“Luck is when preparation meets opportunity”.

Your success in many areas of your life, including your health, very much has to do with just this. “Luck” is often no more than being prepared for when an opportunity arises, planning to make concrete the hopes you have. Ok, so what does this have to do with your nutrition? Well, like most things in life, good nutrition doesn’t just “happen”. It’s the result of a lot of thought, preparation, planning. Even if you have the best of intentions, if your fridge is empty, your kids are starving and you have nothing in mind for dinner, your meeting ran late and you have no idea what you’ll make when you get home, it’s very difficult to follow through with those intentions. If, however, you plan a bit, you spend a little time at the beginning of each week before grocery shopping, planning meals, thinking through when you could make what and how that would work with your week and your schedule, not only is your grocery shopping trip likely to be much more productive and supportive of your healthy goals, but you may even find you save some money and actually enjoy eating well.

With that in mind, I wanted to give you a little peek into my typical week. Saturdays or Sundays, depending on the weekend’s “to-do” list, are my shopping day. While I sometimes have to supplement throughout the week (it’s always a toss up as to how much my toddler will eat these days!), I normally only do one real grocery trip a week. This helps keep me from straying from my meal plans (since I only have those planned ingredients), and encourages us to not do take-out, as that’s just wasted food and, therefore, wasted money if I don’t make a meal that I planned to. I try to always keep some staples on hand (flour, rice/pasta/quinoa, eggs, butter, olive oil, spices, etc.), and typically have some selection of meat/poultry in our freezer. I will often buy it in bulk when it’s on sale and then wrap and package it into individual portions to freeze for later use. I’ll look around for recipe inspiration on some of my favorite blogs, modify as needed to use up ingredients that we already have or so that more than one recipe will utilize the ingredients I’m buying, create a meal plan for the week (usually dinner; breakfast is always some rotation of the same things, so I just keep a few of those options on hand), and then build my shopping list around that plan and what I know we already have in the pantry at home. Here is my “plan” for this week; I’ve included some notes about where I found the recipe and what I’m buying vs what’s already at the house, etc. to give you a better feel of what meal planning can and should look like.

SUNDAY – “Green” Chicken w/ green beans – this is also known as “Chicken Diane”, but growing up, my brother and I called it “green chicken” because of its herby-green sauce. I already have chicken at home, and green beans in the freezer. I’ll be buying the parsley and green onions I need for it.

MONDAY – Chicken Empanadas (smittenkitchen.com) – Again, I have the chicken, as well as the flour, butter, and eggs for the empanada dough. I’ll be getting green olives (which my son will eat some of with his lunches this week) and some chorizo. We’ll probably have this with a side salad (I keep greens of some sort on hand for smoothies and side salads all the time)

TUESDAY – Shrimp Salad “Picnic” – Whole Foods makes a fun little shrimp salad thing seasonally. They just started making it again, but I don’t like to buy prepared stuff like this too often because of it’s cost. So, I’ll just get a little of it to complement a little picnic-y spread. I’ll also get crackers, spreadable goat cheese (which I can use on salads), and serve it with apple slices (already at the house, bought a big bag on sale), and pickled veggies (also at the house from a previous dinner last week)

WEDNESDAY – Lettuce Wrap Burgers – I already have grass-fed beef portioned into half-pound packages in the freezer. I’ll buy lettuce (salads, anyone!?) and avocado to go on it; we’ll add kimchi that we have at home, and mustard/ketchup. Might use some of that goat cheese, too!

THURSDAY – Egg Roll Bowls – recipe is on my website (backtoscratch.net); I have ground pork left over in the freezer from meatballs last week; I’ll buy cabbage, kale, and mushrooms to go with it (I always have onions at home).

FRIDAY – Carrot Salad w/ Chickpeas and Venison Meatballs – (smittenkitchen.com & orangette’s lamb meatballs) – I have carrots, will be getting parsley for the green chicken, and have venison at home (my dad hunts – thanks, dad!) that I’ll use in place of the lamb in this recipe.

SATURDAY – date night! Hubby and I typically get some form of take-out (after the kiddos are in bed) once a week for a little in-house “date night”. So, I don’t have to plan for one night a week!

Ok, that’s it! Now, the empanada recipe will make more than we will eat; leftovers will either be frozen and used for future dinners or eaten for lunches this week. The egg roll bowl will also have leftovers, which I’ll eat for lunch. I anticipate the carrot salad and meatballs also being more than we’ll eat in one sitting, so again, leftovers for lunches or for a dinner early next week (since I’ll make it fresh Friday). As you can see, not only do we have a wide variety of meal options, but I make sure to use ingredients in multiple dishes to prevent waste and avoid buying an excessive amount of groceries. Working from home, I’m more capable than many in making things from scratch, the day I want to have them. However, if that’s not your situation, have no fear; with a little additional preparation, you can still succeed with a meal plan like this. After grocery shopping, prep ingredients for the week so that you just have to put things together each day. For example, pre-cut all the veggies for the egg roll bowls and just cook on Thursday. Feel free to make the empanadas on the weekend and reheat for Monday’s dinner. Same goes for the meatballs and the carrot salad can be made a couple days in advance, with the chickpeas added just before serving.

I may work from home, but with 2 kids under 3 years of age underfoot, making meals is definitely still a challenge! Don’t underestimate yourself or the power of good planning and preparation. Goals without plans are just wishes.

Aubrey Phelps MS RDN LDN