Today I’m excited to talk about one of my favorite healthy eating habits—meal planning! I’m also sharing my experience using an awesome meal planning resource—Prep Dish—and offering you a chance to sign up for only $4 for the first month.
Meal planning is my jam. I L-O-V-E it.
Also known as “bulk cooking,” “meal prep” (some even cleverly call it “Meal Prep Monday”), “batch cooking,” etc., mapping out your week of meals ahead of time is one practice that will without a doubt make eating healthfully easier
However, I know that if you already feel like you have no time to eat healthy, the thought of finding time to create a meal plan, shop, and prep ingredients for the week can feel impossible and totally overwhelming.
I get it. I’ve been there myself.
Before my husband and I started meal planning, we wouldn’t even think about what we were going to eat for dinner until we got home from work, let alone whether we’d be cooking something. And by “cook something” I mean heat and/or assemble various packaged food items like veggie burgers and potato wedges.
This fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants approach often led to one of two outcomes: frequent, last minute trips to the store for missing ingredients or take-out—usually Chipotle or Thai food. There’s nothing wrong with eating either of those things, rather we weren’t being intentional about our eating choices.
It was expensive, stressful, and usually not very healthy because by the time we’d do the whole “What do you want to eat?” “I don’t know what do you want to eat?” thing, we were starving. And starving people don’t usually make the best food choices, at least in my personal experience.
Meal planning changed all of that for us.
Once we started coming up with a plan for the week ahead of time and shopping and prepping ingredients for a few hours on Sunday, we realized that even though it took time out of our weekend, we more than made up for it by spending less time in the kitchen during the week. We were better able to manage our grocery budget, which led to less food waste and meant more money to spend on quality meals together versus subpar take-out.
It’s been more than five years since we started meal planning and we’re still going strong! If you follow me on Snapchat (@honstlynourishd), you’ve no doubt seen me in action during meal prep day—roasting pans of vegetables and organic chicken for easy lunch salads and grain bowls, soaking oats, or making a giant batch of chocolate smoothies for my husband to drink for breakfast.
Meal planning is often the first tool and technique that I encourage my nutrition coaching clients to try because I know how powerful the simple act of planning ahead can be for someone working to make or maintain lasting changes to their diet.
So when Prep Dish founder and fellow Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Allison Schaaf approached me about reviewing her gluten-free and paleo meal planning service, I was all about it.
I love finding and sharing resources that can make healthy eating and living easier and Prep Dish does this (and SO much more) by offering nutritious recipes featuring real food ingredients that are simple, mindless, and quick to prepare.
Before I share how my experience was using the meal plans, here’s what you should know about Prep Dish…
PREP DISH: YOUR NEW SECRET WEAPON
The concept for Prep Dish is simple and straightforward—it’s a subscription meal planning service offering weekly gluten-free or paleo recipes designed to streamline weeknight cooking.
In other words, sayonara dinnertime stress and hello more free time in the evenings (i.e. bring on the Netflix marathons)!
I love that the menus feature seasonal, whole foods ingredients. You can even order all your meat—organic, grass-fed, humanely raised—from a trustworthy butcher directly via the weekly email newsletter.
Despite being labeled gluten-free and paleo, I found the recipes to be really flexible and largely plant-based (i.e. full of fresh produce); I honestly think the entrees would appeal to any health conscious eater with a few simple swaps. Speaking of which, Prep Dish provides alternative ingredient ideas to make recipes dairy free or nut free if needed—a nice bonus.
What really sets Prep Dish apart from other meal planning services is that its founder and fellow Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Allison Schaaf has some serious street cred. In addition to being a RDN, she’s also a trained personal chef based in Austin, Texas—you can trust that your meals will be both nutritious and delicious.
Lastly, the weekly meal plans and grocery list are seriously so pretty!
As silly as that might sound, you know how I feel about efficient, PRETTY design, right? It’s kind of my thing and in this case, it makes the experience of meal planning much more enjoyable.
I mean, hello, color coordinated icons? I can’t even handle it.
