Lately, I’ve gotten out of one of my favorites habits, weekly meal prep. I love cooking but my schedule is so inconsistent finding the time to cook healthy meals every day isn’t always possible. Of course, this leaves me susceptible to ordering in or grabbing bad snacks at the corner bodega. I mean let’s face it most of us are pretty busy in our day to day lives and eating healthy is usually the first thing to get the shaft when you feel at a loss for time. When it comes to most things in life, preparation is the key to success and that applies to healthy eating too. Taking the time to plan out meals and prepare them in advance will lead to better food habits.
If you google food prep you’ll find tons of images of carefully portioned out meals in pretty matching Tupperware. That’s great and all but it isn’t the only way to do it. In fact, another way to get me to make poor food choices is to force me to eat the same thing day in and day out. BORING! I prefer to make a large amount of one recipe or halve two recipes and buy other items at the store that will compliment them for a variety of quick meals.
For instance, this past Sunday I bought ingredients for California Quinoa Salad which is great on its own but can be used lots of ways. I also picked up spinach, corn tortillas, and eggs, among other items. By simply adding the spinach, maybe some sunflower seeds with the quinoa salad, plus some dressing I’ve switched things up enough to feel like I’m eating something different. The corn tortillas I like to use simply as a food delivery system (thank you Ron Swanson) or lightly toasted, topped with the quinoa salad and an egg and with just a bit of salsa. Now one day of cooking has given me the ability to make a range of quick and easy meals.
5 STEPS TO MEAL PREP
1. Pick a day – What day do you have the most time for grocery shopping and cooking? Not everyone has the same schedule. While Sunday’s may be best for a lot of people who work 9-5’s, those of us who work nightlife the weekends are our big money making days and probably not the best. So find what day is best for you and try to make it part of your weekly routine.
2. Plan – Before you hit the grocery store and just start buying things you think might work, plan it out and make a list. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a basket full of hummus, some sort of chip, a jar of almond butter and whatever else your stomach decides sounds good in the moment. Bad idea. Make sure while you’re writing this list you think about breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Most of us these days have at least one Pinterest board full of recipes so scroll through it and find one or two recipes that call for similar ingredients and go from there. What about quick snacks? Having items like fruits, veggies, and granola on hand are also important for sticking to your meal prep plan.
3. Storage – Remember that pretty matching Tupperware I mentioned earlier? Well, it is important. The types and sizes of containers you use are key. One big container for prepped meals is great and all, but what’s better? Portioned size containers. This takes portion control out of the equation later on when your staring into the fridge ravenous prepared to eat everything, possibly even your roommate. Buying BPA free or glass storage containers is a good idea as well since most of them will find their way into the microwave. They don’t have to pretty, though. Unless of course, that’s your thing.
4. Prep – Yes, the idea of meal prep is to cook your meals ahead of time but that doesn’t mean you have to cook EVERYTHING today. Any cooking I do that day usually consists of a protein I plan on eating throughout the week, any veggies I may want to roast as this takes time, or making one main recipe I plan on eating various ways over the next few days and hard boiling eggs. Another option is cooking half of your protein and marinating and storing the other half in the freezer for later that week or even next. Pre-washing and chopping up fruits and veggies cut down on prep time later on as well. The key idea here is to do any prep work now, so you can save time later. Oh, and I totally do all of this while binge watching something from my laptop propped inside the kitchen cupboard. Who said meal prep had to interfere with your more enjoyable bad habits?
5. EAT THE THINGS YOU PREPPED AND DON’T BE TEMPTED BY SEAMLESS OR GRUB HUB!
- 3 cups cooked quinoa - 1 cup uncooked
- 1 1/2lbs chicken breast, sliced
- 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/2 can sliced black olives
- 1 medium green bell pepper, diced
- 1 medium red bell pepper, diced
- 1/2 large english cucumber, diced
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp greek seasoning
- 4 tbls Tessa Mae's Green Goddess Dressing - or your favorite Italian Dressing
- Dice tomatoes, olives, bell peppers, cucumber and onion and put in large bowl
- Cook quinoa according to package directions
- While quinoa is cooking slice up chicken breasts, sprinkle with greek seasoning and sauté until cooked through
- Combine cooked quinoa and chicken in bowl with veggies
- Add garlic powder and dressing and stir until well coated
- Cover and let chill