Updated: Sep 29
Meal planning and prepping are excellent skills to have in your healthy living toolbox. They will set you up to eat healthier, so you can feel and live your best, reduce food waste, saving you time and money, and it can help you improve your daily nutrition by enjoying more whole and nutrient dense foods you prepare yourself.
And one of the big benefits of meal planning (aside from supporting your healthy eating goals) is the ability to reduce food waste by optimizing what you have on hand. Here are some simple tips to help you make the most out of your meal plan so you can boost your nutrition, support your healthy living goals, and reduce food waste too!
When you prepare to make a particular recipe and note the ingredients you'll need for it, get into the habit of thinking about how you can repurpose any leftovers not needed. For example, if you need cabbage but will have a fair amount left after making the initial recipe, it can be repurposed in stir fries, slaws or salads.
Basically, it’s about thinking one step ahead in order to make the best use of everything you buy, minimizing waste. As you move through the week, keep asking yourself, "What else can I do with this?" Can it be used as the basis of another meal or two? Doing this can be a game changer for avoiding food waste and making your budget stretch further.
This works especially well for batch cooking, leaving you plenty of leftovers to use later in the week and even freeze for future use.
Another pro tip for making the most out of leftovers? When possible, freeze them for another day. That way they’ll be preserved while they're still fresh so you can enjoy them later when you're ready.
Tips to repurpose leftovers for future meals:
● Tacos, burritos and enchiladas are a an easy way to use up extra veggies.
● Veggies, beans and proteins can be batched in bulk for hearty soups.
● Meats and veggies make great pizza toppings.
● Quiches and frittatas are great options for leftover veggies.
● Making extra helpings of quinoa or brown rice are great for taco, rice and burrito bowls, a variety of salads, or to pair with veggies, beans and proteins.
Meal planning for one?
Even if you have a family, you won’t necessarily be meal planning for everyone in the home, especially when your kids are older or members of your family have varying schedules that make sitting down for meals together regularly a challenge. Meal planning for one person might feel tricky and frustrating, but it is actually quite simple.
Here are some simple tips that make meal planning for one a win:
Go for smaller portions. It can often feel like meal planning isn’t going to work for you when you’re not cooking bigger batches to feed multiple people, staring at recipes that serve 4-6, but the trick is to get creative. Adapt recipes to suit smaller portions. This may involve switching up the amount of ingredients, cutting them in half for example, or reducing the cook time to compensate for recipe changes.
Portion out meat as soon as you get home. This works well whether you are purchasing a package of 4 chicken breasts or buying your meats in bulk. Stashing individual portions of meat in the freezer make it simple to grab and go when you need it. On the day you’re ready to use it, just take out your single portion, thaw and cook. It's that simple!
Use a base that works for multiple meals. Meats like chicken and fish, grains like rice and quinoa and veggies like sweet potatoes can be easily used as a versatile base for all sorts of healthy meals. Cook up a batch and choose a few different recipes that incorporate them. This is a great way to reduce waste and keep boredom at bay when you’re just cooking for yourself. And you can easily prep a bunch of meals with minimal effort, setting yourself up with multiple meals to have at the ready.
Go for recipes that can be easily repurposed. Some recipes really lend themselves to being eaten again for lunch the next day or mixing up tomorrow's dinner. This is especially convenient when you’re meal prepping for one. Leftovers from Taco Tuesday are great for a hearty salad on Wednesday, or that shredded chicken from last night's pasta dinner while be tasty in a lettuce wrap for lunch.
Start small. Creating a meal plan habit is just like any other healthy habit goal, it takes time and repetitive practice. Keep it simple by taking small steps each week, focusing on one meal or snack at a time (such as just breakfast, lunch or dinner). Then as you gain confidence, expand out to other meals. Before you know it you'll be meal planning for the whole week, creatively making use of leftovers, supporting your healthy eating goals and reaping the body, mind and spirit benefits.
Are you a busy man or woman who's ready to feel strong, live healthy, and get fit? Discover how to take small steps to get healthy & fit without cutting out the foods you love or spending countless hours on cardio. Come join me inside my online Facebook Community - The Healthy Habits Club. It's where busy folks go for tips, tools and support they need to eat healthy, move daily, and feel good for life!