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.
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.
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.
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.
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.