lot of meal preppers who rely on the ‘cook once eat twice’ method will usually cook meats and then chop veggies at the start of the week but I like to do the opposite of that. Instead, I like to chop and cook veggies and any grains or other complex carbs that I might use during the week, like quinoa, rice, beans, or lentils and then cook meat the night of.

Here’s why I flip that around:

Proteins

So number one, we found that when we cook meats and then reheat them for our dinners they tend to end up pretty dry so they don’t taste nearly as good and then if you have leftovers you’d really just end up reheating those all over again making it taste even worse.

We have a lot of complainers in our household and that’s one of the main things that they complain about is the meat being dry. Also, meats in particular build up histamine as leftovers and I personally have a histamine issue that makes it better for my allergies and inflammation to just cook meats fresh the day of.

Starchy Carbohydrates

Number two is that studies are showing that cooking carbohydrates and then letting them cool and then reheating them again actually increases the amount of resistance starches significantly.

What this means is that those carbs aren’t causing that huge blood sugar spike. Instead, it’s keeping you at more of a steady blood sugar level over a longer period of time keeping you feeling full for longer.

This trick with resistant starches is important because it helps feed your good gut bacteria which helps with inflammation but it also keeps that blood sugar more steady which also helps with inflammation. So it’s kind of a two-fold punch there.

Learning to plan meals around veggies

And then number three: Moving into an anti-inflammatory diet will really just show you how amazing you can feel by eating more plant-based, plant-forward, or sometimes called a flexitarian style of eating. And doing this makes it really easy to just cook all the veggies up front since they store and reheat well and then plan meals around all of the veggies instead of meats.

This actually saves me a ton of time and is my go-to when I don’t have the brain power or the time to do actual meal planning and prep for the week while still getting all those meals on the table for my family at night and then also having lunches for me during the week.

And this method really is super simple so let’s get into it!

How to do Freestyle Meal Prep

So first things first– when I do freestyle meal prep I have my list of seasonal veggies and just add whatever sounds good that week to my grocery order. If you don’t do grocery orders online and you actually go into the store, just take your seasonal veggie list and choose the produce off of there that is appropriate for that season.

anti inflammatory meal prep

Step 1: Get out your prep foods and supplies

So to get started I get all that produce out. I get out my cutting board, my good knives, and a pan to roast the veggies on. Then I go ahead and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

anti inflammatory meal prep

Some people like to use a Sil match to roast veggies on because stuff doesn’t stick, but I found it really hard to find one of these that fits my pan perfectly. I do still use this for things that I bake that won’t leak into the oven, but for roasting veggies I found a secret kitchen tool that I accidentally stumbled onto.

It’s a barbecue grill mat and I’m telling you nothing sticks to this! They usually come in a pack rolled up all nice in a box (linked below).

anti inflammatory meal prep

And what I do is actually cut them to fit my pans that have lips so that they fit perfectly. And I’ve done this with baking sheets and I’ve also done this with CorningWare dishes.

(Disclaimer: This is an affiliate link, so if you decide to purchase this product, I made a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra charge to you.)

Now for this summer meal prep session, I’ve got zucchini, summer squash, eggplant, green beans, bell peppers, and onions, and I wanted to try fennel this week. Fennel looks a little bit like a celery plant but it has a flavor that’s more like anise, a little bit like licorice. It’s definitely not for everyone but at least wanted to try it out.

anti inflammatory meal prep

Step 2: Wash and chop

Once I make sure that everything’s been washed, I get started chopping.

What’s so easy about this whole process is that there’s almost no wrong way to do it. I literally either slice or chop the veggies however I want as long as I get the pieces all about the same size. This just ensures that all those vegetable chunks cook at about the same rate.

Squash and zucchini

For the squash and zucchini I just slice them in half lengthwise and then just chop slices all the way down.

anti inflammatory meal prep

Eggplant

Eggplants are tricky for some because they are part of the food family called nightshades. Nightshades cause inflammation in some people, but this isn’t a guarantee. Research has shown that nightshades causing inflammation is highly personal to each individual and any conditions they have, and the best way to know if you personally react is to do an elimination diet.

I like eggplants because they’re pretty filling but they have a soft texture without being mushy with liquid. Eggplant slices are really great for eggplant parmigiana, so it may help to slice it if you’d like to use it that way. I’ve been told by an Italian chef before that they sometimes do that and leave the skin on to help the eggplant slice stay intact during cooking.

But I also like to peel mine and cut it into those kind of half slices or half moon slices to roast as well. One thing I’ve learned through the years about eggplant is that you may need to switch your peeling tool depending on the thickness of the skin.

In this meal prep session I tried my larger knife and it wasn’t working very well so I then tried my peeler which is actually really sharp but it wasn’t doing that well either. So for safety’s sake I moved on to a much smaller paring knife which worked great.

Fennel

Next I chopped my fennel. Now fennel is like a large celery bulb in shape and texture. I just sliced the end off where the root is and then sliced off the stalks and then just sliced up the large bulb.

It can be a little difficult to do it this way just because the pieces fall apart a little bit, but just kind of do the best you can. Then lay the slices out and just drizzle them with oil and season them and everything before you roast.

anti inflammatory meal prep

Bell peppers and onions

Then I moved on to my peppers and onions. now for bell peppers I usually will cut off the top and then I’ll work the knife around the insides to pull out that seed pod. Then I’ll turn it upside down and give it a tap to get all those seeds out and then flip it upside down to cut it into slices. I did the same thing with my green, red, and orange bell peppers.

Then when those were done I peeled the skin of my onion. If I’m making something like maybe pico de gallo for a Mexican dish I’ll go ahead and cut some onions into smaller pieces, so I did go ahead and do a little of that. And then I cut the rest of it into larger slices to roast with the bell peppers.

Other veggies that don’t get cooked

The last thing in this session that I did was chop green beans. I do like roasted green beans, but I knew that we wanted fish one night this week and I love sauteing green beans during the summer because the fresh ones taste really great when they still have a bit of crunch to them.

So the green beans did not get roasted but they did get put into a storage container in the fridge.

Seasoning

Once I’ve got enough veggies to fill a pan I place all the chunks in sections.

The easiest way to prep roasted veggies–especially when you don’t know what actual meals you’ll be cooking for in the week yet–is is to do just the basics of oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder if you want.

I used avocado oil because it has good monounsaturated fats, which is great for pulling down inflammation, and it also has a high smoke point. You can use the mister if you want a lighter coating of oil rather than it being drizzled.

anti inflammatory meal prep

Roasting time

Then everything’s ready and goes into the oven. We have a double oven so I actually take full advantage of that on days like this when I’ve got several pans to cook all at the same time. I’ll just leave the light on in there so I can check in case something may need to come out a little earlier.

The general time that I cook veggies is about 30 minutes.

Cooling + storing meal prepped vegetables

The last step is getting them out of the oven, letting them cool a bit, and then getting them into containers to store in the fridge. In our house, we use glass Pyrex storage containers that are rectangular shaped. I’m not sure who thought using round containers inside of a square-shaped fridge was a good idea of it in our house it pushes other dishes around and nearly pops them out of the fridge regularly, so we use square or rectangular shaped.

And then when they’re cool enough put the lids on and you can stack them nice and neat in the fridge until you need them during the week.

anti inflammatory meal prep

Creating ‘freestyle meals’ during the week

Once you have all of your veggies prepped ready to go in your meal prep container stored in the fridge, during the week, basically you just have to pair the veggies with different meats or sauces or flavor profiles to create just about limitless combinations for meals.

So this particular summer week we did:

anti inflammatory meal prep

Grilled salmon with sliced tomatoes and those sauteed green beans,

anti inflammatory meal prep

A low-carb version of eggplant Parmesan with tomato sauce and a side salad,

anti inflammatory meal prep

Fajita bowls with peppers and onion where we cooked chicken added canned black beans and then sliced avocado and brown rice,

anti inflammatory meal prep

And then I paired sauteed tofu with squash zucchini and pesto and that can easily have chicken subbed in for the tofu.

