If you are the primary person in charge of meal planning and preparation in your house, then you have control over what gets made, and what goes into it, and how it gets made. But what happens when it isn’t your turn to cook? Does it turn into take out pizza, or pasta with a jar of sauce? Do the salad ingredients get left in the fridge? That happens at our house, although it can be perogies and chicken legs with frozen peas.
The first part is, what comes into the house. If your pantry, fridge and freezer are stocked with healthy options (brown rice, barley, whole wheat pastas, canned beans, and cans of tuna or salmon packed in water, fresh and frozen vegetables and fruit, chicken breast, low fat pork chops, homemade stocks and vegetable based sauces), then you are well on your way. But you still might be faced with those who are left in charge not knowing what to do with all of it, or any of it!
Step one: Teach your children (or your partner!). Even your 5 year old can help get things going in a positive direction. They can wash and tear lettuce or spinach for a salad. They can set the table, to help ensure the family sits down together. They can drain and break up canned fish for either pasta or salad. The biggest plus here is that they are also more likely to eat the food that is being prepared if they are part of the process. Older children can prepare salad or raw veggies, or steamed vegetables like broccoli or bok choy. In our house, regardless of whether it is Dad or Mum preparing supper, it is the kids who are responsible for preparing the salad and the vegetables.
Step two: Make preparations easy. I buy chicken breast and pork chops at the butcher, where they can be had individually wrapped. This means that they are easy to get at, and you only use what you need (helps avoid over eating). Sometimes, I also season meat ahead of time and store it in it’s own container in the freezer or fridge. This means that a container of chicken breast or pork chops once thawed, can be ready to go on the BBQ immediately, without having to worry about what to season them with so everyone will eat them. Keeping a couple of jars of homemade vinaigrette in the fridge helps too.
Step three: Make a plan. Create a menu and then post it where everyone can see it. Label it with names to that everyone knows ahead of time who is doing what, to participate in the creation of the healthy meal. I even go to the extent of posting what might be for dessert. (Fruit, yogurt, granola is typically what is available). We keep everything balanced around the weekly schedule, so you know who is home and how many are eating, and when everyone else will be home.
Yes, all of this means some planning and preparation, but doesn’t everything? A friend shared a quote this morning: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” and we all know how hard those days are when we have failed to plan!
And if you are always the one to prepare the meals in your house, then you can also use these tips to create healthy, inexpensive meals even when you are pressed for time, or for planning for the days when you know you will be too tired to cook. Knowing that your meals are easy, makes clean healthy eating even easier!
7 days of Healthy Meals when it’s not your turn to cook
Day 1: Baked Yam rounds with grilled chicken breast and steamed broccoli (season your chicken breast ahead of time so they are ready to go out of the freezer, use leftover broccoli for Day 5)
Day 2: BBQ Pork loin chops with spinach salad and brown rice (brown rice can be cooked in the morning while you are getting ready, then it just requires a microwave to heat it up in the evening, make double batch of rice and cook 2 extra pork chops for Day 5))
Day 3: Baked Salmon fillets (seasoned with salt and pepper and a tsp of dried oregano, baked in a 375F oven for 15 minutes, make 2 extra salmon fillets for tomorrow supper) with mashed potatoes and green salad
Day 4: Salmon wraps (leftover salmon with left over green salad in whole wheat tortillas), raw veggies and fruit salad for dessert
Day 5: “Fried” rice with pork and veggies (using leftover brown rice, pork chops and broccoli, add frozen mixed veggies and two green onion, cook rice in skillet with a TSP of grape seed oil and a 1/4 cup of chicken broth, add 1-2 tsp soya sauce to taste. Add one-two scrambled eggs or egg whites if you want)
Day 6: Mini homemade pizzas with raw veggies (whole wheat pitas, homemade marinara sauce or low sodium tomato sauce, grated mozza and parm cheeses with left over chicken, or some chopped ham, sprinkle of dried oregano if using plain tomato sauce and chopped green onion)
Day 7: Greek salad, grilled chicken breast and baby potatoes. (I think this is my favourite meal of all time, and since once upon a time, my hubby was shy to cook baby potatoes, I used to make them in the morning or the night before, and then he would just have to saute them for a minute or two in a couple of tsp of olive oil and sprinkle them with oregano).