A little preparation can go a long way.
Canadians are busy people. Between work or school, activities and errands, many of us don’t have much time each night to prepare fresh, healthy homemade meals. It can be tempting to pick up a frozen pizza or go to the closest drive-through for takeout, but neither option is particularly healthy or cost-efficient. A great solution is to prepare meals for the week in advance. It can help save time and money, while ensuring you eat nutritious food.
Preparing a whole week’s worth of meals may sound a bit daunting, but spending a few hours batch-cooking or preparing ingredients for a few different meals will make your weeknights easier. If you schedule some time during the weekend to prepare, cook and store your food, your belly and wallet will thank you later.
Here are some tips to get started.
- Plan and organize – write out a weekly menu for breakfasts, lunches and dinners, then prepare your grocery list accordingly.
- Dedicate time in your calendar each week to buying groceries and making your meals.
- Keep it simple. Prepare meals you know you like – you wouldn’t want to make a big batch of a recipe you haven’t tried before and end up not enjoying it.
- If meal prepping for an entire week sounds somewhat overwhelming, start with just one recipe. Or simply prepare the ingredients so they are easy to throw together later.
- Use coupons and look for sales. Check out the local farmer’s market if you are lucky enough to have one near you. You’ll be able to stock up on enough supplies to last you the week for a fraction of the price. Plus, you can’t get fresher than local produce.
- Save more money by forming your meal plan around ingredients that are in season or on sale and by using what you already have. In winter, apples will be cheaper and tastier than out-of-season peaches.
- Instant Pot and slow cookers are great ways to batch-cook hearty soups and stews that you can eat all week long. The best part is that these appliances are so easy to cook with.
- Make the prep time enjoyable by listening to music or putting your favourite show on in the background. This way it’ll be an activity that you look forward to each week.
Meal prep can be easy, delicious and nutritious. Here are some make-ahead meal ideas you can customize to suit your needs.
EASY EGG MUFFINS
These grab-and-go muffins are a quick and healthy breakfast option for busy work days. All you need are eggs, cheese and whatever fillings you want (such as mushrooms, spinach, peppers or ham). Just distribute the cheese and other fillings in a greased muffin tin. Beat the eggs together with salt and pepper and pour over top, then pop into a preheated oven. Bake at 350˚F until set (about 20 minutes). They’re great for reheating, and you can store them in the fridge for five days and in the freezer for up to three months.
INSTANT POT PEANUT SOUP
Combine sweet potatoes, kale, peanuts, peanut butter, coconut milk, fire-roasted tomatoes, garlic, jalapeño and cilantro together to make a tasty soup or stew. The recipe is suitable for vegans, but chicken or shrimp can easily be added. Throw the ingredients into an Instant Pot for 20 minutes and you are good to go. This dish also goes great over a bowl of quinoa or rice.
SIMPLE ROAST CHICKEN
This is one of the easiest dishes to make. It only takes about 20 minutes to prepare and an hour to cook – then you’re all set for a delicious meal that can last the week.
- Pat dry a whole, three-pound chicken with a paper towel. Make sure the bird is dry both outside and inside to produce the least amount of steam in the oven. This makes the skin extra crispy.
- Mix 2–3 tablespoons of salt, 1 tablespoon each of pepper, garlic powder and thyme together, then sprinkle outside and inside the chicken. You want to use enough salt that it creates a crust when roasted. Don’t use olive oil or anything that can produce more steam.
- Place the chicken on a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Truss the chicken’s legs with twine and tuck the wings neatly under the breasts.
- Bake the chicken at 450˚F for an hour. You may need to add on a few more minutes for a bigger bird. Let it rest for 15 minutes, then check to make sure the meat is at 165˚F using an instant-read thermometer. Chicken can be cut in serving-size pieces and refrigerated in airtight containers for up to five days.
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