Busy Nights, Healthy Bites: How to Master Meal Planning for Your Family’s School Schedule

Join host Crystal O'Keefe as she brings on Director of Coaching, Megan Omli, to discuss practical tips for meal planning, prepping, and cooking that big family dinner.

A family enjoying dinner together
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Crystal O’Keefe: Welcome to the MetPro Method Podcast. I’m your host Crystal O’Keefe. Today I’m joined by MetPro Director of Coaching Megan Omli and we are going to be discussing meal hacks for families that have lots of evening activities. Megan, thank you so much for being here today.

Megan Omli: Yeah, thanks for having me, Crystal. I’m excited to talk about my real life.

Crystal O’Keefe: I’m excited to hear about it because, listen, as you know, fall is in full swing. Many parents have kids going to multiple activities after school. I think about families where mom or dad is getting home from work, they go straight to an event, and then they don’t get home until 7 or 8 p.m. Then no one feels like cooking. Drive-through looks really appealing at that point.

Megan Omli: Especially if you have super hungry kiddos.

Crystal O’Keefe: Yeah, everybody’s like, I’m hungry! I’m hungry! It’s like, okay, well, we can’t make them wait for another hour while we cook a meal. Right. So how do we help families?

Megan Omli: Number one thing is going to be meal planning and preparing, right? Like if you look at your week and you know, okay, Monday through Friday, we have an evening engagement or I’m picking up the kids from practice or what have you, right? You’ve got to have stuff on hand. So we’ll go through all of that here in a second.

But the other thing that you want to think about is just your meal timing, right? It doesn’t make sense if you’re having dinner at eight o’clock, let’s say, and you’re on a cutting cycle. Talk with your coach, and strategize on whether I should be having a snack at that point and having dinner on the road or before we leave?

I have a client who picks his son up at eight o’clock from swim practice. And he’s like, well, then we’ll get home at eight-thirty and we’ll eat dinner. And I’m like, That’s wonderful, but this is not working for us, right? And so, can we shift that meal sooner and do your snack? So now, before he leaves, at five-thirty, he has his dinner, and then he has his afternoon snack with his son at eight-thirty, right? So, I digress, but, you know, there are some things that you might need to tweak in that sense, too. But getting back to the planning ahead, making things easy, kind of checklist, right?

Take easy shortcuts, right? Like a lot of times, we’ll buy a block of cheese. Buy the shredded cheese. Don’t shred the lettuce or chop up the lettuce yourself. Buy it already done, right? Some of those already-done items can be really, really helpful. 

Crystal O’Keefe: They sure can.

Megan Omli: Yeah. They can really make a shortcut.

Crystal O’Keefe: They can. I’m a big fan of like the already cooked chicken, the already cut-up vegetables. Like my Walmart, they have fajita chicken already cooked, already seasoned. It’s chicken breast and they have already prepared fajita vegetables. All I have to do is cook them. 

Megan Omli: Absolutely. So then you’re like 15 minutes after walking through the door, right? And I mean, with kiddos, throw them a granola bar. They’re still going to be hungry for more, especially if they’re just coming from sports or whatever. So keep something in the car. I mean, for all of you, right?

That can be a quick, healthy snack that you can grab and say, okay, we’re going to get home. I’m going to make dinner in 10 minutes or less. And you know, it’s done. The other thing too, what about like a crock pot? Right? You know, I use that a ton this time of year, and I throw in, my chicken and my can of salsa, minus the sugar.

Crystal O’Keefe: Megan, I have to tell you, I made ham and beans this week!

Megan Omli: Yes! I was just gonna say, or the instant pot and ham and beans! I literally went over to a friend’s house last week, and their Instant Pot had ham and beans and I was like, what? This is awesome.

Crystal O’Keefe: Sorry, I digress again.

Megan Omli: I know. For those of you who don’t know, Crystal and I on this podcast have talked about ham and beans and it was amazing. Yeah, so look at things like that. You know, the other thing is to look at your week and plan out. Okay, how are we going to get this done?

And so on Wednesday? We really aren’t walking in the door until seven-thirty-eighth o’clock. It’s a crock pot day, right? Kick on the crockpot before you leave for work and just get it done. So you walk in and you’re just dishing people up, right? That can be something that matters.

The other thing is how about frozen or other options like that? Take a little bit of the prep out of it, or again, going back to the meal prep, right? If you’ve prepped a whole big thing of ground turkey, separating it out for everybody in a taco or in a sense like that, it can be quick, right?