So if you’d like a printable PDF for freestyle meal prep for crazy busy weeks that include some sauce recipe options, there is a link below 👇, and if you grab that you’re also going to get a discount on the four week seasonal anti-inflammatory meal plan kit that has four whole weeks of anti-inflammatory dinners, lunches, breakfast and snacks, desserts, smoothies, and even cocktails!

Let me know in the comments: What meals have you made during freestyle summer meal prep?! 💖 🍍

Top 3 Mistakes in Anti Inflammatory Meal Planning + What to Do Instead

So look, meal planning can be tough enough on its own, but when you add in a dietary style that you’re totally new to, that just makes it that much more complicated. 

When doing anti-inflammatory meal planning there are three major mistakes that I see clients making over and over again that are costing you serious time, money, and the ability to get those anti-inflammatory meals cooked and on the table every night so that you can feel amazing every day. So let’s chat about those to make sure you’re not making those same mistakes, and let you in on what to do instead.

top 3 mistakes in anti inflammatory meal planning

🌟Don’t know which foods are on the ‘go/no-go’ list for an Anti-Inflammatory Diet? Check out ‘Anti-Inflammatory Diet for Beginners’

Anti Inflammatory Meal Planning Mistake #1: Being overly ambitious

Mistake number one is being overly ambitious and thinking that you need to cook every night of the week.

So I get it–when we get excited about something new (especially if it’s supposed to help us reach our goals like managing a condition, getting your blood sugar under control, or even kick-starting weight loss), we just want to jump all in…But I want you to slow your roll for a minute because when we get overly ambitious and think that we need to cook every single night you’re sorta asking for trouble.

top 3 mistakes in anti inflammatory meal planning

The problem is that when we decide to jump all in and cook every single night, we’re going to get completely overwhelmed. And the usual response to getting overwhelmed is to shut down and do nothing. So I want to prevent that and just kind of take a step back instead. 

The reason that we’re going to take a step back on that is that when you stop putting that kind of pressure on yourself and allow yourself to learn in a really more relaxed way where you can learn to enjoy planning, prepping, and cooking and then appreciate what this dietary style can do for your body. 

So instead what I want you to do is maybe start out cooking three to four dinners in your first few weeks to get started…And take that time to get used to the types of food that you can be using. There’s a little bit different way of cooking sometimes for anti-inflammatory meals and I want you to really just kind of get the hang of what this whole dietary lifestyle and style is about before getting overwhelmed with the whole meal planning part of it. 

One of the really great strategies for this is when you cook those three to four meals go ahead and cook a little bit more so that you can have extra for other meals… which leads us into mistake number two. 

Anti Inflammatory Meal Planning Mistake #1: Not cooking enough food

So before you get all up in arms and overwhelmed at that let me just explain. It takes no extra time to cook 4 servings of a recipe versus 8 servings of a recipe. You’re simply using double the ingredients so what I want you to think about is that when you’re only cooking one recipe at a time for whatever meal that is you’re missing out on the opportunity to save so much time later. 

The reason why that happens is that whenever you cook more you have extra time, you have a fallback, and you have a backup plan. 

top 3 mistakes in anti inflammatory meal planning

I know a lot of families who do one night a week for leftovers for dinner, (we absolutely do that because it saves me cooking one night of the week and it also saves all of the other clean up that happens, and it cleans up whatever is left over in the fridge.) 

So instead, think about doing one and a half or even doubling up on your recipes. You do also have the option to take one recipe and cook it for your dinner that night and then make a second one at the same time to freeze for later. So I always recommend doing that and or making double at the recipe so that you can have enough for lunch the next day. 

I work out of the house but whenever I did not work out of the house I would get into that hangry situation right before lunch because I’d been really busy working and usually forgot to have a snack. So by the time lunch got there I was just being like in this annoyed, starving state where I really didn’t care what I went to eat, so I would just grab the closest most convenient thing that I could. Which would never work out on this type of dietary style. 

So if you make enough for lunch the next day you can be assured that whatever you’re eating for lunch is compliant with the anti-inflammatory diet and that way you’re not even worrying about what you’re eating the next day because you know that it fit in because you made it for your dinner the night before.

Mistake #3: Not setting enough time aside

Mistake number three is not setting enough time aside for meal prep and for actual cooking

So the problem in this is that you’re making things more frantic for yourself if you have kids–and especially smaller ones. This could actually be pushing their bedtime later which we know makes us more stressed out and most of all you’re stressing yourself out trying to frantically cook a whole meal when you don’t really have enough time to cook it. 

top 3 mistakes in anti inflammatory meal planning

Here’s why: When you do allow yourself enough time, it just makes your time spent cooking way more relaxing… You just assemble the ingredients cook what needs to be cooked at your own pace, no rush…Instead of frantically running around with your hair on fire just to get dinner ready. 

But it also gives you peace of mind during the day because you know that those things are already prepped and ready to go and have the extra time to cook dinner. 

I can’t tell you the number of clients that tell me that even though they have meal plans technically done they still have anxiety about getting the meals actually cooked at night because of how long it will take. 

What to do instead is to make sure that you schedule in an hour maybe on Sunday (or one other day at the start of the week) to meal prep: chop veggies and even go ahead and make some of the meat even sauces. Sometimes if it’s a casserole a lot of those ingredients are pre-cooked and then you can just assemble them the night of and then just stick them in the oven so that you have as little to do as possible on the day of.

Bonus points!

Add even more bonus points if you go ahead and shop and then prep all of your veggies the minute that you get back inside with the groceries so that you’re saving yourself an extra trip of taking things back out of the fridge just to chop them and then put them back in the fridge.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve been making any of these mistakes (or even others that I didn’t touch on!)

Get started THIS WEEK on the Anti-Inflammatory Diet by grabbing the 1-Week Anti-Inflammatory Meal Plan below! 💖

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anti inflammatory meal planning mistakes

The 15+ Amazing Best Kitchen Tools for Meal Prep that I Use Every Week

These are the best kitchen tools for meal prep that I use and LOVE in my household and recommend to others!

*As an affiliate, I may receive a small portion of proceeds of any items you buy through these links, at no extra cost to you. However, I only recommend products I know, use, and love.

Meal prep isn’t just a trend, it’s really a revolution of efficiency. But truthfully, it gets even more efficient when you have the proper and best kitchen tools for meal prep.

As a nutrition specialist and health coach, some of the first things I discuss with clients are the roadblocks to making healthy eating happen, whether it’s general healthy foods or sticking to a dietary style for weight loss or food intolerance. Lack of time is usually the biggest reason named, but it doesn’t have to be (which is what I work through with clients).

My philosophy is to always merge healthy + efficient to make an anti-inflammatory lifestyle doable on the daily.

Here are the best kitchen tools for meal prep that I feel are the most efficient in their own right to make meal prep happen with the least amount of frustration.

best kitchen tools for meal prep

Ninja all-in-one system

This Ninja system has everything you need to chop, dice, spiralize, blend, cream, and so much more! It comes with a bullet-sized smoothie cup, large blender, crazy-sharp blades that are absolutely amazing, a food processor bowl for chopping and ricing, and the smaller attachment for grating and spiralizing. It also includes a dough blade! This system eliminates the need for 3 different appliances, and also has preset functions so you can push the button and walk away while it does its thing!

Instant pot 8-quart 9-in-1

This larger 8-quart Instant Pot has the size to cook larger or smaller amounts, and eliminates the need for a separate slow cooker, pressure cooker, rice cooker, saute pan, and more! You can sear meat right in the pot before setting to slow cooker, you can use as a pressure cooker and even cook meats that came straight from the freezer (anyone forget to thaw something for dinner??), and it has settings for different types of meats, rice, eggs, yogurt, potatoes, and so much more. It seriously eliminates the need for multiple different cooking devices! It even has a function for sterilizing! (Baby toys or bottles, anyone?) My feeling, especially if you have a lack of space, is that the best kitchen tools for meal prep can multi-task.

(I like the larger size because it can fit so much more or cook less.) And if you really wanna get high-tech crazy, there’s even a “Smart Wifi” model!

KitchenAid Stand Mixer

The KitchenAid stand mixer is another amazing all-in-one. It obviously mixes hands-free, but it comes with dough hook attachment AND whisk attachment. But it also has a MILLION AND ONE add-ons! For example, meat grinder, spiralizer, pasta maker, juicer…. honestly the list goes on! The Aqua Sky color is the most popular, but check out the link below to explore all color options!

