It has taken me YEARS to perfect but I think we finally have a solid meal system figured out, thanks to my journey into minimalism. First, let's be clear- I am domestically challenged in the kitchen. I can assemble an edible meal, but preparing a real meal, with an actual recipe- is next to impossible for me.
I've tried it all- meal plans, themed nights, meal delivery. I found more often than not, life happened and then things become quickly derailed- leading to wasted ingredients, unwanted leftovers, and general feelings of frustration. I think the level of commitment these systems required set me up for failure. As much as I love structure in my life, I've learned there MUST be room for flexibility!
The concept of a capsule meal system has been revolutionary for us because of it's simplicity and ease: a small, set list of ingredients, and a flexible, ordered process that prioritizes efficiency (or is it laziness? ;) ).
A capsule meal system is similar to the capsule wardrobe idea that is now all the rage on the minimalist blogs. For someone like me who loves food but values simplicity more, I enjoy the "choose your own adventure" that this system allows. I refuse to let meal prep consume any more mental energy or time than it needs to. Sure, variety is the spice of life- but also - everything in moderation, right? Despite what society tells us, sometimes it is OK to do as little as possible...
Design 3-5 breakfasts, lunches, and dinners each week all based around the same ingredients. (Note: If you're like us and don't mind repetition each week- then simple foundation meals is all we need, but if you truly ENJOY spending your time in the kitchen- by all means- get creative and triple that number!)
Prep as much as you can in advance. This step should only take an hour or two at most, and then you're set for the week. This makes each day and the whole week go by without a hitch and ensures you eat healthily AND save money, avoiding last minute splurges on take-out.
The Grocery List
Easy to remember, track and monitor. Naturally keeps fridge and pantry clutter-free.
Shelf-stable (pantry or frozen) mixed with fresh and seasonal
All organic ingredients- Found at Trader Joes, Aldi, Whole Foods or farmer's markets
Bulk or dried ingredients mean less packaging and waste.
Room for growth- many of the store-bought ingredients like humus, salsa, dressings, or nut butters can be made from scratch at home!
Produce: carrots, ginger, garlic, cucumber, onion, bell pepper, lemon, lime, sweet potato, spinach, arugula
Pantry: quinoa, sesame seeds, nutritional yeast, chickpea, black bean, white bean, herbal tea, rice cakes, root veggie chips, whole grain chips, cricket flour, oats, dark chocolate, mustard.
Bulk: almond butter, pepitas, almonds, pistachios, macadamia nuts, walnuts, dates, dried craisins, sesame seeds.
Freezer: berries, tropical fruit, corn tortilla.
Fridge: eggs, greek yogurt, guac, salsa, coconut water, mustard, fresh olives, fresh parmesan.
Oils: olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar.
Spices: sage, smoked paprika, cumin, chili powder.
Minimal prep: 1-2 hrs max at beginning of week, or 30 mins or less on the day-of.
Less waste: freezable leftovers, reuseable scraps
Primarily vegan and/or paleo- dairy, sugar and gluten free
Healthy ratio of carbs to starches to fats, proteins
Focus on breakfast as the largest meal of day, less food as day progresses
Can be prepared with minimal use of pans, dishes, or appliances
Tea: Yaupon, Peppermint OR Green
Breakfast (choose 2)_
Smoothie: Berry Green, Pineapple Mint OR Cucumber Ginger
Eggs: Scrambled OR Veggie Frittatta
Rice Cake with Almond Butter
Homemade Breakfast Bar: Date & Walnut Bar OR Granola Bar
Breakfast Tacos OR Breakfast Nachos
Veggie: Asian Cucumber Salad OR Roasted Carrot Sticks
Chips: Homemade Spinach Chips OR Root Veggie OR Whole Grain
Homemade Dip: Chickpea & Spinach Hummus OR Whitebean & Arugula dip
Homemade GF Crackers
Healthy Spread: Macadamia Ricotta OR Guacamole OR Olive Tapenade
Protein: Hard Boiled Egg OR Spiced Nuts
Leftovers from Dinner
Salad: Cobb Spinach with Dijon OR Lemon Parmesan Arugula
Bean, Veggie & Quinoa Bowl
Tea: Dandelion Root, Chamomile, Raspberry Leaf
Bite of Dark Chocolate