HOW IT WORKS
- Sign up for your first month of meal plans for only $4 using THIS LINK or the code “HONEST4” when checking out (a special deal offered only to Honestly Nourished readers—ow ow!).
- At the beginning of the month (or whenever you sign up), you’ll get an email from Prep Dish containing links to access all four weeks of both gluten-free and paleo menus.
- Every Friday, Prep Dish sends you a newsletter featuring helpful cooking tips, video tutorials, advice, ingredient substitution ideas, and shopping resources relevant to the upcoming week’s worth of meals (screenshot shown below).
- You shop, prep, and dish up healthy meals all week long—simple as that!
WHAT YOU GET
A weekly menu providing the following recipes:
1 side salad
1 healthy snack
1 breakfast option designed to last a few days
1 indulgent-yet-good-for-you dessert
Each week’s plan also includes a downloadable file with three PDF documents—a grocery list, easy-to-follow prep day instructions, and dish day instructions (i.e. the steps needed to cook the recipe using the pre-prepped ingredients).
Access to all previous menus and meal plans—including the recipes shown in this post (woo hoo!).
The grocery list is probably my favorite part, as I found it to be really well organized. It may seem small, but I love how each ingredient is listed with its corresponding recipe number. If you know you’re not going to make one of the recipes that week, you can easily find all the ingredients related to that meal and simply cross them off. No reading the recipe and then searching for the ingredient. This is an AWESOME feature that I know other meal planning services don’t provide.
PREP DAY INSTRUCTIONS
You’ll be poised success from the start! Pick a day of the week that you can devote 2-3 hours to slicing, dicing, chopping, and possibly some light cooking or baking and follow the step-by-step prep instructions. The time you spend prepping will drastically reduce how long you’re in the kitchen actually cooking during the week—priceless.
DISH DAY INSTRUCTIONS
Thanks to all your hard work prepping, there’s only a few things to do on the day you intend to cook a meal. Follow the guided steps and dinner will be on the table in 5-20 minutes (a promise that we proved true during our trial). Hashtag winning!
MY EXPERIENCE: A WEEK OF PREPPIN’ & DISHIN’
The week that I decided to officially test out my Prep Dish membership was the first week of February. I downloaded the Week 1 Paleo Menu (shown below).
See I told you it was totally adorable! Swoon.
I decided which Prep Dish meals I wanted to make based on our preferences—for example, we don’t eat lamb and I can’t go a week without my beloved Zucchini Noodles with Spicy Marinaraso I rearranged our menu accordingly to include it.
Then I headed to the store to shop!
GROCERY SHOPPING NOTES
I’ve already talked about how much I love Prep Dish’s Grocery List so I simply added the other items I needed that week to it.
The Prep Dish ingredients were all straightforward and easy to find. There were a few things that I didn’t buy because I either knew that I already had it or something similar in our pantry.
As for cost, I think the menus are affordable, but I’m used to spending a lot of money a week on groceries. I have an expensive nut butter habit and also insist on purchasing organic poultry/eggs, produce, etc. That said, I got most of the items at Trader Joe’s if that helps give you an idea of cost and availability of the goods.
PREP DAY NOTES
It took us about 40 minutes to get everything prepped because my husband and I both divided up the work, which cut the prep time in half. Since we are already big meal preppers, I have an arsenal of BPA-free and glass food storage containers that we filled and labeled according to the meal and number to make it easy to find them in our fridge on “dish day.”
DISH DAY NOTES
As promised, no meal took longer than 20 minutes to make and the cooking process was a breeze. Normally I would shy away from trying too many new recipes during the week, but having the detailed step-by-step instructions and a bunch of ingredients prepared in advance was EVERYTHING.
RECIPE & FOOD NOTES
Let’s talk about the good stuff—THE MEALS!
My husband and I are pretty loyal to our breakfasts—soaked oats or smoothie bowls for me and scrambled eggs with vegetables or a green smoothie for him. While we ate our usual morning meals instead of eating the almond butter cookies as suggested by Prep Dish, I still baked them to try (obviously).