Silmat set

Ok, this may sound crazy, but this Silmat is amazing and eliminates the use of oil sprays or coatings when baking! I love that I have the option of cooking oil-free and know that it won’t stick! I also love that this set has multiple sizes since not all baking sheets are the same size. These can be used in baking sheets (whether baking, cooking, or roasting) or on the countertop for rolling out doughs WITHOUT the use of extra flour! The best kitchen tools for meal prep will also help eliminate extra ‘stuff’ you have might otherwise have to buy, like parchment paper, oil, flour, etc.

BBQ Grill Mats (my secret tool!)

Even though I love silmats, they pose the problem of not ever fitting inside my rimmed baking sheets or even my corningware and glass dishes. These BBQ grill mats solve that problem because they can be CUT to FIT PERFECTLY inside any pan!

Not only that, NOTHING sticks to them, and they’re easy to clean! (Win-win!)

Baggie Stand holders

Baggie stands are something I never knew I needed until I used them. Like something in my head told me this would be incredibly helpful, but having them makes my life so much easier when I meal prep!! (Ever have a biggie fall over while pouring liquid in? 😭

Yeah…no bueno.) With these baggie stands– PROBLEM SOLVED!

Reusable Storage Bags

If you’re a serial MEAL PREPPER like I am, or even WANT TO BE— these reusable storage bags ARE FOR YOU! I use a TON of baggies in meal prep!! We also send berries, chips, granola, etc in baggies for the kids to school because we either make our own stuff, or buy the large bag and divide for cheaper snacks. These reusable bags eliminate the overwhelming amount of plastic being thrown away, but also the overwhelming amount of baggies I’m buying every month!

Glass Food Storage Containers

Whether you do weekly meal prep or not, getting rid of plastic food storage containers is a MAJOR upgrade for your health!

I love these glass storage containers because they’re dishwasher safe, microwave safe, oven safe, and even freezer safe! They’re extremely versatile! Perfect for meal prep. Perfect for leftovers. Without the icky BPA.

Also, they don’t melt in the dishwasher. All the plastic meal prep containers you can buy will eventually lose their shapes (sometimes sooner, depending on the water temperature in your dishwasher). The glass meal prep containers are good to go forever.

And one last point– I’ve switched to rectangular and square-shaped storage containers because I’m not sure who thought it was a good idea to try and fit a round storage container in a square-shaped fridge, but I’m done having dishes ‘pop’ out of the fridge when trying to find something or make room for something else. 😉

Misto Oil Sprayer

For some dietary styles, reducing total oil is a must. And honestly, sometimes a ‘drizzle’ is a bit too heavy when it comes to oil. Which is why I love the Misto oil sprayer. It’s free of butane (like is in cooking spray you buy at the grocery store) and you can use the type and quality of oil YOU prefer.

Silicone Muffin Pans

Silicone muffin pans are a dream for bakers and meal preppers alike! No more rusty pans. No more muffin papers. No more sticking or using non-stick sprays. Oh yeah, and no more washing silicone muffin wrappers individually!!​ HUGE time saver for me!! (Remember: healthy + efficient!)

Saute Pans + Skillet

In case you’re been under a rock the last decade, you already know the reason Teflon isn’t normally used on skillets any more. And although that non-stick surface was hella useful, it’s crazy toxic. Next best non-stick thing? Ceramic-coating! (If you have an induction cooktop, make sure to confirm the cookware works on it before purchasing!)

Fry Cutter

Although it’s not hard cutting a potato, cutting them into perfectly sized fries can be super tedious. That’s why I love our fry cutter.

One disclaimer on this one: I have several videos where I use a different brand. The one I use has never given us trouble, but on Amazon, it has a pretty low rating. So I linked to an alternative with much better reviews and one that’s pretty darn durable. If your family likes home fries, this thing saves a TON of time and headache!

Enamel Coated Cookware

If you love the versatility of being able to go from cooktop to oven, or even fridge to cooktop or oven, then enamel coated cookware is the way to go! The only ‘con’ I have to these is that they are very heavy because they’re cast-iron on the inside, and that means my kiddos can’t feasibly handle them, and also it means it’s nearly impossible to hold the skillets at an angle to pour contents out. Otherwise, these pieces should last for years (and many high-end brands like Le Creuset should last a lifetime). Plus you can get them in a ton of really preeeetty colors! 🌈

Good Knives

The best kitchen tools for meal prep will always include a quality set of sharp knives. A good sharp set of knives can mean the difference between beautifully and quickly sliced foods and an urgent trip to the ER. Invest in some really good knives!! Better knives cost more, but they last longer and are more durable. Plus if they get dull, you can sharpen them!

Mixing Bowls

This may sound like silly advice, but coming from someone who VALUES minimalism these days, a really GOOD, DURABLE, POURABLE, and STACKABLE set of mixing bowls that only takes up a SINGLE shelf in my kitchen is a mega win!! 🏅

Not to mention that this specific set has graters and a slicer you can attach right on top of the bowl!!

Proper Labeling Tools #1: Sharpies

When doing meal prep, the gold standard for labeling baggies is the good ole’ Sharpie. And while I LOVE me some colored Sharpies, unfortunately teal and lighter colors just won’t cut it. Use BLACK, DARK BLUE, PURPLE, or RED.

Proper Labeling Tools #2: Dry Erase Markers

Guess what—DRY ERASE markers aren’t ONLY for a dry erase board!! They’re PERFECT for labeling FOOD CONTAINERS when you’re meal prepping or have leftovers!! 🤩

THESE dry erase markers are my favorite, because they have a fine tip, are black (same importance as the Sharpie situation), and they have a magnet, so you can keep it on the side of the fridge for easy access when labeling leftover containers! *And a tip–although you may be super tempted to use the wet-erase version (usually Vis-a-Vis brand), DON’T! If any moisture gets on the container, the words will smear right off onto your hands and then take 17 days to get off… speaking from experience.)

Meal Prep Cutting Board

Ok, so I’ve saved the BEST for last. I never realized how much of a pain it was cutting up tons of veggies and fruits for meal prep until I started. This is my FAVORITE thing ever! A cutting board with containers for what you’ve chopped under it! Eeeekkk! There are a couple of other options for meal prep cutting boards, but this one is by far my favorite!

So there ya have it! My list of the 15 best kitchen tools for meal prep! Keep in mind it’s not a dire situation if you don’t have these or can’t afford them right now. They simply make it easier to meal prep.

Got any more suggestions? Let’s hear them in the comments below!

Know someone that could use advice on what the best kitchen meal prep tools are? SHARE this post!

best kitchen tools for meal prep

10 Delicious + Easy Healthy Batch Cooking Recipes for Freezer Meals

Sure, batch cooking has saved my life some weeks, I’m not gonna lie. But batch cooking recipes for freezer meals is really one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It’s saved me countless hours in the kitchen, and countless days of mealtime stress. Having healthy freezer to slow cooker recipes is a must if you’re a busy mom. So let’s talk about the best tips for batch cooking for freezer meals.

*Disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links in which I get a small portion of the proceeds if you make a purchase, at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products I trust and love.

healthy batch cooking recipes for freezer meals meal prep

What is freezer cooking

Freezer cooking is basically assembling meals into a container (or baggie) to freeze, so that you can later either thaw then just slide into the oven, or dump into a slow cooker and BAM! You’re done.

They’re like the best thing since Spanx for stuff like the quarantine 15. (Freezer cooking can also be a form of batch cooking.) 

Assembling one-pot make ahead freezer meals dishes like this– especially when you set aside a day a week or even one day a month– basically gives you a free pass on any given night when you have one of these waiting in the freezer.

No more frantically scrounging around for a 15-minute recipe just to find you don’t have the ingredients–or compromising your anti-inflammatory dinners with ingredients that are no bueno for your body like sugar and refined flours.

No more expensive take out on evenings after a kid’s practice or late meetings. And no more flitting around the kitchen dodging kids and pets just to get dinner on the table.

