Seriously a Game Changer.

buckle up, this is a long one friends!

Let me first start by saying sometimes I’m so good at this I’d consider myself a professional and sometimes I’m so GENUINELY terrible at this that we eat scrambled eggs and tortilla chips for dinner 3 nights in a row. So, you know, the beauty is in the imperfection here. But I will say, when I’m on my A-game, it’s seriously impressive and life is GOOD.

Also, I can not go on without saying that Ryan is a HUGE help with our meal prep. We are a really good team on pretty much everything and I never feel alone in cooking meals or shopping… We try to both operate at 100% instead of 50/50, meaning someone is always pulling more than their share of house stuff at any given time depending on the other’s workload, schedule, etc. It just works for us. But the meal planning is typically where my strength lies.

On Sunday I will sit down for about 30 – 60 minutes and map out our food for the week. Since we work from home, we are cooking 3 meals a day. So there’s definitely effort that goes in to planning. Plus, I am allergic to dairy and have a gluten intolerance. Adding that into the mix makes you really have to put your thinking cap on.

But I have a few tricks that make the job a little easier and, dare I say it, enjoyable? Here they are.

How I Meal Plan

The Recipe Notebook

My mom taught me this trick and it’s brilliant. I started putting together my own “notebook” last Fall and I can not tell you HOW much it has changed my life. The notebook is a simple 3-ring binder with dividers and page protectors. I print out my recipes for the week or copy them from my favorite recipe books and slide them into the page protectors. I’m essentially creating my very own recipe book filled with recipes we love and that are allergy friendly.

At first this seemed like a lot of extra work, but now that I have a solid collection of recipes, I LOVE IT. I try to add one to two new recipes into my binder each week and pull from my filed ones for the rest of our meals. It’s such a great way to catalog recipes you love, customize them with notes… like “needs more salt” or “bake for 45 minutes instead of 30”! I can’t tell you how much of a game changer this has been.

Again, this might seem like an inefficient idea, but in the long run it will save time. You don’t have to rack your brain for “that website with that recipe”, or wonder which of the 15 cookbooks on your shelf contains that one recipe you loved (out of hundreds you either didn’t love, haven’t tried yet, or can no longer eat because you have a food allergy!).

Everything that works in one place.

I have the recipes divided into categories and on Sunday I pull all the recipes I’m going to be making that week to the front of the binder. That way everything is super easy and everyone knows the plan!

Printable Meal Plan

The second thing I do is make a meal plan and pin it to the fridge. I made these printable meal plans (click here for a free download) and keep a handful of blank ones in the pocket of the notebook that I fill out each week.

It is such a great way to map everything out and stay organized. Also, it has been awesome for Ryan and I because, if I’m working late on a project, he’ll just start dinner by referencing the meal plan on the fridge and go to “The Notebook” for the corresponding recipe and vice-versa.

Also, I keep the meal plans from the previous week in my notebook to reference when I’m feeling extremely uninspired by meal planning. Because if worst comes to worst and I don’t have anything exciting or my brain just can’t make it happen, I pull out a backdated meal plan and use that.

Fast, Healthy, Shortcuts

I will say at first this may seem like a lot of work, but knowing that this is something you are creating to have forever and not just printing out a recipe only to thow it away once you’ve made it really makes it all feel more like a craft project and less like a chore!

  • Fab Four – We’ve been following the Be Well By Kelly ‘Fab Four’ way of eating for two years now and I think it’s the single most helpful thing we’ve ever done for ourselves. You can read all about the Fab Four lifestyle here, but essentially it’s just making sure that every meal has Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Greens. Knowing this is what we are striving for I always keep enough avocados, kale, and spinach on hand no matter what! So if it comes down to the wire and we’ve got to eat… I’ll scramble eggs, sautée kale, and top it off with avocado.
  • Smoothies – Since on a good week we are cooking the majority of our meals at home, we’ve cut the guess work out of breakfast and make a Fab Four smoothie every morning. I even travel with a small blender, no joke. It’s just easier if I don’t have to think about breakfast and know I’ll get the proper nutrition to start the day off right. We are pretty boring with the smoothie variety, and I probably should step it up a notch, but currently we either have Vanilla or Chocolate Protein powder, chia seeds, spinach, almond milk, almond/peanut butter, and ice. Simple and easy.
Where I Find Recipes