Cucumber Slices and Carrots Sticks with Hummus
OK, so we cheated on this one. Instead of making the Prep Dish “paleo” hummus recipe with zucchini, I bought our fave organic, ready prepared hummus from Trader Joe’s and simply added the Southwestern spices from the recipe. No shame here. I’m all for using a high quality convenience item if it really does make life easier. We did chop some of the veggies ourselves, which counts for something, right?
Prep Dish Almond Butter & Cherry Breakfast Cookies
The recipe for these was similar to all of the date-based energy bites and raw truffles you see on literally every healthy food blog, but the exception is that these guys are baked! I definitely prefer the baked texture versus raw. I already had a TON of dried cranberries so I used those instead of cherries. They were the perfect bite-sized snack.
Zucchini Noodles with Spicy Marinara (Italian food and The Bachelor are a must for me on Mondays in winter, OK?)
Prep Dish Ginger-Lime Salmon Pouches + Steamed Broccoli + Oven Roasted Root Vegetables with Olive Oil and Sea Salt
I had never tried using parchment paper to cook wild salmon and I was happy to find a link to a step-by-step tutorial in the Week 1 Meal Plan member email. Adding freshly grated ginger on top with lime slices made the salmon so bright and flavorful. I’ve already made this recipe again!
Prep Dish Roasted Red Pepper and Sweet Potato Soup + Prep Dish Spinach with Blueberries, Sliced Almonds
The soup was SO good. Like mind-blowing good. My husband and I both prefer soup that has a bit of texture versus being totally pureed so we left some of the potato, onion, and red peppers whole and added them back in at the end. I also drizzled olive oil on top and garnished each bowl with a few pieces of fresh thyme. It made a ton so we had plenty to eat for lunch and I even froze some.
Prep Dish Honey BBQ Chicken with Coleslaw and Purple Potatoes
The southern girl in me loved this one. The BBQ sauce was incredible—it had a deep spicy flavor and wasn’t overly sweet (my biggest pet peeve with BBQ sauces). I’ll be making a big ‘ol batch to keep on hand hence forth to slather over chicken, sweet potato fries, cardboard, whatever!
I had made these for the blog earlier in the week and needed to use the leftovers ASAP. You should also make them ASAP. Nudge, nudge.
Prep Dish Dark Chocolate Drizzled Oranges
We aren’t really dessert people (ugh I know we totally deserve that eye roll you just gave us), BUT I appreciate that Prep Dish’s dessert was something healthy-ish. I took the oranges to a Super Bowl Party we went to that weekend and they were a hit…I mean they do kind of resemble mini footballs, yeah?
Prep Dish promises nutritious and delicious recipes and it absolutely delivers.
Even though I already knew how to meal prep, I loved getting an email each week with fresh, seasonal ideas that encouraged me to try new ways to enjoy our weekday staples.
I know that might seem surprising considering that I’m a dietitian and food blogger and thus usually thought to be an endless source of nourishing and creative recipes, but the truth is I’m a huge creature of habit. I find something that I like and I latch on to it. Plus, with all the creativity I put into the blog, sometimes I just can’t handle dinner.
I didn’t think I’d keep the subscription beyond my free trial but now I don’t see how I could give it up! Especially since $14/month is actually less than the price I pay for some of my fancy nut butters. The struggle.
Don’t forget, sign up HERE and get your first month for only $4! That’s less than an almond milk latte you guys and unless you already have a personal dietitian and/or chef who cooks your meals, I promise this is the next best thing.
You’ll love it!
YOUR THOUGHTS >>
How do you feel about meal planning? What tricks do you use to stay on track during busy weeks? Or better yet, what meal do you indulge in when you literally CANNOT be bothered to cook? Spill it!
*This post was sponsored by Prep Dish. I received a 3-month membership and was compensated for my review. All thoughts and opinions are my own and I honestly LOVE this meal planning service and these recipes. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Honestly Nourished possible!