Looking for ways to reduce your time in the kitchen and plan healthy meals that are simple, yet delicious? This article will lay out for you 7 steps for simple and successful meal planning.
I'd like to introduce to you my dear friend, Gulzat Dalton. She's originally from Kazakstan (speaks Russian) and has been in the US for 13 years. Gulzat is a fantastic cook and private chef who teaches healthy eating classes. Also, she organizes freezer meals sessions in her own home. I asked her to give us some tips on simple meal planning the healthy way.
Who is Gulzat?
I’ve been in the US since 2005 and still learning English. When I first came to the US, I was constantly searching for my purpose. I took all kinds of classes -- Accounting, Financial Accounting, Interior Design, Cake Decorating and Cooking classes!
In 2009, I started taking private cooking classes at a small studio called Chop, Wok, and Talk in Pittsburgh. First, it was Chinese, then Thai, Moroccan, Indian, Italian and so on. I couldn’t stop! This was a time in my life when I realized that I enjoyed cooking. It was fun, exciting, and fulfilling!
Eventually, I started teaching cooking classes and now I work as a personal chef. You can find me online at gulzatdalton.com. Working at the cooking school taught me about planning and prepping. I learned how to make cooking more efficient and less time-consuming. Basically, it's time management in the kitchen!
10-15 minutes of planning once a week and you will thank yourself during the week.
Planning will give you peace of mind, save time and money. But most importantly, it will be your choice of ingredients for fresh, homemade meals.
Don't forget to double or triple some recipes.
For example, if you are making meatloaf make 2. Plus, you can double marinades, sauces, dry mixes, etc. and freeze leftovers for later.
7 Steps for Simple and Successful Meal Planning
Here are 7 Steps for a successful week of healthy, wholesome meals. Keep in mind -- if you fail to plan, you plan to fail!
Step 1: Make a list of dishes that you make on a regular basis.
Beef, lamb, pork
Fish and seafood
Vegetarian and Vegan.
If you have 2-3 dishes in each category, you already have 8-12 dishes.
If you don’t cook much, start meal planning with just 2 dishes. If you are comfortable in the kitchen, 3-4 dishes should to do the trick. Do this for a month, and then you can add new recipes to your list.
Step 2: Choose a main course.
1 vegetarian/vegan dish
1 fish dish
1 chicken dish
1 beef dish
Beforehand, check your calendar to see what days of the week will be busy, choose easy dishes for those days.
Step 3: Add Vegetables!
Don’t forget to add vegetables and greens! In our case, we will have a salad for lunch or dinner every day and 2-3 times green smoothies each week. My goal is to eat vegetables 3 times a day.
Step 4: Make a shopping list.
Add the following categories to your list to ensure you've covered all the bases.
Vegetables and fruits
Step 5: Check your pantry and refrigerator before shopping
You will be surprised how many ingredients you already be in your house. Mark your shopping list and choose a day of the week to go shopping. I prefer one-day shopping and next day cooking.
I usually shop once a week for a fresh produce, and once a month for dry/frozen ingredients. I have an extra refrigerator and two chest freezers to store food.
Tips for Shopping:
The stores I usually shop at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Costco. I recommend the following online shopping stores: Vitacost, Thrive, and Amazon. From May to November, I prefer to get fresh produce from a local Farmer’s market. Try to buy as much local produce as possible: it’s fresh, seasonal and environmentally friendly.
Even though organic food is getting more affordable, you don’t have to buy everything organic. Follow an EWG (Environmental Working Group) guidelines for “Dirty Dozen+” and “Clean 15+”. Get list HERE.
Step 6: Choose a day to do prepping work – mark your calendar and stay committed!
Here are some tips on prepping for meals:
Don’t forget to involve your spouse and kids. This day is important because it will save time during the week.
Put a timer for 30-60 minutes to focus and you will be surprised how much you can do.
Read through each recipe and see what can be done in advance that will save time during the week.
Look for things to prepare ahead of time. Examples include:
dressings for salads
peel onions (store in the refrigerator in a plastic bag or airtight container)
- Make vegetable, chicken or beef broth
Cook all your vegetables (side dishes) on prepping day. You can roast them, steam them. Or, cut them up and keep in the refrigerator in an airtight container or plastic bag up to 5-7 days.
Make and freeze your green smoothies, don’t add any liquid. It’s better to add liquid when you make the smoothie.
Step 7: Give yourself grace!
It’s a new process and it will take some time to learn, but it’s worth it! It’s a skill that will improve over time but will be very rewarding in a long run.
Thank you Gulzat for taking the time to write this article for my readers! If you have any simple tips for healthy eating, please write your comments below. Thanks, everyone.