We all know Pinterest is a total no-brainer. I’ve created a great resource board full of healthy meals. But I have three places I always look when I’m recipe hunting:

  • Minimalist Baker – I absolutely adore Minimalist Baker. It’s mostly plant based, meaning no dairy, which is great for me when finding recipes! Although I typically will add in a protein like fish or chicken since we aren’t vegan.
  • Oh She Glows – Same here, I love her recipes and have found so many great ones and will just add a protein!
Tools, Appliances, Sources

Here are a few things I find myself grabbing for daily that have really made a big difference.

  • Vitamix Blender (currently $100 off!) and price matched on Amazon – I realize this is a serious investment, and trust me it took us a while to pull the trigger on it. I kept saying “it’s just a blender”, but the only thing I regret is not getting it sooner. This is a machine and makes our morning smoothie work a dream. Plus I make salad dressings, soups, and sauces weekly and it’s amazing.
  • NutriBullet Blender – This is the blender I travel with when I fly. It’s compact and easy to tote around. I will just pack protein and chia seeds in baggies and then find almond milk when I get to my destination. I know this may sound crazy, but we travel quite a bit and it just makes me feel so much better to have that one reliable meal
  • Corckcicles – We have 4 of the 24 oz Corkcicles and we use them every. single. day. They fit our smoothies perfectly, keep them COLD, and again, I don’t have to think about it.
  • Glass Straws – I’m all about saving the turtles and getting rid of plastic straws, but I am NOT about not being able to see what’s in my straw! ha! I found these glass smoothie straws and haven’t looked back. We have four.
  • Protein Powder – I’m kind of picky when it comes to protein powder, and I love Garden of Life’s Vanilla and Chocolate. We have it on a “subscribe and save” in our Amazon account so I don’t have to think about it. It’s good for you and vegan.
  • Large Bows – I find myself making a lot of bowl type meals and these bowls have made a huge difference. They hold a LOT, unlike my cereal bowls. Because if I’m going to make a kale salad for lunch, then I want it to be BIG.

Well, okay, if you made it this far you deserve a gold star! I realize this was long-winded, but when I sat down to write everything out I realized I had a LOT to share. Hopefully this is super helpful for you and your family. And of course if you have any tips and tricks, leave them in the comment section! I’d love to hear what works for you!


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  1. Thank you so much! I love this post!!! My 3 year old recently started asking me EVERY morning “Mama, what are we having tonight?” And I have to rack my brain on the spot and scramble for an answer. Not anymore! I love that your printable includes all 3 meals too. I have a question- do you have a go-to favorite salad dressing? I think homemade ones always taste better to me, but the one I make is from a packet mix and isn’t necessarily the healthiest.

  2. Hi Ashley! This is such a practical and informative post. You’re the one who inspired me to buy Kelly Leveque’s books and they have helped me so much!

  3. What a fabulous, inspirational post. I made a two week menu plan, started a binder with recipes for the meals, followed you on Pinterest, labeled the tops of my favorite spices and alphabetized them. I’m feeling on top of the world.

    Thank you!

  4. Love this! How can I get a copy of your binder? 😉 GF and DF is difficult and my recipe selection is pretty limited for everything except baked goods.
    This is so helpful!

  5. I needed this kick in the pants! A couple of years ago, I made myself a binder, meal planning forms, custom grocery lists, and all that jazz and it kept me so on top of my meal planning. I’ve been out of my routine and feeling it. Thanks for the inspiration to get back at it! Scrambled eggs and tortilla chips can only go so far 😉

  6. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! This is INCREDIBLE and so helpful! I’m allergic to dairy and egg whites, can’t have wheat, and have a digestive condition. Needless to say, I tend to feel overwhelmed by everything food-related, so this post is such a blessing!! I can’t wait to put these tips into practice. Thank you again!

  7. Oh my goodness I LOVE this!! One of my favorite posts you have written and so helpful and inspirational!! Thnak you! 🙂

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