It really is one of the best time management tools I’ve ever encountered as a working mom. Yes– I said time management tools. Know what else I’m gonna say? That time management is a form of self-care because it brings your stress levels down.

Whoa. Yep–just went there. My philosophy is to make the anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle doable by merging healthy + efficient. And batch cooking does just that (as long as your recipes are healthy.) 😉

batch cooking recipes for freezer meals

Freezer cooking tools

So the best way to create these magical batch cooking recipes for freezer meals is to first have the right tools. Here’s my go-to list of tools that I use for my healthy freezer meals prep sessions:

1.Freezer bags. Yeah, I know that sounds self-explanatory, but as a mom who can’t hear herself think in the store because kids won’t stop talking to me, I can attest that I’ve accidentally bought ‘storage bags’ instead of freezer bags more than once. Sigh. Ok, so one time I tried to just use them cause they’re cheaper and that ended in a hole in the bag and freezer burn. Lesson learned. I’ve also tried doubling the storage bags but then you’re spending double. So just use the bags that are made for the freezer, already.

Sol!mo gallon freezer bags 👇

2. Baggie stands. Ohhhhh these things make my life so much easier during crockpot to freezer meals prep sessions. I started out using a 4-cup measuring cup to hold the bag up, but when you’re prepping freezer meals in bulk, just one of these won’t cut it. Especially when you have liquids going in the bags. (And yes, I’ve had them dump raw meat juice all over the floor before.)

Baggie stands 👇

3. Slow cooker or Instant Pot. So, some people don’t know this, but the Instant Pot has multiple functions and one of those is a slow cooker function. So you need either of these if you’re planning to prep slow cooker freezer meals. I recommend the Instant Pot because you can do so many different things with it and it takes the space of ONE single small appliance.

✅ 8 Quart 7-in-1 Instant Pot 👇

4. Foil pans. Unless you have an overabundance of glass or metal baking dishes, and can make do with them being in the freezer for potentially a few weeks or months at a time, I recommend using foil pans for freezer meal recipes like casseroles, sheet pan dinners, or lasagna. They should come with a foil topper that folds over to seal it but I recommend still putting plastic wrap ON the food to keep out air before securing the foil lid.

9 x 13 Foil Pans with Lids 👇

5. Sharpies. I know lots of people like to make their baggies and foil pans look all fancy with special labels, but I’ve yet to see any that didn’t buckle under the pressure of being frozen and fall off. I don’t especially like playing ‘dinner roulette’. Just use a Sharpie and call it a day.

4-Pack Black Sharpies 👇

6. Ninja system. This is another one of those all-in-one appliances that I super love because of everything it does. This blender is crazy powerful, and when you buy the whole system, you also get the food processor bowl that does all the veggie chopping you can throw at it for freezer meal prep. It also comes with the ‘bullet’ blender cup and other smaller cups that grate stuff and even spiralize. LOVE this thing.

Ninja Mega Kitchen System 👇

7. Other miscellaneous items. This includes things like measuring cups and spoons, a good set of knives, and multiple cutting boards. I sometimes also use herb scissors because they make mincing fresh herbs a breeze, and the garlic press unless I’ve got minced garlic in a jar in the fridge.

Do you cook freezer meals before freezing?

Here’s the big question of the day. And the answer is usually NO. There are a couple of exceptions, like the ground meat in lasagna or the meat and mashed potatoes in Shepherd’s pie. There are some casseroles that you may need to precook meat or pasta, but the instructions will tell you. 

Also, you will cook part of the meal if you’re doubling a recipe (or tripling it) for mega meal prep batch cooking. Again–check the recipe.

What meals can I make to freeze?

By far the most popular meals to freeze are slow cooker meals. They’re super easy to throw everything into a baggie, freeze, then dump it into the slow cooker first thing in the morning. Other meals you can make to freeze include soups, stews, sheet pan dinners, casseroles, bakes, lasagna, and even taco fillings. {Grab 10 freezer meals below! 👇}

How to prep frozen meals

Frozen meal prep really depends on the meal. Many of them recommend thawing out in the fridge the day before, then putting in the slow cooker on low for 6-8 hours. This holds true for casseroles in general as well. You would just thaw it in the fridge the day before and then put into the oven to cook before dinner.

I will say this: I don’t know what is going on with the quality of meat lately, but I’ve had a terrible time with roasts and even chicken being horribly dried out by cooking all day in the slow cooker. One day by accident I forgot that I hadn’t thawed the frozen meal the day before, so I just put it in as a frozen chunk around noon and set the Instant Pot slow cooker setting to high. That’s the first time I had a slow cooker freezer meal recipe with super juicy chicken. Unfortunately, all appliances have their own quirks, as do all cooks, and all recipes. So they’re at some point or another going to be trial and error. 

Another tip for reheating an already cooked casserole that’s been frozen is to place the frozen casserole directly into the oven (NOT pre-heated, still cold), then put the oven temp to the correct cooking temperature so that it gradually heats. Then add 20-30 minutes onto the cooking time. (Don’t put a cold, frozen glass dish into a hot oven!)

So take advantage of bloggers who have tested recipes, and get started batch cooking recipes for your own freezer meals!

batch cooking recipes for freezer meals


What are your biggest challenges with batch cooking freezer meals? Let me know in the comments below!

Know someone who’d love 10 freezer meal recipes? SHARE this post!

healthy easy freezer meals for instant pot crockpot or slow cooker to batch cook

Quit Stressing About Dinner With this Free Printable Weekly Meal Planning Template with Grocery List

Although soooo many of us are moving to everything tech, there’s something to be said for something that doesn’t take ten minutes just to pull up on my phone (like a super-snazzy, mega cute, free meal planning template with grocery list.) So this post is for those of us that like a physical, tangible paper that you can write on and see without relying on a phone, computer, or tablet. To meal plan tech-free.

meal planning template with grocery list editable

In all honesty, I use both methods depending on what mood I’m in that week (I can’t help it, I’m a Gemini.) I really want to be all tech-savvy, but half the time I actually need something easily accessible right up in my face that I can touch and write on. And to be honest, we could all use a break from our screens. That’s where a meal planning template with grocery list comes into play. My philosophy is to always merge healthy with efficient to make our health goals doable, and if/when I have days where tech is not cooperating, it means more time spent trying to work through glitches when I could just do it on paper in half the time.

meal planning template with grocery list editable

The meal plan tech free way

So in order to meal plan tech-free with a meal planning template and grocery list, what I created was basically my counterpoint to any meal planning app. It’s pretty simple actually. It’s a paper that’s folded in half. I stick it to the side of the fridge with a magnet (crazy high-tech, huh?)

Then throughout the week I use it to start our shopping list (things we’re out of, things we’ll need soon, staples, etc.) The list is already categorized for sections of the grocery store, and since I can be a bit OCD I have it ordered by the sections that I visit in my routine order.

This makes it a lot more time-efficient because I’m not crisscrossing back and forth in the store for things I didn’t see on the list while I was standing in that section 👉 Remember: healthy + efficient is where magic happens!

Planning day with a meal planning template

So when it gets to shopping day or the day before, I’ll go ahead and flip the editable meal planning template I’ve printed over to the other halved side where the days of the week are listed.

Then I can plan what meals we want for the week and what we want/need for lunches, breakfasts, snacks, too.

Then I open up the page and add all the things I need for the meals I just listed onto the meal planning shopping list.

Shopping day

I take the list with me to the store, and the rest is common sense. Anyway, I keep the meal planning side, so that when I get back home I can list all the things on the chalkboard we have on our kitchen wall. (This isn’t necessary, but I find that it eliminates the husband and kids asking me for an hour a day what’s for dinner because then they can just look at the wall for the corresponding day and see.)

So I know this meal plan template with grocery list method isn’t all glamorous and tech-ie, but for me it works if I’m not in the mood to deal with phone screens, tablets, or my computer.

I do, however, recommend creating a system for collecting and organizing recipes (like other than Pinterest– whole other story, read about the best meal planning app for your family HERE.)

If you don’t like going the tech way, and would like to try this method out, I’ve got just the editable meal plan template PDF that you can download and fill in any way you want. I also included a free weekly meal planner template word option. I put the basics in, but it’s totally editable, and you can change fonts, colors, and sections of the grocery store and order it any way you want (cut/paste.)

