As a dental hygienist, balancing a busy personal life with strenuous work demands can easily result in making poor eating decisions.
My work schedule is non-traditional and ever-changing, which I love, but it requires a certain level of discipline and planning for maintaining a healthy and nutritious diet. Over time, I found that meal planning has allowed me to consistently achieve a balanced diet.
When I began weekly meal planning, I noticed that I was able to ✔️save time, ✔️reduce waste, ✔️stick to a more nutritious diet and ✔️spend less money for lunch during the week.
Here are a few tips that have helped along the way:
Use Pinterest for inspiration
I’ve been using Pinterest for years to find and save new recipes. I created a Pinterest board titled “Work Eats” that I reference when I’m brainstorming tasty lunch meals. Also, I like to keep it fun and use themes for inspiration in my weekly meal planning. For example, I’ll search for “Meatless Monday” or “Taco Tuesday” recipes to get some meal ideas to prepare for the beginning of my work week. Using a theme to narrow down options can help to save time and make quick recipe decisions.
Grocery shop on your day off
Shopping for your meals can take a couple of hours out of your day. Don’t leave this for an evening when you’re already hungry and tired from work. Create a shopping list with ingredients that can be used for multiple meals. Overlapping ingredients can save a lot of time and allow you to prepare multiple meals at once. For even more convenience, you can order ahead and have your groceries delivered on a certain day every week!
Prep and cook food ASAP
For speedier meal planning, I find that preparing and cooking my meals as soon as I get home from the grocery store works best for me. I like to cook all of my protein at once to save time, and I use my oven and slow cooker for ease. For example, I’ll bake chicken in the oven and cook a pot roast in the slow cooker while I'm washing and chopping vegetables. Multitasking is key!
Invest in food storage containers
Food storage containers are super helpful in organizing your meals for the work week. I purchase containers with multiple compartments to make it easier to portion things out and avoid over-eating. I also like to label my containers with each day of the week to stay on track. BPA-free microwaveable containers are perfect to quickly heat meals during your lunch break.
Use your freezer
The freezer is your best friend. I find it useful to make extra batches of food and freeze the additional recipes for the future. I pack the foods into freezer bags and label each bag with the name of the food and packaging date to remain organized. For those super busy weeks when cooking is not an option, frozen meals are a life saver!
Bonus tip: Don’t stress over it
Meal planning should aid in simplifying your life, not make it more challenging. Keep it simple, have fun with new recipes, and find the best ways to make meal planning work well for you!
Need a few ideas? Here are some recipes in my regular meal-planning rotation:
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