Meal-prepping is the act of preparing your meals for the future or the week ahead. Meal-prep, for a lot of people, has become an aid to successfully changing their lifestyles. Being prepared and organized is one of the best ways to achieve success in anything we do. And Meal-prep is a great way to change your eating habits and your life.
First, I only prep for 3 days at a time. I’ve found that by doing this, I don’t get bored with my meals. Another reason I only prep for a few days at a time is that I enjoy cooking on a daily basis, so I will switch off the days. Second, I don’t prep “meals”. Instead, I prep different proteins, vegetables, sides, and sauces. This way I am able to create a variety of different meals with those prepped ingredients. And lastly, I don’t always prep for breakfast because I work from home. But, I will sometimes crisp up a pack of bacon, sear some sausages, roast some potatoes to have on hand during a busy week.
Now I know my method doesn’t work for a lot of people. I work from home, and most people do not. So, I do know most people prefer to meal-prep once a week. But, the one thing I would hope you take away from my method is to prep different dishes and sides instead of prepping full meals. In my opinion that is the difference between success and failure when it comes to meal-prepping. When you prep full meals (and usually you are prepping the same meal for every day of the week), you are more likely to become bored. This is the point where you may get the itch to stop by your favorite fast food joint. This is simply because you do not have options. Prepping different dishes, sides and sauces will enable you to try new things, and also keep things exciting for every meal. This way you are actually excited for dinner on your way home from work and you don’t get those urges to stop and pick something up.
TIPS & HACKS
- Keep a clean and organized kitchen. When prepping your meals or changing your way of eating in general, it is important to keep a clean and organized kitchen. If you have a small space, try to utilize every cupboard and drawer in order to keep a clean countertop. Invest in lazy susans to keep your spices, oils, and fats organized in a cupboard close to your stove. Keep commonly used utensils and tools in a drawer close to your stove. Try to keep your pantry and fridge organized. Label ingredients in your pantry and designate specific areas in your fridge for vegetables, fruits, condiments…etc. This way, you always know what you have and what you need. Staying organized will keep you inspired and you may actually start to enjoy your time in the kitchen.
- When cooking, keep a garbage bowl (Rachel Ray, thank you girl) and clean up as you go. These two things will definitely help you keep your space clean and organized while cooking. But, I’ve found that they help when it comes to feeling overwhelmed. You feel calm and more relaxed and connected to your food when you are organized. Your meal-prep sessions become less and less stressful. It becomes a time you look forward to.
- Invest in quality “make your life easier” kitchen tools. This is especially true for those of you who really don’t enjoy cooking. My slow cooker has always been my best friend during meal-prep days when I just want things to be easy and simple. I think using a slow cooker is truly fool-proof. One concern I hear from some people about using an instant pot is that you really have to be careful about timing. And for some, that can be stressful. So, for beginners, I would recommend getting a slow-cooker and starting there because it is worry-proof. Another tool I would recommend is The Inspiralizer. Yes, there are a lot of spiralizers out there. But, in my opinion, this is the best one. Turn almost any vegetable into delicious noodles. You won’t want to put this down.
How do I avoid boredom during the week?
Prepare an array of protein, sides, and elixirs that provide variety. You want to be able to repurpose your ingredients so you are not having the same thing for every meal. Prep ingredients that will go together in multiple different ways. This is exactly why I do not prep full meals. Instead, I explore different ingredients, sides, and sauces. For example, I would prep some quinoa, bolognese, roasted brussels sprouts, potato noodles, an easy pesto sauce, and seared pork chops. With this spread, I am able to get two to three different meals out of it. I can make a bowl with pork chops, quinoa, roasted brussels sprouts, and finish with pesto or chimichurri sauce. I can also just have a bowl of potato noodles and bolognese sauce. Or toss the potato noodles with some pesto, and add some roasted sprouts and finish with pork chops. So, from one prep day, you are able to create three different meals and you are not bored.
Which storage containers do you recommend?
