Here we are!  With mixed emotions of the end of summer and it’s simple freedoms to the newness and scheduled routines that fall brings, we are again at this time of year.  For families and students, focus comes back to school and sports and for others it can be jobs or plans that start to take over our thoughts. Regardless of your daily tasks, this can be an overwhelming time, mostly due to the “To Do” lists that show up.  

Often, an area that may not make it on that to do list, even though it is critically important, is meals. I think we can all agree that the school lunch task has at some point driven us crazy.

However, when looking at dinner time, this too can feel like a stress that adds to the daily load.  Also breakfast, the time where we seem to be the most rushed, in the morning, can also get missed or end up being something to pick up and gobble while rushing to get somewhere.  

I want to provide some helpful hints that may make these meals less daunting while also adding health benefits.  Why is that important?  Consider that everything we eat and drink provides our bodies with both fuel for energy as well as resources to build our cells and tissues and hormones and all things that make us, well, us.  The quality of those foods will greatly affect our ability to get through the day with vim and vigor or by dragging ourselves and feeling defeated. Why not give yourself the resources to be and feel your best?

Consider this use of your precious time:

- 30 minutes a Sunday morning planning out the meals for the week - list each day and each meal with either a recipe or main food contents. 

- 1 hour getting groceries

- 1 to 2 hours at home washing, chopping, and putting together a prep for the first half of the week (pre-cook 2 or 3 batches of rice or quinoa, chop up hard veggies and salad, precook chicken for salad/wraps, hard boil eggs).

- 30 minutes mid week to pick up new fresh fruits/veggies, as fresh is best, and because you ate ALL of the ones purchased on Sunday. Quality Greens is so quick to pop in and pick up local fresh produce - a huge time saver!

- Double or triple meals so that you have left overs, either for lunches or busy dinner nights.  Soups and casseroles are great for this!  If your family does not like left overs (gasp!), there are a number of ways to re-purpose foods like rice and chicken into rice bowls, where you add chopped veggies and a sauce like a curry or soy sauce or peanut dressing.  “Google” lots of ideas on using leftovers for new meals!

- Use days when you have more time to try NEW recipes (QG recipes are a great source to try!) Adds ones your love to your meal list, as new meals makes life fun!

Here is why the above plan works:

1) When you know WHAT you are going to eat, you think/worry/scramble/waste less time.  Just knowing what you are going to eat takes the pressure off.

2) When you have on hand the FOODS you need to make your meals that means less “quick” trips to the store.  We know those quick trips are not quick at all.  Buy once for a main week shop, and add a mid-week trip as a boost for the 2nd part of your week with new fresh fruits and veggies. Shopping at Quality Greens is as quick as it gets for picking up fresh produce.

3) ADDED BONUS: Using quality foods, you give yourself nutrient resources to have more energy, feel less tired, sleep better, less pain/inflammation, clearer thinking, and so on, which can all potentially cause less sick days and can add many benefits to your day and your life. 

Once this routine is a habit, it will take you even less time, since your meal list options will likely have 10 or so items that you repeat, so planning can become easier and quicker. Using a spread sheet to copy and paste and keep as your go to list can be helpful.

Menu plan example

Breakfast: hard boiled egg, multi grain toast, tomato and avocado

                Lunch: chicken salad (mixed veg)

                Dinner: Fish, asparagus, rice.  

Breakfast: Green smoothie with hemp seeds added for protein

                Lunch: Left over fish and rice on salad with olive oil, balsamic, garlic dressing 

                Dinner: Crock pot bean soup ready for when you get home and then run out the door to kids sports

Repeat for the other 5 days!

I know it may sound like a lot of work, but it just may be worth giving a try and see how it can change your daily consumption of time and stress :).

Have a great week!

Lisa Aschenbrenner, RHN - Registered Holistic Nutritionist 
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