“I think cooking is really key because it’s the only way you’re going to take back control of your diet from the corporations who want to cook for us.”
~ Michael Pollan
Kitchen Meal Prep
If you’re like most people who have just started on a health and fitness journey, one of the biggest challenges can be finding time to live a healthier lifestyle. You don’t have countless hours to spend in the kitchen each day. The good news is, you don’t have to!
Starting with baby steps, a plan, some preparation of a few meals ahead of time, and you’ll be feeling organized and in control of meal planning in no time.
Don’t expect to prep an entire week’s worth of meals your first time out — chances are you’ll end up feeling burned out by the time you’re done!
The power of planning
Spend your Sunday (or other any other time you have a few hours of free time) preparing and storing your meals for the coming week. Spread your meal prep over the course of the week, so it becomes a continual process.
Meal prep tips
Keep it fun by looking for recipes you want to try. This vegan flat bread recipe is high fiber, supports weight loss and is a grain-free option. Use foods that keep well: casseroles and stews last longer than salads. Whenever possible, do your planning and shopping separate from your cooking.
Create your plan
Grab a piece of paper or worksheet and spend a few minutes creating a weekly meal plan.
Sketching out your meals will help you stay on-track, save you money at the grocery store, AND free up valuable time. Also, keep in mind that even if you’re following a single-cook method, you’ll likely have to go to the grocery store midweek for fresh ingredients and/or cook a couple meals to make it through to the weekend.
Sketch out the next 5 to 7 days of meals, including breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks for each day. Include any meals you know you will be eating at restaurants, and include at least one “flex” (or “free”) meal.
Plan meals that let you double up on ingredients, to create new meals. You’ll stretch out your shopping and save some money.
For instance, if you’re roasting a chicken, you can make a chicken stir-fry or toss some chicken in a salad or wrap. Or if you’re making a burrito bowl, use quinoa and then include quinoa in Mason jar salads.
Quick clean eating ideas
Breakfast: Overnight oats, chia pudding and breakfast burritos, smoothies.
Lunch: Mason jar salads, wraps and dinner leftovers.
Dinner: Recipes of your choice.
Snacks: nuts, fruit, smoothies, hummus, veggies.
Hint: Glass containers for the win
Make the switch from plastic reusable containers to glass. for your food storage needs. They’ll last longer and they contain fewer chemicals.
Time & Cash
Want to save some time and money? Grab a piece of paper or worksheet and spend a few minutes creating a weekly meal plan.
Sketching out your meals will help you stay on-track, save you money at the grocery store, AND free up valuable time. Also, keep in mind that even if you’re following a single-cook method, you’ll likely have to go to the grocery store midweek for fresh ingredients and/or cook a couple meals to make it through to the weekend. Sketch out the next 5 to 7 days of meals, including breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks for each day. Include any meals you know you will be eating at restaurants, and include at least one “flex” (or “free”) meal.
How to store your meals
If you don’t plan on eating your prepped meals in the next couple of days, the best bet is to prepare it for freezing. It’s better to put your food in the freezer sooner than later, which ensures you are storing a fresher meal.
If you plan to store your food in the refrigerator: Portion out your meals in whatever way makes you happy. You can pre-portion your meals into single servings, or keep it family-style in a bigger container. Put it in the refrigerator within an hour of cooking for ultimate food safety.
How to prep your food for freezing
- Cool your food in the refrigerator for an hour. To speed cooling, place it in a metal bowl that’s sitting in a larger bowl of ice. This will help it freeze faster when you put it in the freezer, plus you’ll be less likely to partially defrost the food surrounding it.
- Portion out the meals. You can do this in individual containers for each meal you plan to eat, or in larger containers with multiple servings — it’s up to you.
Use the smallest container possible while still being able to securely close it (air is NOT your friend when you freeze items!). If you use plastic wrap, make sure it’s moisture proof.
- You can freeze meals in moisture-proof freezer bags, which lets you get rid of as much air as possible before zipping the bag closed.
For ultimate air removal, use a vacuum sealer machine.
- Label your container so you know what’s in it, the date it was cooked and frozen, plus any nutrition info you want to include.
- Avoid overcrowding your freezer so your food freezes ASAP. If it freezes too slowly, it will form large crystals and turn mushy.
- Thaw your food in the fridge for 24 hours before cooking. If you defrost it in the microwave, heat it to 165 degrees to discourage bacterial growth.
Fast and healthy meal ideas?
Let’s face it. Sometimes even committing to meal prep is a burden and a cause for extra stress. I rely on easy go to simple, convenience meals just like everyone else. Here are a few of the ideas that have worked for other families and a few that work for me too.
- Salad kits
- Pre-washed greens
- Rotisserie chicken
- Pre-cooked chicken breast
- Canned vegetarian chilli
- Frozen mixed vegetable skillet
- Lentil pasta with jarred tomato sauce
- Jarred soups bought from the produce section
- Vegetable burger patties with salad
- Quesadilla: I use canned vegetarian chilli and brown rice wraps