I’m very excited to have Nicole from Planning with Kids sharing some of her great tips and strategies for planning ahead to make sure you are getting everything you need in your week and you are never stuck for something to eat when you get busy or have to grab something between a run and work or getting the kids to school.

If you’d like to get Nicole to help you with streamlining more than just your food, you can sign up for her 7 week online course, Planned and Present which starts on the 16th October.

A consequence of training quite a bit, is that you need to eat quite a bit. Nutrition plays such an important role in both performance and recovery for training and racing. I am not a nutritionist and have sought advice in the last few years to help me come up with the right nutrition plan for me. To be able to execute the plan, I have become very practiced at prepping and cooking lots of food to keep me fuelled for my training.

Each weekend I undertake a weekly prep session to make sure that I eat enough of the right foods to make sure I can train the way I want to. There are weeks when for whatever the reason, I don’t get a chance to do a weekly prep session or only do a very small session. I always find I don’t eat as well when this happens and it does have an impact on my training. I might find that towards the end of my end long run for example, that I feel like the tank is empty, when usually I wouldn’t feel like that at all. The upside to experiencing this occasionally is that it reinforces to me how important my weekly prep is.

Having been at this food prep game for a number of years now, I have learnt ways to make it as easy and as efficient as possible for myself:

1. Determine what to cook

I don’t plan out every single meal and snack I have across the week, but I make sure I have a pretty good idea of how it will go:

  • Breakfasts – I have a few different smoothies that I will have for breakfast, like this Choc Coconut Smoothie or something similar with big handfuls of greens and protein powder instead of eggs. Weekly prep wise I make sure I cut up and flash freeze plenty of bananas so I have plenty to make my breakfasts.
  • Lunch – my lunches and dinners are interchangeable. They contain a starchy carb, veggies, protein and a some fat. Think left over taco meat, sweet potato, avocado and broccoli. I will look at my week ahead and work out what starchy carbs I will need for my lunches and what veggies I want to have with them.
  • Dinners – I create weekly menu plans for the family dinners and I use this as the base for my dinners too. I try to eat what the family eats as much as possible but I do need to make some substitutions and additions to cater for my food preferences and the quantity of food I eat. For example when the family has Spaghetti Bolognese., I will sub out the spaghetti and have the meat with either rice or sweet potato and veggies.
  • Sweet treats – I do have a bit of a sweet tooth, so most weeks I will make something that I can have as a dessert or sweet treat. I often like to experiment with these and copy raw treats I have had out and about, so will write up a list of ingredients I will need to make it.
  • Condiments – I do eat a lot of veggies now but I am not one of those people that love veggies. I don’t jump with excitement at the thought of a plate of broccoli! To help me with my veggie intake I make a number of my own condiments like dukkah, garlic aioli, fresh salsa, kimchi, etc. Dukkah seriously makes everything taste better! I will look at what condiments I have on hand and generally make at least one each weekend.

2.Work out when to cook it

With five kids who have sporting and social activities, a husband who plays weekend sport and trains himself, to fit my long run in and food prep I need to plan out in advance when I will cook so it actually happnens. By Thursday I tend to know all the details for the commitments we have on the weekend and I can determine when I will have time for prepping food. By looking at this in advance it means that I can then make sure I have been shopping so I have all the ingredients on hand when I start to cook.

As I have cooked most of the items before, I have a rough idea of how long each recipe will take me. Food prep however tends to take longer than you think at it is always completed amongst the usual activities of family life – making kids something to eat, talking with the kids, helping with homework, resolving disputes etc, so you need to always allow for more time than you think you need!

There is a bit of art to working out what to cook when, so you can minimize the time in the kitchen and the amount of clean up you have to do:

  • Making recipes in bulk – I also incorporate weekly prep for the kids’ school lunches on the weekend, so planning out the meals I cook means that I can get a lot of bang for my buck from one meal cooked in bulk. For example I might cook up 2kg of taco meat (using my own seasoning) and this will be for:
    • Dinner that night
    • The protein element for my lunches
    • Taco parcels for the kids’ lunches
  • I try to make at least two things each time I cook to save on set up, pack up and clean up time. Each time I cook, I have to wipe benches, stack dishwasher etc, afterwards so it makes sense to limit the number of times I have to do this.
  • I take into account things like cooking time or setting time, so I can make other things while that is happening. For example with kimchi, I need to leave the salted cabbage for a couple of hours, so will prepare that first off and when I have cakes/muffins etc for the kids’ lunches in the oven baking, I will wash and prep veggies to eat through out the week.
  • If I am using the food processor for a few things, I will work out if there is a recipe I should make first so I don’t have to wash it in between uses. For example if I am going to be making my own chicken mince (throwing chicken breasts into the food processor!), I will do that after I have used the food processor for grating veggies. I am happy to have grated veggie scraps in my chicken mince, but once raw chicken has been in the food processor it has to be washed.

3. Storing the food

How much food I have to store varies each week. I generally don’t put anything in the freezer and find that most food lasts until Friday if I store it well. I use glass containers with lids where possible. You can find some good advice on food storage times here, but you need to make your own decision on how long you store your food for.

For things like cut veggies sticks (carrot, capsicum, celery etc), I have found using glass jars with lids with a few drops of water at the bottom keep them fresh for 3 – 4 days. We have a comparatively small fridge, so I always do a clean out each weekend of anything old (if there is anything left) to make room for the new and start all over again.

Nicole Avery is a Melbourne mum to five beautiful kids aged 8 to 18, who loves running, CrossFit, tea and spreadsheets. She has run 5 marathons, the most recent being the Great Wall of China Marathon with her husband to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary. Nicole is the creator of the Planned & Present e-course, a 7 week online course designed for mums to help them streamline the known repetitive tasks of family life, so there is more time for the fun bits of life – like running!

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Zoey Dowling

Written by: Zoey Dowling

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