Click the image below to get your Meal Plan template with grocery list!

meal planning template with grocery list

So how do you normally meal plan? Is it a challenge right now? Do you want to try the digital way? Let me know in the comments!

And if you think this meal planning tech free post will help another Mama out, please SHARE!

free meal planning template and grocery list

Save 2 Hours a Week by Meal Prep Batch Cooking

In the midst of being a super busy mom, you’ve no doubt been lured by the possibility of saving time in the kitchen through meal prep or batch cooking. Whether or not you’ve tried it is another story. I’m here to tell you: DO IT!!

Meal planning saves me loads of time, sure. But batch cooking, whether slow cooker batch cooking or just bulk cooking things that go in the oven, saves me so much time it’s silly. My philosophy is always to figure out how to find the magic ✨ middle where we merge healthy with efficient so we can make prioritizing our health doable. So as long as you’re choosing healthy recipes to batch cook, you’re golden.

So let’s dive into all the little ditty details of batch cooking, how it can save you loads of time, and why should start now. 

meal prep batch cooking, cook once eat twice

What is batch cooking?

Batch cooking can be called many things these days. Sometimes it’s called meal prep batch cooking, batching, bulk cooking, and some even refer to it as cook once eat twice, cook once eat all week, that sort of thing. 

But the general idea is that you cook a lot of something. This can be either a lot of one ingredient to be used in many meals, several of the same recipe to be used later, or 2-3 sets of several recipes, all to be cooked later.

My two favorite ways to take advantage of the time-saving benefits of meal prep batch cooking is to designate one day a month or quarter to batch cook a whole bunch of freezer meals that can be thrown in the slow cooker on super busy mornings, or to batch cook meals for the week. This means choosing up to six meals that either all have the same protein prepared the same way, or I’ll split the recipes into two different types of protein and batch cook the proteins and chop and bag the veggies one on meal prep day at the start of the week. 

Is batch cooking cheaper?

I dare to say yes, you’ll save money batch cooking. Here’s why. 

1- You’re usually using a recipe that has individual ingredients, so you can control the cost of those. Meaning, if there’s seasonal produce vs something out of season, you can choose to use or not use that recipe at that given time.

2- If you’re buying the ingredients separately, you usually buy a large box, can, or package of it. Which is usually thought of as buying in bulk and tends to be cheaper anyway. It all comes down to the fact that you pay extra for ingredients to be mixed together for you already. Think about how expensive one pre-made meal is in the freezer section at the store.

3- When you already have dinner done, even if it’s in the freezer, you don’t eat out.

What can I cook in bulk?

There are several different types of foods you can cook in bulk, so let’s break them down a bit.

Proteins: Chicken, ground beef or turkey, pork, other cuts of beef. I wouldn’t pre-cook fish, but shrimp is usually available pre-cooked and frozen at the store, so I’d recommend just buying that frozen instead.

Vegetables: Most veggies can be cooked in bulk. I would consider this though: When you can things, you only really blanch the vegetable, not fully cook it. So this may be a consideration before cooking vegetables if storing in the freezer.

Breads: Dough (unrisen), muffins, scones, biscuits, etc. are great to cook in bulk and pop in the freezer for later.

Eggs: You can easily bulk cook eggs (boiled style) in the Instant Pot or pressure cooker, cook large amounts of scrambled eggs, or fry up as many eggs as your skillet can handle. All of these can be stored in the fridge a few days, or you can store in the freezer for later, up to 3 months. And if you’re trying to batch them as a separate ingredient for cooking or baking later, you can either crack eggs into a muffin tin, flash freeze then store in the freezer in a freezer bag; whisk together and store the mixture in a freezer bag; or even separate the whites and yolks and store separately in the freezer for later. (Don’t ever freeze in the shell–the insides will expand, which is no bueno.)

Grains: Rice, quinoa, and other small grains cook up and store in the fridge a few days or freeze just fine.

Apart from these individual ingredients, it’s super easy and convenient to bulk cook things like soups, stews, chilis, casseroles, lasagna, meat with sauce (think spaghetti or even tacos), and fillings for things to pop in the fridge or freezer for later.

My number one recommendation would be to make a list of your family staple recipes you eat often, and make those sauces or casseroles, etc in bulk and store in the freezer for the month until you need them. That’s a sure way to get dinner done quick that you know everyone will love.

How do you store batch cooking?

This really depends on your reason for batching. If you’re just cooking for the week, storing it in the fridge is fine for several days. But if it’s for longer, it should go in the freezer. 

This doesn’t hold true, though, if you’re batch prepping mixes for things like muffins, trail mix, or that sort of thing. If it’s a dry mix it should store fine in a dark and cool pantry. This is still something that many put in the freezer if they have room, though. It’s supposed to help the flours and other ingredients from going stale or rancid. And usually doesn’t need to be ‘thawed’ since it’s dry.

What meals can I batch cook and freeze?

I don’t really believe there is one perfect meal that you could batch cook and freeze. But that’s awesome, because it means there are several types of freezer meals you can batch cook! Here’s a rundown: 

Casseroles, soups, bakes, sheet-pan dinners, smoothies or smoothie mixes, stews, meats with marinades, slow cooker or crockpot meals, and any of the others listed above (breads, muffins, grains, etc).

Ready to give meal prep batch cooking a go? Get started with the one-week meal plan! 👇

batch cooking recipes, meal prep batch cooking, batch cooking meal plan

Have you given batch cooking a go yet? Let me know your biggest challenge in the comments below!

And SHARE this article with anyone else who may be interested in saving HOURS every week by meal prep batch cooking! 💕

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Meal Prep Ideas to Help You Save Time and Lose Weight

Finding meal prep ideas can undoubtedly be just as grueling as meal planning when you’re so busy every day. I get it– kids and work and quarantine (if that’s still going in your area). But the truth is, partnering meal planning with healthy meal prep ideas for weight loss can keep you on your diet (or get to losing that quarantine 15), keep you on budget, and also save hours in your week! It also saves loads of stress off you, which is why I include meal planning and easy meal prep in my definitions of self-care and stress management.

These things can be automated as routines that don’t take brainpower. You need some stuff off your plate, stat. And my philosophy is that when we merge healthy + efficient, we get a magical area ✨ that makes awesome health and ideal weight a doable daily thing. So let’s start with meal prep ideas to enhance your meal planning and weight loss efforts, shall we?

meal prep ideas to save time and lose weight

What Should I meal prep to lose weight?

The first obvious answer to this is to find healthy meal prep ideas that follow your chosen dietary style for weight loss. So if you’re doing keto, for example, you’d search ‘keto lunch meal prep’ or something similar. It’s easier and faster to find meal prep ideas for weight loss by using search terms that are very specific. Otherwise you’ll have loads of stuff come up that you don’t need.

If you’re not following any dietary style, search using the word ‘healthy’. In general, including protein, healthy fats, smart carbs (like whole grains– nothing refined and no added sugars), and fiber in the form of lots of veggies is the perfect formula for a filling meal that will fuel your body correctly. This means plenty of energy for walking, work, and taking care of kiddos the rest of the day.

To actually lose weight using meal prep, you’ll need to determine the number of calories, carbs, or macro ratios you’ll need for each meal, then plan accordingly. There are several apps that can calculate numbers for each recipe in this way. I use the Whisk app because it calculates all that automatically when you pull in a recipe.

{Recommended article: How to Find the Best Meal Planning App for your Family}

Can you meal prep for 7 days?

You can definitely prep for 7 days, but I recommend splitting the types of meals into ones that are fine for 3-4 days in the fridge, and then the rest for either the freezer or will store well in the fridge that long. This usually means meals to be reheated. Salads typically don’t do well sitting for that many days in the fridge. Produce can go bad at any time, plus when you mix veggies that way, one can make another go bad faster, especially when sealed up. 

I recommend being a little strategic about how you prep if you need a full 7 days. If you’re only doing meal prep salads, bowls, or wraps, go ahead and prep all the proteins and grains or starches, and maybe even chop the veggies. Then prep 3-4 days completely, but have the components of the last days of the week in separate containers in the fridge. Then you’ll need to do a quick prep session for the last few days of the week. 

