If you’ve followed me on social media for a while, you know that I am a consistent meal planner. You also probably know that I am single, and live alone, which means when I meal plan, and cook, it’s usually just for me. I think meal planning for one is actually probably easier, because I don’t have to think about anyone else’s tastes or preferences. But it also means I usually have A TON of food, which can get kind of boring. So how do I avoid hating everything I made to eat for the week AND not get stuck throwing a bunch of food out at the end of the week?
As I decide what I’m going to make for the week I spend some time thinking about what I’ve eaten lately, what I’ve been craving, and what cookbooks I haven’t cooked from in a while. This gives me a chance to figure out what flavors I’m going to want, what flavors I’m probably bored with, and makes use of one of the 30+ cookbooks I own. Sometimes I will choose a couple of cookbooks and go through them looking for things that make me say “ooh that looks great” or “I haven’t had that in forever”.
As I get to planning, I also make sure I know how many meals I will actually need to have for myself each week. I’ve made some terrible mistakes by not doing this step and ended up with a week’s worth of food and then realize I have 3 or 4 meals at work that week. Oops! The planning step is also where I make my grocery list, which also determines where I’m shopping for the week. I try as much as possible to get things at the Farmer’s Market, although during the winter that’s a little more difficult, and depending on what’s on my to-do list for the weekend, I may use Instacart to deliver what I need instead of heading out on my own. I used to love grocery shopping, now it can feel like time I could be spending doing something else.
The art of meal prep
There are 3 main rules I follow for meal prep: 1) make meals that freeze well so that I can always have options in the freezer (this helps for weeks like this where I’m traveling for work starting on Sunday), 2) if it doesn’t freeze well, make a small batch so you aren’t stuck eating it every day, and 3) sauces are your best friend. There are absolutely meals and times when I could eat the same thing every single day and not get bored, but most of the time, I get sick of it by Thursday and wish I had other options. One way I combat this, especially in the summer when I’ve got tons more fresh vegetable options, is that I’ll make some basics like savory oats, quinoa, a couple of protein options like chicken breasts or ground turkey, and then bulk roast or at least chop vegetables to then saute in the evening when I get home from work. Then, I make sure I’ve got 2-3 options for sauces, like almond satay sauce, or my absolute favorite creamy apple cider vinaigrette from Run Fast Eat Slow. Additionally, if I can, I make sure at least one recipe can be done in the slow cooker, so I can set it and not have to do much with it until it’s done. These also tend to be great freezer meals, so it’s a double win.
Sticking to the plan
The hard part is not getting bored, so my plan is almost always to have 3 non-breakfast meals that I can mix around so I’m not eating the same 2 dishes every day for lunch and dinner. I’m also a fan of savory breakfasts, so a lot of times my breakfast option easily subs for lunch or dinner, which is helpful. Knowing your preferences is key to not giving up and ordering in (which is also TOTALLY OKAY, but if I often feel like I’ve failed if I order in after meal prepping) because if you know you can’t eat the same thing a few times in a week, you will need to plan your meals out differently. It might take a few weeks to figure out what will work best for you. For me, it’s helpful to actually write out my meal plans on paper so I can flip back through when I’m planning to make sure I’m not eating too much of the same stuff, which means I’ll get bored more quickly. I also make notes in my cookbooks of changes or things that look good but didn’t work the way I wanted them to so that I don’t get sucked in to try it again without knowing what might happen.
Finally, and maybe most importantly: invest in a lot of good food storage. I’m a huge fan of the Ziploc options because they’re cheap, and because they come in so many sizes. I can make big batches that go into the freezer easily or make up individual meals for the week so all I have to do is grab my options for the day and go.
Do you have any meal prep tips?
What are some of your favorite meals that freeze well?
Do you have a favorite cookbook?