Meal Prep 101
Meal Planning / Prepping is a KEY skill that we teach in TRIM and essential for balancing a healthy lifestyle with a busy life. So this week I am sharing my tips for meal prep and how I go about doing it!
Glass Tupperware – I like using glass storage containers for my meal prep to avoid BPA and other nasty chemicals found in plastic. I personally prefer anything rectangular as I think they fit better in the fridge and the 3 cup is the perfect size for one portion of food. And if you’re reheating in the oven, you can just reheat right in the glass!
Chef’s Knife – A good knife is an essential tool for success in the kitchen and (along with good knife skills) will really help speed up the meal-prep process. Contrary to what many believe, you really only need one or two good knives to get the job done. I’m a firm believer in finding a knife that feels good to you so I suggest hitting up your local Williams Sonoma and asking to hold a few until you find your perfect fit. I use Global knives. They’re Japanese-made, sleek, sharp and lightweight. In other words, perfect for my “dainty” hands! But remember that knives like these must be hand washed!
Rice Cooker – I have a couple of 6-cup rice cookers and couldn’t live without them. I cook every single grain in mine for no-fuss results every time. Plus, they keep your grains warm after cooking until you’re ready to use! I love to just throw things like quinoa or lentils in my rice cooker when I am doing something else to have prepped ingredients on-hand and ready to roll at all times.
My Thought Process:
Meal prepping is a popular trend in the healthy living world right now and you’ve probably seen your favorite food bloggers or Instagram fitness folk doing it on a regular basis. Through my own experience, I found that the concept was often better than the reality but over time I discovered a few essential tips to master the skill and make it successful in the long term.
I like to refer to it as “prepping ahead” and I believe that with a little bit of thought and very little extra effort, you can have delicious and healthy meals and ingredients prepped and ready to use all week long. And that means one less thing to worry about whether you get home totally exhausted on a busy weeknight or end up out late with friends and didn’t have time to make a lunch for the next day!
To Simply Prep Ahead, Here’s What to Do:
In my mind, the major difference between meal prep and prepping ahead is that we’re not cooking all of our meals for the week on, say, a Sunday. I personally don’t have the time to spend an entire Sunday making a list, going to the grocery store, shopping and cooking. I’m also not a fan of eating the same meal more than a couple of times in a row. With prepping ahead, I spend a few minutes making my plan for the week with Sarah and then I might throw a few eggs into a pot to hard-boil while I make breakfast or cook some quinoa or lentils in the rice cooker when I prep dinner so that I have some quick options on-hand to throw a meal together. It’s all about working smarter, not harder.
The next thing I do is always cook extra when I cook dinner. In A Healthy Passion language, I rarely cook two portions and most of the time I do at least four and sometimes six. This way, whether I need a prepped lunch for the next day or I end up getting home too late to cook, I always have something to fall back on. And by making only four portions of something (unless I really know I don’t want to cook the next day), I only eat leftovers once. Plus my food is fresh and delicious and I often can’t wait for leftovers for lunch the next day.
The other thing I might do is find a really simple recipe to throw together while dinner is cooking that I can prepare and have ready to go while I am already in the kitchen. For example, if I’m making something that involves a break for something to simmer or roast, I can use that time to prep something quick for the day after, like the Balela Salad (ask Sarah “Recipe AHP 385 ). But even if I don’t have the luxury of free time while cooking, I’ll often pick something simple to make for lunch before I make dinner as it’s very easy to lose your enthusiasm after you’ve eaten dinner!
And I go ahead and divide up my meals by portion as well to make them extra easy to grab and go. (For reference, when I say two portions, four portions, etc, I’m assuming that you’re cooking for yourself and 1 other person)
So Here’s What a Week Might Look Like for Me:
Monday Morning: I cook up a whole head of cabbage (if cooking a little, why not cook a lot?) to throw into the skillet and reheat for breakfast all week long. I also cook enough rice for two mornings which gives me fresh rice on day 1 and some rice to reheat with the cabbage on day 2. I might also prep a few jars of overnight oats that can be used for quick breakfasts while I’m cooking my cabbage. For my low carb days I will whip up a frittata that can be reheated or I will scramble some eggs each day.
Monday Night: I prep dinner and make enough for lunch the next day so I can just grab it on my way out the door.
Tuesday Morning: Reheat cabbage in the skillet and add a fried egg or two on top for breakfast.
Tuesday Night: While I am prepping dinner, I throw a little quinoa in the rice cooker and hard-boil some eggs for snacks for the week. I also cut up a few veggies to keep on-hand to pair with store-bought hummus. I’m usually exhausted on Tuesdays so dinner might consist of a little egg salad served with some pre-washed greens (I always buy a big tub for the week so I can just add a handful to my meals) and sprouted toast.
Wednesday Morning: I didn’t cook extra for lunch the night before so I take my pre-washed greens and add some quinoa and a hard-boiled egg for lunch.
Wednesday Night: I make an effort to get home and cook four portions for dinner so I have lunch for the next day. I also throw together two portions of a second recipe to have just in case (Cacio e Pepe or my Quinoa Kale Salad are two of my favorites for this). Perfect for regular macro and low macro days!
Thursday Morning: Lentils go into the rice cooker while I’m getting ready for the day so I can quickly throw together the marinated lentil salad (ask Sarah “recipe AHP 267”) for dinner. I chow down on overnight oats (recipe in the nutrition guide) for breakfast and lunch is leftovers from dinner.
Thursday Night: With a little prep, the marinated lentil salad comes together in minutes after a long day. I also roast up some sweet potatoes to use for dinner the following night while I relax and enjoy a glass of wine.
Friday Morning: I make more rice and have my cabbage and egg for breakfast. I have leftovers from the extra meal I prepped on Wednesday for lunch.
Friday Night: Dinner is a recipe using the sweet potatoes I roasted in advance. I always look at my recipes for the week and make notes of what can easily be done in advance to shave valuable time off cooking on those nights when I’m absolutely starving!
Weekend: My weekends are usually a little less planned but again, I am always thinking of ways I can cut corners, save time, prep in advance and stick to the healthy lifestyle I love!
I’m sure you’ve heard this one before but cooking from scratch is one of the best things you can do for your health. You’re always in control of what’s going into your body and you can use the highest-quality ingredients (Celtic Salt versus table salt is a great example). Also, when you have meals or ingredients ready to go, you’re more likely to cook at home instead of order out. I am not saying to never go out to dinner but keep it for special occasions (girls’ night, date night, Friday night) rather than relying on dining out as a normal solution to lack of preparation or not knowing what’s for dinner!
Another major downfall to meal prep is that oftentimes one or two meals are prepped in bulk for the week and eaten all week long. Variety is key to health and eating a good variety of meats, veggies and other ingredients is super important not only to meet your nutritional needs but also to combat boredom with a healthy lifestyle.