Can you freeze meal prep?

This depends on the recipe. If it’s a recipe that you reheat, typically yes. If it’s a salad, no. You can, however, freeze some of the components of your healthy meal prep recipes. So any of the proteins like chicken, ground meat, shredded meat… those can usually just be frozen. Many of the veggies can be frozen as well. Veggies that contain a lot of water or are more fragile like cucumbers or lettuce don’t do well at all being frozen. Think about what you’d find in the freezer section. Those are the veggies and starches that will do fine freezing for a bit. 

If you want to freeze your recipes, though, I recommend doing batch prep with freezer meals. {Head to THIS PAGE to get 10 free freezer meal recipes!}

Where Can I buy food prep containers?

I usually use two different types of containers for my weekly meal prep, and it totally depends on whether or not the meal will go in the microwave to be reheated, OR if I’m doing a salad that’s on the go. 

If I need to reheat it, I use a glass pyrex-style dish. They’re rectangular, flat, and stack really nicely in the fridge.

{Check out this post for the Best Tools for Meal Prep recommendations!}

If I’m making a salad or bowl, I’ll either use the plastic meal prep containers (shown below) and add dressing right before eating it (because if you add it before it’ll make everything soggy), or I’ll use the Mason jar salad meal prep method if I’m taking it somewhere. The mason jar method is great because you can put dressings and anything more wet, like cut up tomatoes, at the bottom and then stack the rest of the greens and veggies, etc, vertically so nothing gets soggy before it’s time to eat it.

Cheap meal prep ideas

When it comes to cheap meal prep ideas, the general rule is to choose recipes with fewer ingredients. Yes, fancy seeds and sauces are nice and good. But when you need meal prep ideas on a budget, hitting your main macros will give you a delicious, filling, and nutritious lunch that’s easy on the bottom line cost. BudgetBytes has some awesome meal prep idea recipes that are extremely affordable.

What meals are good for meal prep?

Here are some awesome meal prep ideas for breakfast, lunch, and dinners:

Breakfast meal prep ideas-

Lunch meal prep ideas-

Grab your free editable meal planning template by clicking below! 👇

Know someone else that would love to read about meal pep to save time and help lose weight? SHARE this post!

meal prep ideas to lose weight

How to Choose the Best Meal Planning App for Your Family

As a crazy busy mom, I can tell you that meal planning used to be one of the most stressful tasks I had until I found the best meal planning app for our family. I still use paper to write out meals to post on the fridge, but that’s more for my husband or kids because…ya know, they have questions. For the husband it’s to determine whether or not he wants to undertake dinner (“Like how complex is this meal and should I offer to cook it…?”) and for the kids I assume it’s to gear up for what level of complaining they should commit to for the evening.

So if you have any or all of these issues, I’m gonna walk you through what I believe should be the criteria for using and choosing the best meal planning for your family. Because bottom line is that to make great health doable on the daily, we need to merge healthy + efficient: that’s where the magic happens! ✨

best meal planning app

Why use a meal planning app?

  1. What’s funny is that moms usually think menu apps will free them of the harrowing job of searching for recipes and just designating something for the meal for the night. But the truth is that a meal planning app with grocery list can actually keep you on budget. I’m sure you’ve heard about the whole impulse buy phenomenon. It’s real. And the first line of defense against it is to have a grocery list while shopping. The next line of defense is to not go into the store, but do curbside pickup or delivery. Many of the best meal planning apps can now send your list straight to the store, which means you’re not going inside.
  2. The second reason to use meal planning apps is to help stay on a diet or dietary style. In all honesty, just not having to make the decision of a meal because it may or may not fit your dietary style is a huge load off your brainpower every day because it can serve as your healthy food planner. The same holds true for meal prepping lunches and breakfasts. And although I don’t know of a specific meal prep app, the idea is something worth exploring for anyone who needs to stay on a specific way of eating.
  3. The third reason for using meal planning apps is to save time, plain and simple. However, this requires you knowing how to use the meal planning app to its full potential, coupled with other tricks for efficiency (like being able to send your list straight to the store for pickup or delivery). But you should also be aware that any meal planner program isn’t necessarily better to do your weekly meal planning simply because you can pop a meal on a specific date. (More about that in a minute).
  4. And lastly, finding the best meal planning app for your family is a fantastic way to reduce stress. This is because of the enormous amount of information we process each day, in addition to the overload of decisions that we make daily. For moms, this is such a crazy amount it’s silly. All those thoughts and decisions compounded with things like clutter through the house and every other responsibility at home are the perfect storm for mega stress levels. (Why do you think organization sites and stores are so dang popular? Cause once you get a taste of freedom of your mind, there’s no going back!) And believe it or not, managing those stress levels should be priority one of self-care for your health and wellness.

What is meant by a ‘healthy meal planning app’

Ok this question needs to be addressed. I don’t believe there’s a such specific thing as a healthy meal planning app, per se. Many meal planning apps require you to input your own recipes, so in those instances the responsibility falls on you to make sure the recipes are ‘healthy’ or ‘not healthy’ per your own standards. Other meal planning apps have tons of recipes loaded, and can be set from the start to only give you recipes that fit your dietary style.

The problem with seeing any program as a healthy meal planning app is that many of these are recipe-sourced from bloggers who have no credentials or knowledge for deeming a recipe ‘healthy’. And believe me, I’ve seen many a thousand recipes labeled healthy that contained loads of refined grains and cups of sugar.

My recommendation is to choose an app or program based on your HABITS and what will fit your family best, then curate your own recipes based on your dietary style (we recommend Anti-Inflammatory around here) and types of meals that you need.

Meal planning app for moms or families

I’ve read through many recommendations for apps, and my conclusion is that there are several differences that will meet or fall short of your family’s needs. This is because every meal planning app or program has its own features. So it will really depend on what you need to fit your habits and alleviate your frustrations.

I’ve seen lots of clients and friends go through specific meal planner programs because they already had recipes in them, only to be disappointed at the recipes given. Many of these are not free meal planning apps, so they’ve been out of money for the app itself and out of all the time it took to learn it and try it out. So even though an app may claim to ‘personalize’ your meal plans, there’s no guarantee the recipes are any good.

I’ve also seen the mistake of thinking that the best meal planning app will set meals for specific days when the reality is it’s super easy to use the ‘collections’ function for grouping and planning your weeks. There aren’t many now, though, that don’t have a ‘meal planning’ function built in.

And lastly, things should be taken into consideration like how easy or hard is it to add recipes. If it takes too much time, you’ll likely get frustrated and quit pretty early in. Is the interface easy to use when it’s time to cook the meal? Can you edit recipes? Can you add your own? Are you able to send the grocery list to the store? And if so, which stores does it interface with?

All these questions should be considered when finding the best meal planning app for your family and your needs.

What is the best meal planner app

So here’s the million-dollar question, right? So I’m going to list the apps that I love best and recommend. And keep in mind that these are NOT apps or programs that generate a meal plan for you. These are apps or programs that allow you to collect and organize recipes (so it’s stuff you’re choosing), and then generate a shopping list. But they all have different functions and features. And keep in mind that what people think of as grocery list apps may or may not be just simply a list-making app. What we’re dealing with here are apps or programs that generate your shopping list for you based on the meals you’re cooking and send to the list.

If you really want a meal planner program that has specific dates for your meals laid out in order, the three I recommend are Whisk, MealBoard, or PrePear.

Whisk is the app I use and recommend first; it pulls in recipes super fast + easy. It’s also a free meal planning app. They’ve recently added the dated ‘meal planning’ function, which is awesome if you’re attached to dates with your meal planning. They have a Chrome extension and use the ‘send to’ feature on your phone where you can immediately edit or categorize your recipe with a few quick taps. (Meaning– awesome for those of us with nearly zero time to fool with copy/pasting a URL and then having more steps to get it into a category.) They now have a feature where others share their favorite recipes in groups that you can joing. Otherwise, for recipes you find elsewhere online, you pull in all that you want, and can edit any of them. But with how easy + fast it is, I’ve amassed a really large amount of recipes in very little time. It also can send your shopping list to the store, and is integrated with Walmart, many other local stores, and Instacart.

