The Importance of Meal Planning: Part 2, How to make your cooking days quicker!

So now that you know how to plan for the week ahead and how to share the work, how do you make it quicker?

My friend Lisa and I had a day of making soup a few weeks back and were talking about how recipes often underestimate the time it actually takes to prep all of the vegetables. It can be quite time consuming on a busy evening after work to mince 3 gloves of garlic, dice an onion, slice 2 peppers, not to mention prepping any kind of meat that needs to go in a dish! You’ll see on a recipe: prep time: ‘5 minutes’. Which can be true if you’re a master at chopping or if all of the vegetables magically cut themselves. In all likelihood, it will probably take a little longer that – even longer if you have other distractions such as kids or pets demanding your attention.

So you have some options here. You can do all of the work the day that you make the meal, or you can find some other short cuts.

Shortcut 1: Prep ahead of time: This can be interpreted in a few different ways:

  • You can go all the way and cook the meals in entirety earlier in the week. That way, you have all of the meals cooked ahead of time, so that when you get home from work, or school or whatever keeps you busy during the day, you can just pop the food in the microwave or the oven and cook it up. The great thing about this is that you don’t have to worry about having healthy options during the week. And you don’t have to worry about doing the impulse burger run on your way home. However, the challenge to this is that you need to have a whole day on the weekend dedicated to this. Or at least a good chunk of a day. After grocery shopping, and cutting your veggies and protein, and then cooking them, and then storing them, you may find that you don’t have much time left in the day for other things.
  • Another option is that you just prep the stuff that needs to be cut. While this will still take some time during one of your days off, it does take less time than cooking all of your meals. Chop all of the veggies, slice all the meat. Separate them out in bags or containers so that when you get home all you need to do is assemble the recipe. You can even go one step further, and measure out any other ingredients you need for sauces or dressings.
  • Or, you can do some sort of hybrid of these two. Say you want to have a salad with every meal this week – put together all of the salads for the week and separate them by day. You can cook any veggies that you need and then reheat them at the day of. And then save the cooking of your protein for the day that you are eating it.
  • Lastly, you can also just prep some of the stuff that you need for the week. This is what we do in our household. Every Sunday, we boil a bunch of eggs for breakfasts, pre-portion out raw vegetables to take to work with us, and make any snacks that we might want to prepare for the week. We then leave the prep and cooking for the day that we make the meal.

Shortcut 2: Buy shortcuts: What does this mean? I don’t necessarily mean that you should buy frozen dinners. While those can have a time and place, they aren’t going to help much with health or your budget. However, there are some options that you can buy things to speed up the process. Pre-cut veggies and pre-sliced meat. Some examples:

  • Pre-minced garlic and ginger
  • freeze dried herbs
  • frozen veggies for stirfry
  • pre-diced onions
  • pre-sliced veggies
  • Several vegetables in noodle form (which I have recently found at Safeway and I’m completely in love with!)
  • Veggie trays which you can then separate out into snack portions for the week for mixed veggie bags

If you opt for these options, keep in mind that it will most likely be more expensive. So just make sure that you will use all of it before the best before date. Also, make sure that there is nothing else added to the ingredients, such as sugars or salts (citric acid added to fruit or pre-cut foods is generally okay, as it is natural, and keeps the food from turning a different colour after it has been cut – but you would be right to question anything added).

Shortcut 3: Crockpots and Freezers: I am a big fan of having stuff in the freezer for days where we get back from an adventure late, need something for a lunch, or really just don’t want to cook.

A great way to do this is to make extras of your food. Some things freeze better than others, but I have found that most things will end up still being edible after its been frozen. Pasta Sauces, Soups, Lasagna, Chili, meatballs, cooked sliced chicken breasts – are all regulars in our freezer (especially the soups right now).

Crockpot recipes are great for this. Not only does it save you time in the evening, because if you can put it in the pot before you go to work, it’ll be done by the time you come home – I have also found that those recipes makes enough for a small army, so great option to add to your freezer meals!

Make sure to eat them rather consistently so that you don’t have the risk of them being freezer burned, as well labelling them with a piece of scotch tape, and then writing the contents and the date will help with keeping you honest about how long something has been in there (and also what it is that you’re heating up exactly… unless of course you want to play the frozen food roulette game..)


Prepping food shouldn’t be a stressful thing. Find out a pattern that works for you. However not having a plan can lead to unhealthy eating habits such as not getting a balanced diet,  or not eating enough calories by just eating that piece of toast and questionable apple in your fridge. It can also encourage habits of ordering in, eating take out, or fast food on a regular basis – now, don’t get me wrong, I like all of those things, and partake in them as well, but having them on a regular basis can start to have negative impacts on your waistline, wallet and health. Not having a plan can also lead to food waste – which is pretty much just throwing money in the garbage.

So my next challenge for you – Come up with one small thing that you will do this next few weeks to help make your meal planning  little easier. Let me know what you choose? Need some help deciding? Drop me a note! I’d be happy to help. Do you have any other suggestions that work for you?

Next Stage: Making your meal choices even healthier!



Are you looking for ways to change your nutritional habits? Interesting in losing a few pounds? Having more energy? Better performance in a sport? Have you thought about Nutrtion coaching? Finding a Nutrition Coach, can help develop healthy habits and food advice without changing everything at the same time. By developing habits slowly, you are more likely to make long term lifestyle changes. If you’re interested, I’m currently taking a few clients who are interested in making some changes. Please send me a PM on Facebook or Instagram for more information!


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