With the recent return of my menopause brain fog, so my ability to organise my life and structure things like meal planning and meal prep has been severely curtailed! The good news is that after 12 weeks back on Oestrogel I seem to be on the way back up and am beginning to feel better, so much so that I have decided to focus on my health and fitness again, but that means being better organised!
I know that planning and prepping meals and snacks really does save time, reduce stress and help with weight loss goals. My daughter is home for the summer, fresh from her degree and Norland diploma which included modules on food technology and meal planning, she is going to help me get back on track and organise my shopping and freezer again!
Looking back to when I did The Body Coach, I realise just how organised I was and how it made such a big difference in helping me lose some weight and then maintain that loss. But life got busy and I started making excuses and my better habits faded away. I've had bursts of focus, I loved doing my Menu & Mind course with Jo from Time to Nourish and learnt so much about healthy eating and batch cooking. Then the pandemic seemed to knock us all off kilter and here I am nearly three years later trying to get back to a better routine. I hate feeling disorganised but I feel like I have been muddling through for too long.
I am definitely not a cook and although I don't mind being in the kitchen I do want my time to be used as efficiently as possible and to be able to create healthy meals and snacks with the minimum of fuss in the minimum of time!
This blog post contains gifted products and affiliate links.
Meal planning and healthy meal prep
The best way to achieve all this is to meal plan, create a shopping list, then make time for meal prepping. But it doesn't need to be complicated, so on this blog post I am sharing my simple tips for nutritious food and healthy meal prep ideas ... do add any of your own ideas in the comments below! It really is just a few thoughts on what works for me to keep life simple and easy.
There are three ways to meal prep:
Batch cooking - ideal for family meals where you cook a dish, freeze it, then add the side dishes on the day you want to eat it.
Individually Portioned Meals - where you store a complete meal including the fresh vegetables in a suitable container and heat up as needed during the week ahead - ideal if it just one or two of you are at home and you need quick and easy when you get in from work.
Prepped ingredients - where you simply prepare the fresh components of a meal ahead of time, so chop and store vegetables and fruit for example or add all the raw ingredients for a casserole to a bag and freeze, ready to pop into the slow cooker or oven.
But where to start?
Make a list of what is in the freezer
I know this sounds too simple and too obvious but how many of us really know what is lurking in our freezer? I found five bags of oven chips when I had a sort out recently.! I don't even use them very often!
So my daughter and I started by making a list of what actually is in the freezer, one that is pinned to the front of the fridge/freezer and one that she has stored in the notes on her phone. This means that it is always available whenever or wherever we do our online shopping or need to decide what's for dinner.
Split your list into relevant sections, mine looks something like this:
Drawer 1 - Meat/fish/protein
Drawer 2 - Ready prepared meals
Drawer 3 - Frozen vegetables
Drawer 4 - Bread, cakes, pastry, misc items
Chest freezer - convenience foods like chips, bread, frozen herbs, onions, smoothie mixes
Then keep it up to date by crossing off the relevant item every time you take something out of the freezer! Obvious I know but so easy not to bother, I keep my list visible so I am reminded every evening to check it.
Create a weekly meal plan
I did generally manage to do this even at my least organised but it was a bit hit or miss with sticking to it, and I often go off-piste if it is just me and my husband or inevitably plans change at the last minute. So now I am being stricter with myself!
Create your own meal plan, download a free meal planner or buy a meal planner notebook - there are loads available - I now use my diary, on the left it has a section for 'Meal Planner', 'Tracker' and 'Important Things This Week' and on the right it has my week to view diary, It means my schedule is immediately to hand when I am planning my week.
Then I sit down with my daughter on a Sunday afternoon and we plan our weekly meals ...
We discuss which nights we need a meal, who is in for the meal and how much time do we have to prepare it depending on our other commitments. If we are busy, then we love having a prepped meal from the freezer - batch cooking at it's best. I call them my 'here's one I made earlier' meals, all the Blue Peter vibes!
We then look at our freezer stock list and allocate meals to days, write it all down, choose recipes and finally we create our shopping list!
I like the idea of having a meal framework for the week - so certain types of meal on specific nights - like Fish Friday, Taco Tuesday, Sunday Roast and so on ... not quite there with this yet but it makes sense.
