Fall Recipe And Meal Planning Ideas For Busy Nurses
The COVID-19 pandemic creates upheaval for many nurses. Those who aren’t in patient care settings probably worked from home most of the past year. Children were also home doing virtual school. Now school is back in session for the fall. What better time to get organized with a meal planning strategy and new homecooked recipes?
Your life is already busy — don’t let cooking nutritious meals for your family add to your stress. As we enter a time of transition this fall, with shorter days and new routines, let’s compile some fresh recipes for your cookbook and explore organized meal prep habits you can lean on.
Practical Ways to Meal Prep
There’s more to meal preparation than cooking meals in advance and storing them to grab and go later. It’s about strategizing and organizing. Follow these tangible tips to have nutritious meals on hand every day of the week:
- Choose 4 to 5 main courses and 2-3 sides to get you through the week.
You can eat leftovers for lunch if you make extra, or plan for more recipes if you want unique lunches. Choosing at least 5 recipes gets you through the work week — say goodbye to scrambling to make dinner from scratch each night.
- Create a grocery list and plan a weekly trip.
Throughout your week, jot down grocery items or recipe ingredients you need for the upcoming week. Pick a day to purchase the groceries and stick to that day. For example, if you plan to cook your meals on Sunday, do your grocery store trip on Saturday or early Sunday morning so you have everything you need for your meal prep day.
Bonus tip: Organize your grocery list according to the items’ location in the store to save time while you’re there. Put all of the produce in one section, dairy products in another, frozen food in another, etc. If you can, order your groceries online and pick them up or have them delivered directly to your home. This convenience will save you time.
- Designate a “meal prep” day.
Set aside one day to get your meals cooked, portioned, and set aside for the week ahead. On non-meal prepping days, try to limit the time you spend preparing food so you can use that time on other self-care activities like getting more sleep, exercising, or spending time with loved ones.
- Freeze extras to use the next week.
Knowing exactly how much of something to cook for an entire week isn’t always clear cut. It takes time and practice to get it right. If you have a plethora of ingredients (like a big batch of cooked veggies) after setting aside the week’s meals, don’t throw it away. Put it in storage bags and keep it in the freezer. Consider it a head start for the following week.
- Freeze smoothie ingredients to toss in a blender as needed.
Love the convenience (and nutrition) of fruit smoothies? Make it easy to enjoy one every day by prepping the ingredients in advance. On your meal prep day, put everything in a sealed freezer bag and store it away. Dump everything in the blender when you decide to make the smoothie. Prepare a variety of smoothie recipes so you have options to choose from.
- Cook a handful of items that you can combine to make different meals.
Variety is the spice of life — you probably don’t want to eat the same meals every day. Yawn. When you’re strategic about which foods to prep in advance, you can use them in a variety of ways to keep things interesting. For example, tomato sauce can be used over multiple foods like pasta, seasoned ground turkey, or even turned into a stew.
- Cook multiple items at once in the same pan.
To make meal prep even faster, wrap a pan in foil and work it to form a thin wall down the center. This makes a barrier between two different foods that you don’t want to touch as they cook. This also allows you to cook up to 4 recipes or foods at the same time in your standard oven.
Now let’s talk about fall recipes. Not sure what meals or side dishes work well with meal prepping? Try something from this list to get started:
- Mini Bacon, Egg and Cheese Bites
- Garlic Parmesan Roasted Vegetables
- Eggplant Salad With Roasted Tomatoes
- Baked Lime Chicken Bowls
- Creamy Pumpkin Soup
- Lemon Roasted Salmon with Sweet Potatoes
- Black Bean Quinoa Bowls
The key to successful meal prepping is organization. Take the time to create a plan before diving in, then dedicate a few hours on your designated meal prep day. It will save you time and energy in the long run, and you’ll be glad you did it.
Do you have a meal prep tip we didn’t mention here? Share it with us in the comments below.
Not a member of Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation (HNHN) yet? Join us today!