Real Life Meal Prep: Getting Totally Thrown Off (And Recovering)

healthy grocery rabbitOn Saturday, I shopped and planned to prep the following for the week:

  • meatballs with zucchini noodles
  • bibimbap with chicken
  • veggie sticks with yogurt dip
  • oatmeal chocolate chip cookies with coconut oil
  • summer fruit muffins

On Sunday, I prepped…nothing.  I woke up with a bad cold at 3am and had to sleep it off; I had zero energy to cook (or clean up after cooking).  Monday was more of the same, until finally, around 10pm, I felt mostly back to normal.  (But I’m not crazy enough to start meal prepping that late on a weeknight.)  So, Tuesday, I still had nothing cooked ahead to eat.  I also choose not to eat dairy when I’m congested, so I had a fridge full of yogurt, cheese, and cottage cheese that weren’t doing me any good.

During those three days, I ate:

  • scrambled eggs, with added egg whites when I remembered
  • smoothies
  • leftover rice with veggies and tofu
  • pumpkin soup (made with canned pumpkin and garlic-ginger broth)
  • cereal with coconut milk and berries

In other words, nothing from my prep list, and lots of stuff from the pantry, freezer, and last week’s leftovers.

I finished work Tuesday night around 8:30pm, so I could almost have fit in a whole 90 minutes of meal prep…but I also had only four more days of the week left to prep for!

Here’s how I chose to recover from getting thrown off my regular schedule:

  1. I froze half of the chicken and cooked the other half with just coconut oil, salt, and pepper so that it’s ready for whatever.
  2. I made the meatballs and zoodles.
  3. I made the cookies.
  4. I put off making some rice.

My hands-on time for all of that cooking was about 15 minutes, including cleanup from the prep dishes.  I really didn’t have to do much – literally nothing other than heating a pan for the chicken and opening a couple of ziploc bags, slicing some zucchini and mixing the ground beef with an egg, some already ground oats, and some herbs, and mixing the rest of the ground oats with another egg, coconut oil, and the rest of the cookie ingredients (I have the basic recipe memorized, so I didn’t have to take time to look anything up).  I could have made the rice while all of this was going on but, honestly, I forgot.  (I will probably put it on first thing in the morning so it can be done before I start work.)

This level of meal prep…

  • took care of all the perishable stuff that I had purchased for the week, especially the meat (I hate when I let meat go bad, so I have been focusing on getting stuff cooked or into the freezer ASAP)
  • left me set up with lunches, snacks, and dinners for the rest of the week – I’m making smoothies or cereal parfaits for breakfast for the rest of the week, so no prep is needed for breakfast
  • is far better for me (and cheaper) than just giving up and getting takeout because I missed my official meal prep day!

This is reality…

Life happens!  This is far from the first time when I got my grocery shopping done but didn’t get to meal prep before the week was already off and running, whether it was from illness, vacation, or work.  I didn’t let my already-purchased food go to waste just because I had to adjust my plan. I didn’t give up and spend the rest of the week trying to cobble  mediocre meals together, running to the grocery store every night for convenience items to fill in the gaps, or relying on takeout – especially when I already spent my food budget for the week on groceries!

Even if you’re only going to be in town for part of the week or if surprises come up that throw you off of your regular schedule, it’s still worth making sure you can feed yourself with intention for the rest of the week, especially if you’ve already got the groceries in your house!

If you find that you’re having to freeze your groceries every week, you might be buying too much or planning too many different foods.  Don’t be afraid to simplify – or to use your freezer stash as part of your meal plan for the next week.

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