Write your shopping list
Make a shopping list and stick to it! I do most of my supermarket grocery shopping online with Ocado, I have been doing my weekly shop like this for over 20 years! I still go to the supermarket but only for top up items or when I haven't planned properly and have run out of ingredients. We also have a really good farm shop just 5 minutes drive away and I use it for fresh fruit and vegetables, bread and to top up larder items.
After we have meal planned, we do our online Ocado order Sunday afternoon for delivery on Monday morning.
Outfit: white vest top from Uniqlo, skirt Baukjen sale, belt from Wyse London
For 15% off full price styles at Baukjen please use code FIFTYANDFAB15
Plan plan and plan ...
Now I am getting into a better routine again, my best timesaver is looking ahead to the next day, every single day! So I always know what is for dinner and if I need to grab any extra ingredients or I have a busy day ahead, I can plan for it. It also means I am less likely to give in to unhealthy convenience meals or eat an entire packet of biscuits because I have allowed myself to get hungry.
Batch cook and prep meals in advance
Going back to my Blue Peter 'here's one I made earlier' approach there really is nothing better than knowing. you have a healthy, homecooked, favourite meal already made and in the freezer for when you need it. How good does it feel to know you have a chilli, a curry, a spaghetti bolognese or casserole portioned up and ready to heat and serve? Massive timesaver!
I am not a big fan of weekend batch cooking, it is too messy and for me, time-consuming, but what I do love is cooking double quantities of every meal that works for freezing - shepherds pie on a Sunday, make two! Or just freeze the meat and then you only need to worry about adding the topping.
Batch cooking like this works for family meals but I also portion some up individually too. When my daughter was away at uni then she knew she had some homemade meals to take back with her. My freezer therefore has a combination of Meals for 4, Meals for 2 and Meals for 1. And if my son turns up unannounced then I am ready!
It isn't perfect but it works most of the time.
Meal prep containers
I use a selection of foil food containers (ready to go in to the oven) and reusable plastic containers (BPA free). Bags for soups are really good too and as we are all more conscious of sustainability and the health benefits of avoiding single-use foil or plastic, then if you have the storage space having a selection of reusable pyrex style glass containers with lids would be perfect.
The foil containers are easy to label, I write on the lid, for the plastic containers I have a supply of Freezer Labels.
From ready chopped frozen garlic, ginger and herbs to smoothie bags and complete meals, never be afraid to cheat! There are no awards for always chopping your own garlic. I love the range from Waitrose, especially the chopped onion! Why would you chop your own when you can just grab a handful from the freezer!?
Use a meal delivery service
If time is not on your side, if you want to be able to really focus on your health goals, if cooking for a family is no longer necessary, then you might really love trying one of the many meal delivery services available. From recipe boxes to complete ready prepared meals, there is so much choice available now and they are no longer considered to be convenience food or ready-meals.
I have used Gousto, Mindful Chef and Hello Fresh in the past. Gousto is still my favourite for family meals, Mindful Chef is great for when it is just me and my husband and we are trying to eat more healthily! Hello Fresh is my least favourite, just personal preference though, nothing wrong with them!
I recently got to try out two meal delivery services ...
The Good Prep is a meal delivery service that does it all for you. The meals are designed to refuel your mind and body with all the good stuff. You pick a plan that suits your needs based on weight loss goals, maintenance, activity level and schedule. And then your fresh, fully prepared, ready to reheat meals are delivered to your door twice a week.
I tried out their Trim & Slim meal plan and my husband tried out the Maintain & Sustain range. We were sent 5 days of fully prepared meals, for the Trim & Slim you get breakfast, lunch and dinner and for Maintain & Sustain you get lunch and dinner. Delivery is free nationwide. There are several different plans to choose from and you can do a 2 Day Taster or you can Design Your Own.
If I was to do it again, I'd choose Design Your Own, as I found the meals to be quite filling and I didn't always want a proper meal at lunchtime especially if I was out and about, or meeting friends. My ideal would be a breakfast and dinner delivered! A personal chef would be even better (she dreams)!
