Toronto Chef | Blogger | Television Food Expert

Toronto Chef | Blogger | Television Food Expert

Meal Planning: The Art of Healthy Convenience

As a private chef I have planned THOUSANDS of meals- legit, thousands- and in this time I have come to understand all the ins and outs of meal planning, including the little nuances you don’t often understand until you’ve been in the trenches of meal planning consistently.

In this post we are going to talk about Healthy Convenience products, which, if used correctly, can go a REALLY long way to helping you meal plan consistently, week in, week out.


Before we talk healthy convenience…

Knowing what to make and when can DRAMATICALLY reduce the overwhelm associated with meal planning. As a private chef I have planned THOUSANDS of meals I use a very specific prep schedule to keep myself organized.

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Step One: Know Thyself

Mindful eating and mindfulness around food are two different things. Mindful eating is an act within the practice of mindfulness around food. They exist together but must be thought of as different.

Don’t be over ambitious in the planning of your meals, this is an instance where you want to meet yourself at the lowest bar.

Healthy Convenience 101

Convenience food and convenience products are two very different things, convenience food is the McD’s and Wendy’s of the world; and though I love them (full disclosure) those aren’t what we should rely on for our main meals. Convenience food, on the other hand, is our sister in arms with meal planning. These foods can dramatically reduce the amount of time spent on cooking meals day to day and week to week.


Prepared Meats

A chef tip, PRE-SEASONED MEATS are often the meats that are close to the end of their life; they mask this by seasoning these meats and selling them quickly. I am not opposed to pre seasoned meats, but buy and cook the same day or the next day at the latest. Giving yourself or someone else food poisoning is hard to live down…

COOKED ROTISSERIE CHICKENS are THE best because they are ready to go and creating quick meals is a breeze. Food handling suggestion, remove the meat from the chickens at once to keep the meat fresher longer, because when the meat is eaten off the bone, like lions in the wild, the meat spoils sooner.


Cut + Frozen Vegetables

When it comes to frozen vegetables the important thing to remember is this, sturdy vegetables thaw and cook with the same textural integrity best. Ie. beets, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower. And a bonus is they are generally cut and ready to go.

Loblaws (a favourite of mine) carries SO MANY different precut vegetables- spiralized zucchini, squash, beets and sweet potato; cubed sweet potato and squash; bagged salads a plenty; minced garlic and onion. USE THESE. With wild abandon.


Sauces

This area can get a little grey, because some prepared sauces are full of shit, pardon my language. I am not opposed to prepared sauces, in fact, I love them BUT watch for sodium content and sugar content- over 5-8g is too much for a savoury sauce.

  • PESTO- great for salad dressing or marinade

  • PREPARED SALSA- great for salad dressing or garnish

  • CURRY- great for creamy soup base

  • SALAD DRESSING- salad dressing (obviously), marinade etc.


SUPPORTING CONVENIENCE PRODUCTS

A conglomerate of prepared foods does not a meal make, you must boost these meals with some home cooked items.

TAKE ONE DAY:

Prepare brown rice, pasta, grains like quinoa, legumes like lentils and FREEZE them all in portions.

Pre roast potato, sweet potato and freeze in portions.

NOTE ON FREEZING– use frozen items within 3 months. Toss everything to be frozen in oil, so that when thawed it doesn’t stick together. With starchy items, generally I would never suggest to rinse, but the starch makes defrosting nicely a challenge, so rinse starchy grains with water, dry, toss with oil and then freeze.


Convenience Meals

PESTO CHICKEN BOWL

  • 1 cup shredded rotisserie chicken

  • ½ cup cooked quinoa

  • ½ cup fresh arugula

  • ¼ cup pesto

  • Juice of ½ lemon

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and eat it.

RECIPE NOTE: if making ahead, add arugula right before eating.