When it comes to storage containers, I like using glass as of late. Not only are they safer, but by using glass, your food appears more appetizing. Research has shown that using glass containers to store your meals and placing them front and center in the fridge leads to choosing healthier habits. The theory is, when you open the fridge, your eye catches them immediately, which leads to you choosing your healthy prepped meals. This is something that has actually worked for me. And, because I am also able to see what I have, I am less likely to waste food.
Here are some of my favorite containers:
How often should I grocery shop?
When it comes to grocery shopping, I always say shop for pantry items by bulk. This is where retailers like Costco come into play. I tend to buy things like beans, grains, vinegar, oils, fats, pasta, and spices in bulk. I only purchase vegetables and fruits for 3-4 days at a time. So, I grocery shop for vegetables and fruits twice a week. When it comes to root vegetables like carrots, beets, potatoes, plantains, parsnips, onions and garlic, it’s ok to purchase in bulk. Here are a few helpful tips when storing root vegetables.
Rinse and trim carrots under cold water. Then, add them to a small or large glass container with a lid. Fill the container with cold water to immerse the carrots. Cover the container and store in the fridge. The carrots will last in the fridge for up to five weeks. I change the water out every 2-3 days or on a weekly basis. Yes, this will also work for baby carrots.
Fresh root beets can be stored in the refrigerator crisper drawer for up to 10 days. If you are not using them right away, you can cook them and store them in the freezer. Start by trimming the greens of the beets off, but leave the stem on. Then trim the long root end and thoroughly wash the beets by scrubbing with a vegetable brush. Fill a stock pot with water, and bring to a boil. If your beets are larger, cook them for up to an hour. Medium sized beets cook in 45 minutes, and smaller beets should be done in 25 minutes. When the beets are done, immediately transfer them to an ice bath. When they cool, wear gloves and trim the stems and root end. Then, gently remove the skin. Now, cut the beets into quarters and transfer them to freezer bags, making sure you squeeze out all the air from the bags. Beets will store in the freezer for up to 8 months.
ONIONS, POTATOES, GARLIC, PLANTAINS…ETC:
When storing onions, garlic, potatoes, and plantains, make sure you keep them separated. Store plantains, potatoes, and other similar vegetables in the same container in a cool and dry area. Then store your onions and garlic in a separate container. Be sure you do not store potatoes and onions together. Reason being, they both release gases that will cause the other to go bad faster. So, if you’ve always had problems with your onions and potatoes going bad too quickly, try this hack and I promise the difference is phenomenal.
What healthy snacks do you recommend?
When it comes to snacking, I think it’s important to keep fresh and packaged snacks on hand. When you purchase fruits and vegetables, make sure you wash and dry all of them. Then, place them front and center in your fridge. Again, this is a great way to stay on track because you are able to see what you have and you are more likely to choose to healthy fruits and vegetables. Another trick especially if you have a big family is to keep healthy snacks around the house. I recommend things like raw nuts, healthy bars, grapes, even a hummus and vegetable tray. This is great for weekend days when the whole family is at home. This also helps you stay on track especially if everyone in your household has a diverse way of eating. I like to call this “universal snacking”. Even if you live a Paleo lifestyle and the rest of your family chooses not to, having a variety of healthy and delicious snacks around the house keeps them happy but also keeps you on track.
Here are some of my favorite Meal-prep recipes to help you get started.
ROASTED SWEET POTATOES AND PLANTAINS:
This is hands down my favorite way to roast sweet potatoes and plantains. One reason why I like to roast the two together is that they compliment each other so well. I simply peel and dice both the potatoes and plantains and transfer them to a large baking sheet. Then, I toss them with salt, pepper and a mixture of ghee, curry powder, and crushed red pepper flakes. Now, it’s into the oven at 400˚F for 30-35 minutes until they are cooked through with golden brown edges. They are delicious and versatile. I like to serve them with some protein, roasted veggies and a sauce for dinner. Or, toss them on top of a salad. They also pair perfectly with bacon or sausages during breakfast. And, at the end of the week when you have leftovers of all the vegetables you’ve prepped, Try tossing all of them together for the perfect “clean out the fridge” frittata.
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