And it can be sometimes as quick as the drive-thru because if you sit there in the drive-thru line, it might take 10 to 12 minutes to get the food. So it’s like, just drive home. Get your food, and have a direction, right? 

Crystal O’Keefe: It kind of sounds like that’s the most important piece to think about your week ahead.

And I know that can be challenging. I don’t know, maybe it’s schools everywhere, but I feel like when my kids were super young, they would be like, in this week, we’re going to have like 18 performances. It felt like everything would fall in one week and you’re just like, Oh, my God.

Megan Omli: It totally does. Usually by Sunday, though, you’ve got an idea, right? So, sit down and take the 15 minutes. I know that sounds crazy. But even as you’re waking up and scrolling through Instagram, honestly, that’s when I make our meal schedule for the week is Sunday mornings. You know, while the kids are running around, or as I’m waking up, I’m just like, Okay, what does this week look like?

What do we need to get in the house to make sure things are really easy? And I also look and say we’re home tonight. And so tonight I’m going to make a full-on meal that then we’re going to eat for lunch or another dinner on Tuesday night when we’re walking in and then I’m just popping open containers, right?

Or Wednesday night after the kids go to bed, I’m going to do another round of prep. Right? But having that direction makes a really big, can make a really big impact and difference on how you do your meals. And if something unexpected comes up, you need to have things around to help you with that.

Crystal O’Keefe: Yeah. And that frozen idea that you gave, you know, whether that’s you made prep and then you freeze it or there’s even something, I do that too, or there’s some things you can get and that are not, they’re not terrible from the store, right? Do you have any thoughts on the direction for that? 

Megan Omli: So, frozen things, you know, I think of things that are probably not all the way prepped, right?

Because when you get into like fully done and prepped, unless you’re ordering from like a meal delivery service and freezing, right? You’ll run into either sauces or marinades, right? But like a Costco, for example, you can pick up a bag of shrimp and a bag of their stir-fried veggies. And not use the sauce that’s in there, but put all those in your wok.

There we go. Add some soy sauce. Off we go. Right? You know, that can be really simple and take 12 to 15 minutes, right? And trust me. I always have a two-year-old pulling at my leg who’s like, Mommy, Mommy, pick me up. And I’m like, I’m trying to get dinner done in a very quick amount of time.

Right. I feel like as long as you have a direction and a plan, you’re not thinking about it the day of, you’re not exhausted when you’re thinking about it, that really, really goes a long way. Right?

Crystal O’Keefe: You mentioned three different times that you’re prepping.

Now, I take a very different approach in my household, but having said that, that’s because we have four different people eating four different meals. It’s completely different. But I tend to eat very similar things all week long. Like I will make one thing prep it and then that’s my lunch for all week.

That’s my dinner for all week. So, does it depend on the person? Does it, is it something they need to kind of find a good spot or-

Megan Omli: If that’s something that’s doable for you and you feel like that’s the way that you win, absolutely. Just eat the same thing. There’s no harm in that, right?

And if your coach adjusts your meal plan on Wednesday you’re like, but I already have food. Either one, let them know, or two, see if you can pull it apart, right, to make the shift. If you’re cooking for a family, right, we don’t make our kids different food. They sit down and eat what we eat.

And so my kids aren’t going to eat the same dinner five nights in a row. But also. I’m not going to have a fancy quote-unquote meal for them every night, right? Sometimes literally dinner looks like cold cuts, veggies, and fruit on their plate. And we call it a little charcuterie board. Yeah. Yeah. Some nights it looks like beans and rice that were already prepped up and open the can of beans, right?

We’ve got our carbs. We’ve got a little bit of protein. We throw some cheese on that and then we put some, you know, carrot sticks or bell pepper or something raw on the side. Right, like it doesn’t always have to be a full-on put-together fancy meal, right? I fall into that, but some days it’s just it’s not a possibility, right?

And so don’t forget you can keep things simple, too.

Crystal O’Keefe: Yeah, yeah, one of my go-to’s on really busy weeks is like rotisserie chicken and frozen veggies. And the brown rice that comes in the little minute containers that I just throw in the microwave.

Megan Omli: Absolutely. Yep. No, I love that. Those sorts of items, let yourself use those a lot of times. I just keep them in stock on my shelves and then if I’m like, oh, tonight I actually have time to throw brown rice in my Instant Pot before going and picking up Avila from dance or whatever it is. I’ll do that. And then I still reserve those, right? So you don’t have to rely on them.

