If you are anything like me you tend to spend a lot of time on Pinterest googling those meal-plans that seem to be too good to be true. You know the ones. The ones that are prepped in one afternoon to create a weeks worth of scrumptious breakfasts, lunches and snacks that don’t resemble a container full of left-overs from last nights dinner (don’t get me wrong we do those too). But one that is full of nutrients, tastes good and doesn’t contain the typical refined carbs and loads of sugar and sodium.

Now the problem with most of these meal plans are that they typically contain a lot of US based prep ingredients and don’t always relate well to some of the amazing, seasonal, South African produce available to us. I am also a stickler for saving money now that hubby and I work together in our own consultancy and try to create meals that our little ones might enjoy too.

I have been attempting to take better care of myself over the last few weeks as I have been feeling a bit lethargic, stressed, haven’t been exercising or eating well and have also seen my skin, hair and nails suffer (not to mention my mood being less than ideal in terms of coping with stress and the general chaos of managing a family of four).

I spent yesterday morning catching up with one of my oldest and dearest friends, who also happens to be in great shape with glowing skin. I remembered for the first time in a long time that unless you put in the time and effort, your post-mommy body, hair and skin will not be the same or even recover in the same way it did in my twenties. It is time for a proper makeover – and since the best bodies, minds and skin is built in the kitchen, I decided to give a proper South African meal prep a try.

Stocking up for the week

It’s always a great idea to do a bit of a scouting exercise in the kitchen to see what you already have in terms of staples and snacks and to plan around it.

In our house this includes:

  • Olive- or coconut oil
  • Black pepper, Himalayan salt, and a variety of herbs and spices
  • Lemon juice or fresh lemon
  • Fresh garlic, ginger and chili (bottle mixes of these are easily available in Pick ‘n Pay, Checkers and Woolies near the fresh produce)
  • Onions, tomatoes, butternut and courgettes
  • Salad drawer: Lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cucumber (I buy the Mediterranean variety as they are smaller and don’t go off as quickly)
  • Seeds and nuts (pre-mixed seeds I usually buy from Dischem and almonds from either Dischem or Woolworths).
  • Yogurt and cheese – my daughter and I love yogurt and we seem to go through cheese at a scary rate – I usually buy mozzarella and parmesan for snacking and pasta)
  • Eggs: Breakfast food of champions when scrambled, awesome protein for snacking when built and staple for baking in our house)
  • Rye: Although the kids still love sandwiches (I mean who doesn’t dig grilled cheese) I have opted to have a slice of rye when I feel like eggs on toast or tuna mayo open sandwiches.
  • Rice and pasta: This kids love rice (it is a bit of a South African staple, we have however started to scout for bulk brown basmati or brown and wild rice which gives a great source of fibre)
  • Oats: Hubby loves oats for breakfast – the flavored variety contains LOADS of sugar, so I would recommend buying steel cut oats and adding honey, cinnamon and cocoa to add your own sugar free flavourings to this popular breakfast.
  • Meat: We typically buy skinless chicken breasts and lean mince. We also stock up on sardines and tuna for lunches and snacks.
  • Coffee, tea and green tea: Say what you want about caffeine – but take away my coffee and I just might cut you! So for the reason of public safety we ensure that there is always good coffee in the house (and try and limit intake to two cups before noon, and thereafter switch to green tea and water.

I try and keep these items in the house and typically just top on fresh fruit and herbs as we need them or if we are cooking up a specific recipe.

Planning for the week

My hubby and our amazing nanny help out a lot with the kids meals. As we homeschool we have a much easier time ensuring the kids eat small, regular meals and snacks and also get enough water during the day. But this still means that breakfast, lunch and a healthy snack makes up the biggest requirements of eating healthy in our house. Hubby and I have a rather erratic schedule and travel to clients for work, so unless we plan and pack lunches we end up falling back on drive throughs and carb laden crisps or sandwiches during the week. My husband is a machine when it comes to meal planning and prep – and during times where his exercise routine starts ramping up he is an inspiration of clean-eating and portion control. I find that I can plan and schedule every member of the household but my own. By the time the kids are sorted and hubby is out the door – I sometimes run a little late or convince myself that I would quickly shoot home during lunch time to catch up. I never do.

So starting this week I needed to plot out what my week is like, where I typically fail dismally and how I can prep ahead of time on Sunday afternoon that will rock this weeks meals and sort out my energy levels, mood skin and budget.

The shopping list for the week included:

  1. Single serving double cream yogurt
  2. Blueberries
  3. Grain free granola
  4. Lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber and salad onions
  5. Fresh lemons (I add a few slices to my water during the day)
  6. 1 bag of bulk roasting veg (contains peppers, courgettes, butternut and fresh rosemary)
  7. Fresh
  8. Baby carrots (for snacking with hummus)
  9. Fresh coriander

Breakfasts for the week

I am not big on breakfast. I typically skip it because I cannot first thing in the mornings when I wake up. It is also a crazy time at home as this is typically when we get the kids up and ready for the day, the nanny or my sons tutor arrives and the everlasting battle for the bathroom commences.

I decided to keep breakfast easy and decided on:

  • Double cream yogurt
  • Grain free granola and
  • Blueberries

or

  • Scrambled or poached eggs on rye

Lunches for the week

I like some variety on lunches and find I am less motivated to eat the same meal every day (even though hubby can do chicken breasts and sweet potato for days on end).

or

  • Salad Nicoise (Hard-boiled egg, tuna, butter lettuce, salad onions and tomato)

or 

  • Chicken breast with penne pasta and home made pasta sauce

Snacks for your bag

I eat in the car. It’s a bad habit I know but driving around kids, picking up printing jobs or racing through for client meeting meet there are invariably days that we are in the car around meal times or craving something to snack on en-route. I have a “car-kit” that I set up one afternoon when I cleaned up another round of crisp packets, chocolate wrappers and containers from take-out that was purchased due to bad planning. If there is ever a way to wreck your budget eating on the move is it! There is a well-known theory referred to as the Latte Factor, coined by David Bach that explains this problem exceptionally well. The Latte Factor® is based on the simple idea that all you need to do to finish rich is to look at the small things you spend your money on every day and see whether you could redirect that spending to yourself. Putting aside as little as a few rands a day for your future rather than spending it on little purchases such as lattes, bottled water, fast food, cigarettes, magazines and so on, can really make a difference between accumulating wealth and living paycheck to paycheck.

I have made a conscious effort to start packing snacks, protein shakes, water and even travel mugs for coffee and tea when we travel.

I keep a few staples in the car:

  • Dried apricots
  • Almonds
  • Dried seeds and berries (pumpkin seeds and pre-mixed seeds with dried cranberries also work well)
  • Pro-vitas or rice cakes
  • Nut butter
  • Biltong
  • A few protein shakes – either sachet or in a shaker
  • Sugar-free sweets and gum
  • Water

If you have a flask or travel mug you can also take some instant soup and coffee with you, thus avoiding the urge to stop at a garage, shop or drive-through to buy junk. I have a compartmentalised bag for my lunches that helps keep meals cool. Then I also get to pack fresh snacks such as:

  • Yogurt and a fruit
  • Baby carrots and hummus
  • Crudités with sugar-free salad dressing
  • Cherry tomatos and small pieces of mozzarella cheese
  • Boiled egg with a few pieces if cucumber
  • Ham rollups with cheese and carrot sticks
  • Fruit salad with nuts

I managed to prep all of the meals above in one go on a Sunday afternoon and will let you know during the course of the week whether I managed to stick to it. Let me know if there are any other meals, recipes or snacks that you and your family love.