Adventures in Food Prep
Kitchen adventures + tips + pretty photos.
We all have our strengths. A couple of mine are efficiency and time management. I love to be busy and go go going all day. I also think its fun to see how much I can get done in the least amount of time. Fun right?! Okay, its not for everyone… but let me try to use these strengths in an area so many are simply dumbfounded by: Meal Prep.
Planning is essential to having a healthy diet. Very few people can survive on a last minute, take-out style diet in a healthful way. Even if you are getting by like this, chances are you’d be better off health wise if you started making some meals for yourself. By doing so you can control the portion, ingredients, quality, combination and timing of what you are putting into your body. I beg you, don’tbe afraid!!! It’s simple really!! In this post I’m going to take you through a night of meal prep and provide some (hopefully) useful tips to get you on your way to cooking at home.
The first thing you need to do is decide on what meals you’re going to cook this week. I do this by thinking about my schedule, training, the weather, whats on sale and what needs to be used from my kitchen. **see end of post of ideas**
Next, write down the ingredients you need. Try to work the same ingredients into a few of those meals. For example, instead of a meal with squash and one with sweet potatoes, make both meals with one root vegetable or instead of using brown rice in one, black in another… split the difference and use wild rice in both! This limits the amount you need to purchase and prep. Variety in meals is good for increasing overall diet quality, but it has its downsides; stress, increased consumption, waste, and increased weight gain (potentially). So do yourself a favor and keep things simple when it comes to the meals you’re going to prepare in advance. There is plenty of time to add variety at the time of serving with fresh herbs, sprouts, vinegars, oils, etc.
Go shopping, buy lots of whole ingredients and try to stick to your list. I know, scary! Eek! But check out my table… It is LOADED with produce. How often do you buy a bunch of good, healthy, whole ingredients just to unload them into your fridge and forget about them?! Don’t’ let it happen again. You’re much more likely to actually eat the healthy food if it is trimmed/cleaned/sliced and ready for you to grab and eat. So do yourself a favor and before putting away your groceries, prep them. I should have taken a photo of my kitchen floor before starting... groceries everywhere!
My prep session took hours. Mostly because I was stopping snap numerous photos. Chop things, stop, wash hands (wipe hands on pretty towel and stain it with beet juice), grab camera, stand on table, focus, click click click, back to chopping… I promise if you do not have the compulsion to capture every ingredients transformation through a lens, things move along much quicker.
Anyhow, regardless of your photography ambitions, you should allow a few hours to do all your prep. Don’t be intimidated. 4 hours spent here means mere minutes later to get your lunches are thrown into your bag and your dinners on the table. There is no point coming home from work every day and cooking a brand new meal from scratch. Save that effort for when you really have the time. For every other day, this prep session will save you time. I intend to get 10+ meals out of this evenings prep. You do not have to start that big, try for 2 different meals and work your way up.
Prepare your space. Roasting? Turn on the oven. Get out the pans, cutting boards, jars, containers, etc that you’ll need.
Get that list back out. Look over it and decide where to start. I typically begin with what will take the longest to make. In this case it was my beet chips. They could be ‘drying’ away in the oven while I moved on to the rest of my list. While this worked out great time wise, it did leave some of my later produce stained a nice pink/red color.
Oh well, not a big deal. I would also advise doing all produce first as you do not want to be going from animal products to produce and back… too much cross contamination and time spent washing in between. With produce, all you need is a towel to wipe things off and move on to the next. With the oven commandeered by beets, I moved to a stove top item and sliced some onions to be caramelized. Low heat items like this do not take too much supervision. An occasional stir was all the attention I needed to pay these onions, so I could really get back to the rest of my vegetables. More onions, golden beets, Brussels, pears… all chopped, seasoned, and in their baking dish ready to get roasting. While doing this, I had started a big batch of wild rice to steam. If you don’t have a steamer, get one. Rice shouldn’t be cooked any other way! Plus it is a healthy method for cooking other foods and takes little effort: add food, turn knob, walk away until timer dings.
So by now most of your items should have gone from the prep phase to the cook phase. Clear your prep space and start assembling your meals. Throw combinations of your food into small containers to grab for weekday lunches or into a large container that can you pull out and dish up for dinner.
Happy Dance :)
The first time you attempt this, it might not go super smoothly… but remember, it takes time to learn a rhythm and routine. Make notes of what worked well and what did not for next time.
Also, keep in mind that it was a big effort that will pay off throughout your week. Take note of every time you’re able to just pull out a container of home cooked, nutritious food without having to worry about what to eat or stressing about getting dinner on the table. Soak up those positive vibes!!!
Here are a few meal prep ideas to get you going:
Keep in mind that this is just an idea list and not exact measurements/directions.
1. Assortment of root vegetables
2. Salad greens
3. Whole Chicken
5. Wild Rice
6. Chicken Stock
7. Canned Tomatoes
8. Olive Oil
10. Can chickpeas
12. Dried cranberries
15. Pizza dough mix (yeast, choice of flour)
- Chop vegetables (Brussels, onion, carrots…whatever you want!) toss with oil, seasonings, and roast Think you’ll get sick on the same combo all week? Buy smaller amounts of more vegetables and make two different combinations to pull from
- Season chickens and roast
- Mix vinaigrette
- Steam large batch(or two batches) wild rice while things are roasting
- Mix pizza crust, set aside to rise, then refrigerate for next day use
1. Roasted vegetables and chicken salad with nuts and dried cranberries
a. Put this combo (minus the leafy greens) into containers for lunches!
2. Roasted vegetable + mozzarella pizza
3. Wild rice + chicken soup with side salad
4. Roast vegetable, chickpea + tomato soup
5. Roast vegetable frittata (toss in wild rice if you have any left!)
a. Slice this into squares and wrap individually for future breakfasts or lunches.