But at least you’ve got the backup there when you need it. And the frozen veggies, same thing. I keep a big old Costco bag in my freezer. And if I don’t get to the store one weekend, or we’ve been traveling, I know, hey, I’ve got something to get us started. Right? So that we can make good decisions.

Crystal O’Keefe: Yeah. And do you still mentioned earlier that you have a client that eats his dinner beforehand and then has a snack afterward.

Now, obviously, each client should be discussing this with their coach, like what’s the best solution for them. But do you have any ideas or thoughts about how people should handle going straight from work, they don’t want to eat a big dinner, but they don’t want to just have a smoothie.

And sometimes it feels like, at least what I hear from parents, is all I have time for is a smoothie. What are your thoughts on that?

Megan Omli: Yeah, and a smoothie is a great option, right? As long as you get your right macros. Wonderful, right? You’re off to the races. That is tricky, right? But what can you make that’s like a snackable option while you drive?

And maybe it is your dinner macros at five-thirty, right? And what is that? Okay, what does that look like? What’s an option? Well, I’ve got refrigeration at work. So I’m going to bring some hard-boiled eggs. And I’m going to have my carrot sticks, and then I’m going to have an apple to go with it. Yeah, not the most appetizing meal, but this is happening two nights a week, and I just have to do it, right?

Or I’ve got refrigeration at work, and so I can pack my chili, and once I drop them off, I’ve warmed it up at the office, and now I’ve got that next to me. Or I have my salad, right, that I prepped at home, put in the fridge, and now I’m eating it as I drive around. It’s not always easy, right?

When we’re looking at those sorts of instances, that can be a lot harder, right? If you’re leaving home at seven a.m. and you’re not getting home till eight p.m., that’s a long day. And so your meals do take a hit a little bit. And so, trying to plan for that can be tricky, for sure.

Crystal O’Keefe: Yeah, do you have any thoughts for families that their focus is to eat every meal together? I know that can be really important to some people.

Megan Omli: Yeah, absolutely. Like I said with my client, he’ll get home and sit down with his son while his son is eating his dinner and eat his snack, right?

So although he’s not having his full meal. And he just kind of says, you know, I already ate my dinner, but I’m sitting here with you and being intentional about that. Right. And if it is important that you’re all eating the same meal at eight p.m., well, then that’s just something we have to work around, which is so wonderful, you know, with our coaches, because we’ll make other tweaks during your day, you know, to make things fit.

Crystal O’Keefe: So, yeah, absolutely. I remember when my daughter was in lots of activities, I would often eat while she was in the activity. Yes. And then, like you said, have a snack afterward when it’s her time to eat. And because she kind of flip-flopped it, she would have a snack or something light before she was doing something like taekwondo.

She couldn’t have like a big full stomach when she went in to do that. So, I think it’s taking into exactly what you said, taking into consideration what everybody in the family needs, and that can be challenging as a parent. You’re not only looking at what you need, you’re also looking at the family, right?

Megan Omli: And so also understanding, like I said, that pre-preparation, can you cook three pounds of ground turkey on Sunday so that you are pulling from that all week and the first night you have a taco and the second night, maybe you put it in pasta sauce over pasta for the kids and you throw it in a wrap or you have the pasta depending on where you’re at meal phase wise, you know, just looking at those things.

Also, you know, just other quick ideas are one sheet, what do they call those? Like one pan meals?

Crystal O’Keefe: Yes, one sheet pan meals. Yeah, I know, yeah, something like that. 

Megan Omli: Um, one pot, you know, minimize the cleanup. I don’t know about you, but I never get dishes done before nine p.m. at night. I have to go back and clean the dishes.

So try to keep things simple, simple when you do have a moment, but then also try to do the pre when you can. And like I said, planning out your week when it comes to meals shouldn’t take too long. If you’re spending 15 to 20 minutes weekly doing that, you’re going to get faster. You’re going to get more efficient with knowing what you need as you get into our program, etc. But that can make a big difference. I do that. Do you?

Crystal O’Keefe: I still do that. And I know you’ve been doing this for a very long time like planning that, not just coaching, but planning and being thoughtful about your meals.

Do you ever do you ever get overwhelmed with like I have seven days I need to plan for, that’s seven different dinners, like, oh my goodness, that’s seven different recipes. Or are you just so comfortable with mixing and matching at this point that you don’t even think twice about it?