The Good Prep meals were easy to heat and serve, were very tasty and didn't feel 'ready made', I loved that they were all nutritionally balanced and low carb/high protein so they kept me full. I was especially keen on the breakfasts, like the Wild Berry and Collagen Protein Mousse and the Chocolate Protein Mousse, the Choc Chip Overnight Oats were also excellent! Lunches and dinners are interchangeable and include recipes like Chicken Thai Curry or Rigatoni Bolognese (which was excellent). There are also snacks to choose from like Sweet Potato Brownies or Granola Bites. You can add side dishes and they also offer a tasty selection of fresh detox juices.
Cook My Grub deliver healthy home-cooked meals nationwide, freshly made by home based chefs that have trained in allergy awareness and hygiene. They offer a massive choice of different world cuisines and the quality of the Indian meal we tried for a dinner party was as good as, if not better than, any restaurant. Cook My Grub is ideal for an occasional 'healthier' takeaway, you download their app and you will be offered options for chefs that are cooking that week, select your preferred day and your meals will be delivered to you, beautifully packaged and chilled, ready to reheat at your convenience. I had some leftover and froze them. Full heating instructions are given on the app. For £5 off and to find out more, see my blog review of Cook My Grub.
Love Struck Smoothies are another really easy way to cut out the prep, save on storage and eat well. They provide smoothies, shakes and soups in ready to blend frozen packs that you can then whizz up yourself! Each bag contains pre-chopped and pre-mixed ingredients, I just add milk or water and yoghurt and blend in my Nutri Ninja. I really love these, you can buy direct from Love Struck Smoothies or Ocado have a good selection! Of course you can also make your own smoothies, either from fresh or mix up your own bags and freeze!
Healthy snacks ready to go ...
Don't be tempted by the biscuit tin! Either make your own snacks in advance, I like to make protein balls, muffins or oat cookies, then I store them for the week ahead and I am not tempted by unhealthy bags of crisps or cakes!
If baking isn't your thing, then do have a look at Claire's Amazeballs, I currently have a subscription for two boxes of eight energy balls delivered to me every month. They are homemade, healthy energy balls using 100% natural ingredients and they taste amazing! Each flavour combination has been carefully selected to ensure a delicious balance of vitamins, protein and antioxidants, they are vegan and gluten free! And I love them! I am. always delighted when my next mixed box arrives! Find all the details about these delicious energy balls at Claire's Amazeballs.
Left to right: Claire's Amazeballs, Love Struck Smoothies either buy direct or via Ocado.
Embrace Over 50 - 30 Day Programme
I have just started the Embrace Over 40 - 30 Day Programme from Katie Walton (gifted blog collaboration). Katie is an experienced fitness and wellness professional and she has put together a 30 day programme using her tried and tested methods for a healthy lifestyle.
We all know that weight loss around the time of perimenopause and menopause gets more difficult and despite thinking we are eating the right foods, we still cannot seem to achieve or maintain long-term weight loss.
Katie teaches her Embrace Over 40 clients what exercises really work, what are the best foods to eat, and what supplements we should be taking.
The Embrace over 40 plan includes a daily workout video sent to your inbox and ready to view on YouTube, a shopping list, a daily menu plan and all the recipes you need. Katie will also be there to support you via text and zoom calls!
This is not a diet, it is a health reset, a way to learn what and how to eat at this phase in our lives. Weight loss is a bonus! Feeling better is the goal!
I have just started on the Embrace Over 40 Programme and I will be sharing my progress, thoughts and results on Instagram, Facebook and here on my blog.
I needed to be more organised to do this plan. I knew I needed to focus on my health and fitness again and now I feel my hormones have settled down, I am ready to take back control of my health!
I am feeling much better for my renewed focus and I am really going to miss my daughter's help when she starts her new job in the autumn. It is amazing to have someone around who will take a turn at cooking - my husband doesn't cook! He does lots of other things but being in the kitchen is not one of them.
Disclaimer: this blog post contains gifted products and affiliate links. Gifted items from The Good Prep, Love Struck Smoothies, Cook My Grub and Embrace Over 40.
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Welcome to Fifty & Fab, a lifestyle blog to inspire you. I am a blogger with a passion for writing about style, beauty, health and fitness with a focus on the over 50's. I am based in Marlow but work across London and the South East.
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Hi, I’m Michelle and my blog Fifty & Fab is all about my journey into and through my fifties. I share style tips, health and fitness inspiration, I talk about my holidays and days out and I tell you about my beauty regime and my lifestyle. I hope you might pick up a tip or two and get some inspiration!
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