MealBoard has a ton of features that include storing recipes of your own, pulling in recipes (only by copy/paste of URL), editing recipes, and organizing into categories. It also allows you create ‘templates’, which are sets of meals you can name and reuse any time later. You can customize everything for yourself within this app, including multiple stores, the order of the store aisles, and even add pricing and barcodes for items. It also has a ‘pantry’ feature. What it does NOT do is send to any store. So when you generate a shopping list, you can either send it to someone else, or use it in the app in the store to shop. It also only has a couple recipes in it as examples, so all recipes will have to be imported that you use. It’s $4 in the app store.

PrePear also uses the dates for meals setup, but it DOES have recipes in the program. The downside to that is that it’s free with ads, and you can pull in SOME of the recipes for free, but they push buying an annual membership pretty heavily to have access to more recipes, ‘cookbooks’, and ‘meal plans’. These are all generated by bloggers. PrePear will generate shopping lists, and you can send to the store, but right now they only send to Walmart. You organize your recipes by ‘cookbooks’ and then within those you can create more sections. I’ve found it a little difficult to navigate this app and figure out how to add and organize recipes up front.

The last 3 apps I recommend at least exploring are really more for collecting and organizing. But if you have no interest in adding your own recipes or editing them, this may be a better meal planning option for you. These apps also don’t use ‘dates’ to set meal plans.

The first is Yummly, because of the 3, I recommend it most. It’s powered by food bloggers (every notice that little orange ‘yum’ button?) and has literally millions of recipes in it. I like it the most of the 3 because they do a great job of narrowing down your preferences and dietary needs from the start because of your ‘feed’ that shows up when you sign in. They also have a cool function where you input whatever ingredients you have on hand and it’ll give you recipes to make with them. You can create collections, and it has a ‘meal planner’ function that serves as a placeholder for the meals you want to cook for the week. You can send these to the store and it’s integrated with stores and Instacart. The downside is that you can’t edit anything or add your own recipes. For this reason, I usually use it as more of an exploration app to FIND recipes. I’m also not crazy about how they have each recipe set up when you open one. It usually forces you back to that blogger’s recipe post, and if you’ve ever had to fight 87 popup ads and 1000 words of text + images just to find the darn cooking instructions, you get my frustration with this.

Next is Tasty. This app is so colorful and fun, that sometimes I go in just to see what’s happening today. It does what Yummly does, except is a little less robust. It also does not have a ‘meal planner’ function. The collections function it has is nearly useless because they decide what to name or categorize the collections as. You can’t set that up for personalization. But if you need recipes, they’ve got it.

And lastly, I wanted to mention Food Network kitchen app. I’m not crazy about the cooking videos, etc, that they push the membership for. But they do have an insane amount of recipes. Their collection and organization methods are also subpar. But again–if you need recipes, you’ll find them here.

How to use ‘collections’ in apps for meal planning

I want to address the ‘need’ for you to have a meal planner app that has specific dates on it for meal planning. Because that shouldn’t be a limitation for you choosing an app that uses collections instead. I actually really like the collections option because you can set up collections as ‘templates’ or ‘weeks’ of recipes, then use them again. The Whisk app allows you to easily set multiple collections that any given recipe can be in at the same time, and I create a collection for ‘this week’ and ‘next week’ to plan weeks ahead of time for my placeholders.

Free template + how to use with apps

Get the free meal planning template and grocery list below and use it along with the best meal planning app for your family. 👇

I use paper templates STILL because my kids help add stuff to our grocery list all week. But I also have a paper listing out meals for anyone else to help out or just know what’s for dinner. It’s attached to the side of the fridge.

How do I make my weekly meal plan

Making a weekly meal plan doesn’t have to be hard. You obviously need to start out finding recipes that fit your dietary style and needs. This can mean following a specific blogger or site that has lots of those types of recipes, finding some on Pinterest, or even googling your search requirements. Recipes are super popular now, so lots of stuff will come up. Collect and organize everything you find.

Next you should figure out how many recipes you need per week based on your schedule. Do you eat out any? Plan for a leftover night during the week? Also consider your time available to cook. This may mean you cook a lot of slow cooker meals or even decide to do some mega meal prep. All these factors should go into the types of recipes you collect.

Once you know how many and what type of recipes you need, just start plugging them in. Either create ‘collections’ for the week you’re cooking or plug into the specific dates you need.

How do I make a meal plan and grocery list

Once you’ve made the meal plan per the above guidelines, you have two options: use strictly the meal planner grocery list feature to generate a shopping list (which you can add anything else you need in the store to), or you can transfer those ingredients in the list or recipes to a paper list, like the one in the free meal planning template and grocery list below.

{Click the image below to grab it! 👇}

best meal planning app

Again– I highly recommend you take a step back to evaluate your own habits and tech limitations to determine which is the best meal planning app for you and your family. It could make the difference between wasting a lot of time in an app you hate, or saving loads of time, frustration, and stress that can actually turn your evenings into joyful mealtimes with your family. 🥰

Know someone who could use some help choosing the perfect meal planning app? SHARE this post! 💕

the best meal planning app for your family

How to Stick to Your Diet with Meal Planning for Weight Loss

No doubt you’ve read many a trick, tip, or hack for losing weight, but as a nutrition specialist that works with crazy busy moms, meal planning for weight loss is by far the best trick there is.

Yes, we all aspire to meal plan on a regular basis to make sure our families are fed. But honestly, that’s where the problem is when it comes to losing weight. We get hung up on only dinners because we have to feed the kiddos. We’re not really going that one step further to think about the other meals for the day. Here’s how to stick to your diet with meal planning for weight loss.

How do you make a good meal plan for weight loss?

First things first: To lose weight, you must either create a calorie deficit, or reduce your carbohydrate enough that your body goes into ketosis. Creating a calorie deficit would be dietary styles like what I call ‘smart-carb’, Mediterranean diet, Paleo (for the most part), and plant-based (this is not an exhaustive list). Going into ketosis would be very low-carb diets and the keto diet. I won’t get into specifics for going into ketosis in this post.

What I will do is say that relying on packaged and ‘quick diet foods’ to reduce calories may help your bottom line, but it’s doing you zero favors in real health benefits. Which is why I recommend using nutrient-dense foods in a smart and purposeful way when going into a calorie deficit. This includes:

  • Quitting processed and packaged foods and added sugars (which are in nearly all packaged and/or processed foods). These foods make you think you’re still hungry when you’re really not. That can make it extremely difficult to stay on track when you have a certain calorie allotment per day.
  • Load up on vegetables and some fruits. Vegetables are full of fiber and vitamins, and will help you feel full faster and longer with smaller portion sizes. This includes legumes and beans, which are sorta like power foods in terms of fiber for weight loss. Fresh fruits are good, but in limited amounts. Make sure you’re having way more vegetables than fruits. Fruit with the fiber is good (and a million x better than packaged foods), but remember that fruit contains fructose. Fructose still makes an impact on your insulin response, and every time it’s hit up for more insulin, it sends the signal to store fat. Which is the opposite of what you’re trying to accomplish. So if you have fruit, pair it with a protein and a healthy fat. Great examples of these would be an apple + peanut/almond butter or blueberries + a cheese stick.
  • Make sure you’re getting enough protein and fiber. Both help you feel full faster and longer, and protein helps you build muscle when doing strength training. This matters because more lean muscle will also boost your metabolism.
  • Try using a meal planning app. Yeah, I get it– some of us are die-hard paper planners. But storing all those recipes makes it hella easier to get organized and have a good recipe on the ready when it’s time to sit and plan. Get ahead of the game by choosing a good one, getting organized, and always use it when you find something good (ie-quit tossing them on your Pinterest board that you never look at again!)

{Recommended: How to Choose the Best Meal Planning App for Your Family}

Is meal prepping good for weight loss?

Oh my goodness YES! Meal prepping makes actual meal cooking take less time, and allows for spending more relaxing time with family during cooking and meal time!

One of the first things I recommend to clients is to meal prep anything you can. But also, pull in help. This can be a segway to teaching your kiddos cooking as a life-skill plus allows time to have conversations. Purposeful time like this is crazy important for them and you! It can also be a great way for you and your partner to connect and get on the same page for meals and maybe your plans for the week. I have lots of clients who end up pulling their partner into meal planning and change the way they both eat, resulting in healthy clean eating being a family affair.

