I always try my best to eat well. For me that means plenty of home cooked meals and lots of fruit and veg. I try to keep ready meals and takeaways to a minimum. Not just for health reasons but mainly because of the damage they can do to my food budget. Since starting my new job I’ve found that nothing tests your resolve to prepare your own food and avoid takeaways more than working shifts! Firstly because juggling different shifts is tiring in itself. Secondly because it takes extra organisation when you are working a mix of earlies, lates, overnights and random weekend days. You need to work out where you will be at mealtimes for a start, home or work. The convenience of throwing a ready meal in the microwave or picking something up on the way home starts chipping away at your resolve. I think we have all been there! You cave in, pick up a portion of fish and chips on the way home and devour it while guiltily thinking about the fresh and healthy ingredients in the fridge. The stir fry will have to wait another day! You can tell I’m speaking from personal experience here…
There has to be a better way right?
Its taken me a few weeks of discovering what works for me and what doesn’t. The first thing I do is open my diary and plot out when I will be at home and when I am working. I plan out a morning/afternoon when I have a bit of time to collect my shopping and do some prep work. I’ve started using the click and collect service that most of the bigger supermarkets offer and its made a big difference! No wandering around the shop or forgetting my list. I plan my meals and snacks for the week, order the ingredients and choose a time to pick it up the next day. Here is the system I use to plan my meals.
My grocery planning list
I order my groceries by working through this bullet point list:
- Weekly essentials: Milk, eggs, bread etc that I use every week. I also check that I have enough teabags, pasta and other items that I use daily but come in big packs.
- Meal prep recipes: More about this below. I choose the recipes I’ll be prepping and order the ingredients.
- Day off recipes: For meals that I’m not prepping ahead. For example on my days off when I have more time and energy. My go-to’s are things like stir fry or pasta bake. I often make enough for two and fridge/freeze leftovers for another time.
- Quick/cheat recipes: For days when I’ll be at home but might not have much time/energy to cook. I buy fresh filled pasta or gnocchi which cooks in minutes and serve with pasta sauce. I also keep frozen mash which goes with anything and frozen fish or chicken in batter for cheat days. Hey its better than going to the fish shop!
- Snacks: Fresh fruit, veg to cut into sticks, hummus, cheese and crackers, popcorn etc. I try to vary my snacks so that it doesn’t all go out of date at the same time! I used to buy fruit and berries for the week, only for it all to go moldy by day 4. Now I eat the fruit first and the longer lasting snacks later in the week.
With regards to meal prepping, I choose three or four recipes. Something for breakfast, usually bacon and egg cups, pictured below. I make twelve using a muffin tin and divide them into bags of two. Then I put three portions in the fridge and three in the freezer for whenever I need them. All links to recipes can be found in my pinterest board here.
Next I choose a soup or salad that I can batch prep for lunches. Then one or two dinner recipes that can be portioned out and split between the fridge and freezer. I have tried big meal prep sessions in the past but they leave me feeling burnt out. Also I have limited fridge and freezer space as I live in a house share so it isn’t practical for me to prepare a weeks worth of food at once. If I choose two dinner recipes I don’t cook them both at once. I prep my breakfast, lunch and one dinner recipe as soon as I get back from the shops. Then I check my shifts and choose a day later in the week when I’ll be home at dinner time. On that day I cook the second recipe and fridge/freeze the extra portions. I find this works well for me as I don’t get overwhelmed by cooking several things at once and it makes the most of my storage space.
Tips for eating well while working shifts
- Plan ahead: Check which days/hours you are working and plan accordingly. Having something ready to heat up when you get home makes it so much easier to stick to eating healthy.
- Have backups: I keep fresh pasta or gnocchi for days when I need something quick and comforting. There will be days when for whatever reason you don’t want the meal you have prepped. Having a backup stops me from giving up and ordering takeaway. Scrambled eggs on toast is another of my backups. Choose a couple of backups of your own and have the ingredients on hand for those “everything has gone tits up and I need comfort food” days. We all have those right?
- Pack snacks: I find taking healthy snacks to work helps me stay on track. It keeps my blood sugar right (mine sometimes jumps up and down making me feel shaky, light headed and grumpy) and stops me reaching for the biscuit tin.
- Keep a bit of variety: This ties in with the backups. Having a few options to choose from, such as your prepped meals, leftovers in the freezer and your backups stops it from getting too repetitive. I also switch up which recipes I am prepping from week to week so I don’t get bored.
Do you work shifts? How do you stay on track with eating healthy? Let me know in the comments below =)