Megan Omli: I’m pretty comfortable mixing and matching and I talk about it all day, right?

I often have friends who are like, I don’t get how you get this. And I’m like, well, I talk about it all day. So I’m thinking about it constantly, right? Which is helpful. But I think that I still do get overwhelmed. And like I said, I kind of divide out by, what evenings are we out next week? What days do we need the quick meals?

And then the nights when I have the moments to cook the longer, larger meals like last night, I quadrupled the recipe I made last night knowing, hey, I’m going to probably eat this for lunch today. And then we’re going to do it for two other family dinners, probably, because we all love it.

And so, doing something like that when I have a moment is how I also kind of change it around.

Crystal O’Keefe: I like to do one new recipe every week because I would be like, Oh, there are four recipes here. And then I would try to do them. And then it was Sunday afternoon and I’m like, Oh, forget this.

And so I just have a new rule that like Thursday, I pick out my meal and Friday I shop for my meal and Saturday I prep for my meal. That’s my plan. Yeah, I love it.

Megan Omli: I love it. It’s funny because you said something a minute ago that made me think. Oh, I have that huge bag of rotisserie-seasoned chicken in my freezer from Costco.

I need to pull that out. We’ll do like a one-sheet or a one-pot meal with that this week.

Crystal O’Keefe: So yeah, there’s so many things you can do with shredded chicken. I love it. 

Megan Omli: Yes, I know. Absolutely. Yeah, no meals with busy schedules are really challenging, right? But reminding ourselves, okay, “How do I spend the time to prepare upfront?” can make it a lot less stressful on the back half.

Right? And so do I have 10 to 15 minutes to just plan this out on Sunday morning? Be thoughtful about it. Maybe you’re folding laundry as you’re being thoughtful about it, right? With your notepad right next to you. Maybe you’re doing something like that, and that’s how you win.

We do breakfast for dinner all the time because that is one thing where we’re like, we can make this work for everyone, and it fills all of our needs for each person, too.

Crystal O’Keefe: Yeah, that’s a good one, because if kids especially want carbs that maybe you’re not eating, like, I don’t know, pancakes or something like that, it’s still really easy to add to the meal.

Megan Omli: Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. And we’re a family that I‘d say, probably twice a week we have meals where everything’s mixed together. Otherwise, it’s all separate. And so then we’re just piecemealing it together for each person.

Oh, she’ll eat that. She’ll eat that. She won’t eat that. But that’s fine. I like that. Right. But we’re picking from the same ingredients.

Crystal O’Keefe: So it’s kind of a lot of bulk macro cooking in your house? Okay. Okay. Do you have anything that we’ve missed that you want to make sure people have thought about as they prepare for their weeks?

Megan Omli: If you need inspiration, right? You need inspiration. I love to use Pinterest. I’m a Pinterest-er. But also just a Google search, right? Like one-sheet meals, crockpot ideas, freezer to crockpot. There is so much out there. And a lot of times it fits your MetPro macros, as long as you’re staying away from wet marinades and things that have like mixing of milk or dairy, you know, that kind of a thing, but even some of that can still work.

So, if you need inspiration, definitely use those sources and we’re happy as your MetPro coaches to help stitch through that if you’re working with our concierge coaches. So, definitely talk about all of these with your coach so that they can help you brainstorm too. They’re here to help you with all of those lifestyle needs, for sure.

Crystal O’Keefe: What a great point. I mean, all of these are general ideas, but every single person has a unique circumstance. And if you tell your coach, they can help you work through it because we all have unique circumstances and there is a unique solution for you.

Megan Omli: Absolutely. And sometimes it’s the smallest thing and you’re like, why didn’t I think of that? Well, that’s okay. That’s what we love to do to help you feel successful and to meet your needs.

Crystal O’Keefe: Absolutely. All right. Well, Megan, thank you.

Megan Omli: That’s all I got.

Crystal O’Keefe: Thank you for your time today. I really appreciate it.

Megan Omli: No problem. Thanks for having me, Crystal.

Crystal O’Keefe: Of course. Listeners, that’s all for this week. You can find all of the MetPro Method episodes anywhere you get podcasts, or you can go to Metpro.co/podcast. Please be sure to follow the show and rate and review. That lets other people know what they can expect from the show.

And you can also learn more about MetPro at MetPro.co I’m your host, Crystal O’Keefe, and I’ll be back next week. Until then, remember, consistency is key.

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