Meal prepping for weight loss is so important because you’re not only planning out your meals (which is the number one way to stay on track with your diet), but also making sure it’s doable. We all have crazy lives when we have kids and a business to run, so having a plan and doing your prep work up front is everything when you’re trying to stay within specific calories or carbs every day!

Also, meal prepping allows you to make sure your breakfasts, snacks, and lunches are taken care of as well. This is the biggest time for downfalls when trying to lose weight, because any small meal during the day is an afterthought, until it’s not. And if you don’t have a plan in place, the hangry you will win with whatever’s most convenient. Which is usually processed and full of empty calories.

What is a good meal plan for weight loss?

A good meal plan for weight loss starts with outlining your schedule, how much time you have for meal prep and cooking, and obviously–how many calories or carbohydrates you need as your daily limit. To determine your caloric needs as a start, calculate your basal metabolic rate. Once you know that, you can cut that number according to your activity level and adjust from there.

Calculate your caloric needs with this calculator :

EER Calculator – Estimated Energy Requirement

So now that you have an idea of the deficit you need in calories daily to lose weight, use that as a guide for your meals. Two options for keeping track of those that I recommend are either MyFitnessPal (which integrates with Fitbit) or the Whisk app for recipe collection and meal planning. You can read more about that HERE. Why I love Whisk is that it was designed with data in mind and calculates all macros and calories for any recipe you put in. That way you know exactly how much of the recipe you can have portion-wise (or if you don’t need it at all!)

The Ultimate How-to Meal Planning for Beginners Guide

How to Meal Plan for Beginners Guide

As a busy mom, I’m sure you can relate to the dinner-time frenzy of ‘what’s for dinner?’, as well as the panic that beginners of meal planning encounter regularly. It’s seriously draining to have tiny humans to feed when you have no clue how to meal plan or where to start meal planning. 

I actually advocate meal planning as one of the FIRST things to get in order in your household to help reduce stress. (Seriously–order and a plan = calm + collected).

Finding the magic ✨ middle between healthy + efficient will change everything.

But there are actually a lot of other reasons to meal plan, and here’s why you should get your ish in order and get started!

meal planning for beginners

1. Benefits of meal planning

Meal planning is one of those things that people just hate doing. It usually feels like an impossible task, not knowing where to start or end. Most people are very confused about what meals they should include for staying with a particular dietary style, which meals through the week they should plan for, and how make the shopping lists.

I get it—before I started meal planning it felt completely overwhelming. Evenings were stressful, because even if we did agree on a meal, I had no idea if we had the ingredients to make it. (Forget whether or not it fit into our ‘diet’ we tried to adhere to at the time!) The frustration of not ever really knowing what was for dinner got the best of me once we had kids and our time became a gazillion times for valuable (because it was qucily becoming in more short supply).

That’s when I decided to get serious about meal planning.

And you know what? I discovered that there were several benefits to  meal planning I didn’t even realize until we were into it a couople weeks.

First, our ‘diet’ we were trying to follow—we stuck to it because I took the time to search out recipes that followed it. The confidence it built in both my husband and I after eating good for two weeks was amazing! That alone helped us stay motivated to keep working out as well. We didn’t want to waste our efforts at proper eating habits.

Second, we saved money. (Serious.) When you have an actual plan, you don’t wander through the store and grab at whatever looks good. You get your stuff and get out. This also allows to intentiaonally search up recipes that cost less if you’re serious about bringing your budget down on groceries.

Third, we eliminated multiple trips to the store. Translation: time saver!! We honestly didn’t have time to make so many trips to the store in the first place, and this just put me into panic runaround mode the days I had to ‘stop real quick’. Think about how much time (and brainpower) it’s taking for you to realize you forgot something or you’re out of whatever you dreamed up for dinner on a whim, then the time to get into the store (especially if you have to take kids in with you!), the time in the store, loading the car back up, then unloading everything while unloading kids. Oh yeah—and getting everything put up. This can suck hours out of your week. Only one trip a week has saved me boatloads of time!

And last, our stress levels were exponentially less in the evenings. That may sound like an exaggeration, but I’m not kidding. There was no scrambling around, no arguments, no searching online like a madwoman for something—anything—I could make with mushrooms and ajar of relish. We had a plan, we both helped in cooking every night, and we started having some amazing conversations while spending relaxing before-dinner time with the kiddos.

So now that you’re convinced you’re definitely on the right track–

2. How do you start meal planning?

Meal planning will come down to a couple of different things.

First, are there any dietary styles you need to adhere to? If so, those are the kinds of recipes you need to search up.

Second, how many people will you be cooking for at night? Think about if you need to cook for adults and kids.

Third, do you want to take advantage of leftovers for lunches? This will determine the number of servings you cook of the dinner recipe. This is a GREAT way to also make sure you stay on track with your dietary style. As long as you cook your dinners in that style, you’re assured your lunch is the same when you’re using them as leftovers. Plus you don’t have to go searching for lunch when you’re hungry. It’s already done and ready in the fridge.

Do you need to plan for breakfasts, snacks, or more lunches? If so, you should also account for these when sitting down to meal plan.

3. How do I create a weekly meal plan?

Creating a meal plan takes a little time each week, but once you have a system set, you begin to follow it automatically and it gets easier.

The first thing you should do is print out a meal planning template (which you can get below), and find recipes. Consider all those things above when coming up with your plan.

Next, start filling in the days and slots you need a meal for with the recipes you’ve found. Think about any nights you won’t be home for kids’ practices, nights you eat out, or nights you’re planning for leftovers. Mark those out or make a note.

You’ll also want to note any nights you want to cook but it needs to be simple or a slow cooker meal that you threw in first thing in the morning to be ready by dinnertime.

Third, you’ll need to create shopping lists. This can be done by either using recipe or meal planning apps, or by simply writing a list with a meal planning template and shopping list template yourself while looking at the recipe. It’s a little time-consuming, but once you get the hang of it, it’s not difficult.

Fourth, double-check you don’t already have those ingredients (I hate when I buy something I already had 5 of !)

Last, I suggest posting your weekly meal plans somewhere anyone can find it. This is so that if your partner needs/wants to start the meal, or even has questions about it, you always have a designated place so there are no questions.

4. Meal Planning Template With Shopping List

Meal planning templates with a shopping list can be very simple, planning only for dinners, or you can find very complex meal planning templates when you need to plan for multiple meals per day. The advantage of printing these out is that you have a very clear, organized picture of your week right in front of you.

meal planning for beginners

5. Schedule in Meal Planning Every Week

One of the biggest mistakes I see beginners make is not taking the time to meal plan, and not making it a priority. If you’re serious about saving time in your week and nixing the constant anxiety about what’s for dinner- schedule in a time to sit and do meal planning every single week! 

6. Get organized

Every time I ask a client where their recipes are, I know what’s coming: “Oh they’re on my phone”. But the where is the bigger issue. I know how this works– we get going down the recipe rabbit hole on Pinterest, pin a thousand recipes that all look amazing, then we never see them again. 

Friend! Stop doing this!! If you find something you think looks fantastic and your family will love it, do yourself a HUGE favor and get organized with your recipes so you can find them again later!! I use a recipe organization app that’s amazing at analyzing nutrition information, too. They use a ‘collections’ feature to organize recipes, and (although they will have an official ‘meal planner’ feature soon within the app), I use that ‘collections’ feature to do my meal planning. Plus they generate my shopping list and you can send it any store from there for shopping– SO EASY!!

7. Save + Reuse Favorites

This one is so easy, but always easily forgotten. When you find something that everyone likes, don’t forget to save it and reuse it. These start to fall under the category I call ‘Family Faves’. What’s so great about these is that once you’ve made it a time or two, it starts to be second nature– meaning it takes you less time and brainpower to make it. Heck-some of ours I actually know all the ingredients by heart now! 

So now that you have your steps in order for how to meal plan, grab the free meal planning template with shopping list below and get started! 👇

meal planning for beginners

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meal planning for beginners meal planner with grocery list