Last night I attended a great lecture put on by Nourishing Ways of West Michigan all about quick and healthy meal planning. Jackie White (chef, caterer, teacher, and mother!) described her system for convenient, delicious, and healthy eating. I learned some great tips for food preservation, planning, and preparation that are simple, yet extremely helpful. I also got to try tasty, nutritious snacks for free- definitely a plus!
To make planning simple, Jackie sets the menu and purchases fresh food for the week all on one day. She also prepares much of the food for the week on this same day, including meat and snacks. The foundation of her system; however, is the preparation of six boxes which are stocked with healthy food at all times in the fridge: a salad/greens box, two vegetable boxes, a fruit box, an herb box, and a protein box.
The boxes Jackie uses are Lock & Lock brand and have a small tray inside which keeps chopped items fresh longer as air can circulate all around the food, not jut at the top. Regardless of the box brand, Jackie recommends that the boxes are clear (for easy viewing of contents), square or rectangle and stack-able for easy storage, and have lids to preserve freshness.
Jackie suggests putting a variety of chopped fruit in the fruit box (except pineapple, which is too acidic to be near other fruits), cleaned/cut carrots and celery in water (no tray needed) in one vegetable box, and sliced peppers and peeled and sliced onions in the other vegetable box. Having this done ahead of time makes for quick snacks to grab or easy additions to smoothies or meals.
The herb box should contain herbs covered with a wet paper towel or cloth, garlic, and ginger root. The protein box should contain items such as leftover cooked meat, boiled eggs, and tuna salad. Having all of the boxes ready at the beginning of the week saves time in actual daily meal preparation and makes for less dishes to wash on meal nights.
Some other tips that Jackie had for particular fruits and vegetables are:
- Do not wash grapes until ready to eat- the white powder on them is not a pesticide, but a needed part of the grape
- Brush off mushrooms; do not wash them as they absorb too much water (if not organic, I think I would still wash them right before eating)
- Cut potatoes and sweet potatoes and let them set in water so they won’t brown (I think she implied these should be in a separate food box or container)
- Wash broccoli and cauliflower, then chop and store in vegetable box
- Use lemon juice to keep apple slices fresh
Jackie also suggested planning the easiest meals for your busiest weekdays and always making small portion sizes (for example, muffin size meat loaves) as they cook faster and are easy to freeze leftovers in separate portions. She also suggested preparing snacks for the whole week on the planning day, such as muffins, fresh trail mix (with dried fruit, seeds, and carrots), etc. so they are always available.
Lastly, Jackie shared a great website (where she contributes some of her own recipes) that has other neat ideas for healthy food preparation. If you have any great tips of your own on keeping food fresh and planning easy, healthy meals, please let me know as I am always interested in more!