MEXICAN CHICKEN BOWL

  • 1 cup shredded chicken

  • ½ cup fresh deli salsa

  • ½ can black bean, drained and rinsed

  • 1 cup rice

  • 2 tbsp cilantro (sub chives for aversions)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • S+P to taste (careful as the salsa and chicken are already seasoned)

In a saute pan on medium high heat add the oil and black beans, cook for 3 minutes just to cook out the “raw” in the beans- not necessary.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and eat.

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ROASTED VEGETABLE SOUP

  • 1 cup cubed squash

  • 1 cup cubes sweet potato

  • 2 tbsp chopped onion

  • 2 tbsp minced garlic

  • ¼ cup curry powder

  • 1 tbsp brown sugar

  • 3 cups chicken stock, warmed

  • 1 cup coconut milk

  • S+P to taste

  • Fresh herbs to garnish (cilantro, chives, mint etc.)

  • Yogurt, to garnish

Preheat oven to 400F.

Toss onion, sweet potato, squash, garlic with oil, curry, salt and pepper. Lay flat on parchment paper lined baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes.

Cool for 5 minutes. Add to a blender, in batches, with sugar, coconut milk and stock. Blend to desired consistency. Serve hot, garnished with yogurt and herbs.

RECIPE NOTE: over roast the squash and potato to make it easier on your blender.


Want To Master Meal Planning? Download my Meal Planning Made Easy Cheat Sheet Here!



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Melissa
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Melissa

I don’t really meal plan. I just buy what I can afford and make what I can with it. Haha.

Moni
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Moni

I personally think that When you have your meal plan in place, any leftover food can be eaten the next day for lunch. … Organizing ahead of time is the key to buying and preparing only what you are able to eat

Laura Dove
Guest

With 6 people in our family I really should meal plan more – it would save us money and be way more convenient. I just never get round to it!

Kemi
Guest

Nice! I cook my foods from scratch and the only prepared foods I buy often are frozen veg. I currently don’t eat meat but when I did, I always bought raw, seasoned and cooked. I meal plan: I cook about 3 different dishes weekly to last me dinners and work lunches and I always have pantry staples like pilaf, brown rice, couscous, potatoes & plantains.

happy and busy travels
Guest

Oh my! Thanks for this! I’ve been having a hard time planning our meals especially healthy meals!

Gervin Khan
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Gervin Khan

This is such a great post and very informative too. This will surely help us on how and what to prepare a healthy meal.

Claire
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Claire

Yes, meal planning is everything, especially when you are trying to eat healthy! I do meal planning all the time, it saves time and money

Channon Gray
Guest

I’m definitely working on my meal planning skills! I would love to be able to save both time and money!

Elizabeth O
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Elizabeth O

Nice to always have plan when it comes to healthy meals. I usually prefer veggies for my family. Thanks for sharing your thought how to plan well and save so much time.

Sigrid
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Sigrid

That vegetable soup looks so yummy, creamy and comforting. I would associate with our very own version of squash soup. Though ours is just very simply.

Surekha Busa
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Surekha Busa

These is surely a great post and worth reading. It is better to plan and be prepared always in making a meal especially for our family.

Karen Monica
Guest

I always love to plan healthy meals. I try to get everything ready in advance so I can even prepare home cooked food on busy days.

Azlin Bloor
Guest

I can totally appreciate this post and the healthy cheats for doing up a meal plan. As a chef who also plans menus for the local businesses and private clients here, they can be a big help!

David Elliott
Guest

I had never heard of convenience products before. But it does really make a lot of sense. It would make it so much easier to meal plan.

Sachin Kumar
Guest

I will go for mexican chicken bowl. The name of healthy convenience products is new for me but it is really going long way to help me in meal plan.

Nina
Guest

it is always great to plan ahead for making healthier meals for the family. it is a well-written and insightful post

Katherine Gamble
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Katherine Gamble

With Thanksgiving approaching, I think it’s safe to say eating healthy is a must leading up to the day and the days to follow. Thank your for these recipes as I am currently learning how to cook.