Summertime is almost here, and we generally think of it as being more relaxed and laid back. It is typically vacation time, and we take a break from school work. But is it really more relaxed and laid back? I don’t know about you, but for me summertime almost seems more hectic. While I would love for it to be lazy days, spent reading and meditating under the shade of a beautiful tree, it’s seldom that.
Regardless, we still have to eat, and I still want to keep my meals as healthy as possible. Salads are a great summertime option and while I do love them, I don’t want to eat a salad every day. The following are some of the healthy shortcuts I use to make healthy meal planning and prep just a little easier – and a lot less stressful so I can enjoy some leisurely, lazy summer days.
I like to look through the sales circulars on the weekend before I create a shopping list and decide on what meals I will make from what is on sale that week. It gives me a template to work from. Once I know what meals I will prepare for the week, I can then create my shopping list. My son and daughter in law have a whiteboard on the side of their fridge and they keep their meal plan there so whoever comes home first knows what the meal for that day is and can get it started. It saves a lot of time, effort and money.
Make a Master Grocery list.
You can keep a running list of whatever items you run out of, but an even better idea is to create a pre-written grocery list of the items you use regularly. Print out copies and as you run out of things, just mark them on the list. This way you don’t forget any important ingredient. Leave space at the bottom for those extras you use occasionally or just want to try because they’re on sale. This may take a little time when you first create the master list, but it is a huge time saver in the long-run. You can then take a picture of your list on your phone if you don’t want to walk around with a paper list.
Set Aside One Day for Shopping and Prep.
I find it easiest to get all my shopping done on one day of the week. I hate having to run to the store numerous times. It is such a time waster. As soon as I bring my groceries home and unpack them, I prep the meals for the week. You can do as little or as much as you like. I actually fully cook all my meals and just have to pull them out and reheat them on the day. I find this works best for me. If we are out hiking, I don’t have to start from scratch when we get home at 3 o’clock and I’m tired. Alternatively, you can just partially prep. Clean and roast veggies for whatever recipes you choose. That can be a huge time saver as they can be used in so many different ways. They can be side dishes, ingredients in a recipe, or augment one of those healthy, quick salads. If you are making any grains, you can cook those ahead as well. You can implement this tip in whatever way works best for you.
Don’t Fear Frozen
I know, it’s summertime and the veggies are fresh and fabulous. But keeping some frozen staples on hand can really cut down on prep time. Before you stress that frozen veggies are less nutritious than fresh, one study found there was very little difference between fresh and frozen as far as nutrition goes. In some cases frozen is more nutritious because they’re frozen at the peak of freshness. Of course always choose organic. And if you keep staples like spinach, cauliflower, broccoli and green beans in the freezer there are always good veggies to quickly steam, roast or use in a smoothie. If you have an air fryer, you can cut roasting time drastically. You can even buy frozen chopped onions and peppers and that will streamline meal prep even more.
While we are talking about veggies, stock up on cauliflower, broccoli and sweet potato rice and spiralized veggies like zucchini, butternut squash and beets. I find them both fresh and already prepared in my supermarket as well as in the frozen food aisle and it takes no time to use them to round out a meal.
Don’t Overlook Eggs
Eggs are one of the most nutritious, nearly perfect protein sources around and they are extremely versatile. They can be used for any meal. Hard boiled eggs make a quick and healthy protein-packed, portable snack. Scrambled, soft-boiled, sunny side up and omelets are a perfect breakfast but don’t overlook a veggie packed frittata for lunch or dinner! Put a leafy green salad with it and you have a quick and easy meal that is nutritious and delicious. Topping one of those fast and easy summer salads with a couple of hard-boiled eggs turns it into a complete meal.
Keep Things Spicy
You can use the same proteins and veggies week after week and just change up the spice blends and you have entirely different flavor profiles! Spices add nutritional value and lots of flavor with no calories. Just look for varieties with no added salt or MSG.
Cook Once Eat Twice
When you cook, double the recipe. This is batch cooking at its finest. You can either have the leftovers for lunch the next day or two or just freeze the extra recipe and then you will have a meal you can quickly pull out of the freezer down the road and defrost for an easy, no-cook day.
These are my best tips to help you sit back, put your feet up and relax, knowing you have a week’s worth of meals ready to go and enjoy your summer.
Study re frozen as nutritious as fresh https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889157517300418
Ann Musico is a certified holistic health coach, independent nutritional consultant, author of Today is Still the Day and other books. She works with women of all ages to empower them to live well so they can model health and wholeness – spirit, soul and body – to their families and beyond. Visit her website at www.annmusico.com to learn about the coaching options and weight loss plans she offers as well as numerous free resources you can access.