I get it. Meal prep can be daunting. Images of a messy kitchen, a million ingredients you'll only use for "that one recipe", and pots and pans everywhere are probably flashing through your head right now. Not to mention, the hours of precious time you will spend making healthy meals you are sure you'll get bored of throughout the week. Just like anything, practice will make this easier! The first week you meal prep will be the "hardest" and most time consuming. You will quickly find a routine and go to meals that work for you - just trust the process!
Today, I wanted to share a few tips that I've learned throughout the years with you. I know, I know - right now you're probably thinking "but she doesn't have a traditional 8-5 job, or kids, etc." When I lived in Minneapolis, I worked for a public accounting firm, and would regularly put in 60-80 hour weeks, and sometimes more (hello, tax season). Spending 1-2 hours on Sunday to meal prep saved my health, my sanity, and SO much time throughout the week.
A few things you should know about my meal prep strategy before we get started.
I hate feeling "forced" to eat a certain meal for a period of time. You know what I'm talking about - you make a big batch of healthy chicken curry, and after Day 1, your curry craving is gone, but you're stuck with eating it for 4 more days.
To avoid the issue in #1, I prefer to make components of meals that can be mixed and matched for variety. Think proteins, veggies, grains (if that's your thing), easy snacks, etc.
Simplicity is my love language. I won't buy seasonings for a single recipe - I either substitute with something similar, leave it out, or find a different recipe. It's why I love cooking over the rigidity of baking - recipes are meant to be tweaked.
If I'm really in a time crunch, I have no problem taking the easy way out and buying pre-cut veggies, fruits, pre-cooked proteins, etc. Occasionally (and sometimes more than that!), saving an hour of chopping is worth the extra price on these items.
Have a master grocery list with everything you need for the week so you don't forget anything. To save even more time, utilize a delivery service (like Instacart) to make your meal prep even more seamless.
Have your favorite Tupperware containers ready to go. I personally prefer glass ones like these for re-heating and eating out of at the office.
Put on your favorite playlist, Netflix show, or podcast to keep you entertained through your meal prep.
I don't count calories or macros. I used to - they can be a great tool - but it was too restrictive for me and put me in a bad headspace. Instead, I focus on the quality of the food I put in my body. Paying attention to how certain foods make me feel have made more of a difference than macro counting ever did. Again - personal preference here. You do you, boo *in Cody Rigsby voice*.
Okay, now that we have all of that out of the way....let's go! This sample prep will contain everything you need for 5 days worth of breakfasts and lunches for two people. The meals are easy to heat up quickly at home or on the go. Obviously adjust as needed for your family needs! Hopefully, you can spend dinner time as a family cooking up easy, healthy, filling meals! I will follow up with some of my favorite dinner recipes in a later post :)
Sample Weekly Meal Prep (per person):
egg cups - 3 meals
yogurt parfaits - 2 meals
cajun chicken - 3 meals
tropical shrimp salad - 2 meals
fajita veggies - 3 meals
roasted brussel sprouts - 2 meals
10 chicken breasts (6ish oz each, portion larger breasts as needed)
16 strips bacon (or turkey bacon)
2 lbs large shrimp (pre-cooked for ease)
32 oz container plain Greek yogurt (I use Fage 5% - creamier & less tart)
milk of your choosing (I prefer unsweetened almond milk)
1 package cheddar cheese (or cheese of your choice for egg cups)
8 bell peppers (whichever colors you prefer!)
1 lb brussel sprouts
3 red onion
1 bag spinach
2 heads romaine (or 2 bags pre-chopped)
1 bunch fresh cilantro
2 containers raspberries
2 containers blueberries
granola of your choosing (lower sugar content, the better! I like Autumn's Gold Grain Free Granola from Costco)
protein powder or collagen peptides of your choice (Ancient Nutrition Bone Broth Protein + Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides are my go to's)
6 servings grain of choice - rice, quinoa, cauliflower rice (microwavable packets for the win). If not using grains, cauli rice or extra romaine/spinach will work here!
extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
cajun seasoning or buffalo sauce of choice
So you're home from the grocery store - now what? This is where the word "daunting" comes to mind. It's okay! The first go will be the most overwhelming. Trust me, you'll find your groove!
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F (convection is best). This will work for everything - like I mentioned, simplicity is key.
While your oven is pre-heating, wash your produce and start chopping up those veggies. If shrimp need to thaw, put them in a sink full of cold water here.
You will need a cutting board & knife, 3 sheet pans, 1 muffin pan, and 3 mixing bowls. ***Pro tip - line sheet pans with tinfoil for easy clean up!
cut 6 bell peppers and 1 large red onion in strips (fajita veggies). Put on a sheet pan, drizzle with EVOO, salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Leave it.
dice 2 bell peppers and 1 red onion, put in large mixing bowl.
dice remaining onion, divide in half and put aside.
cut your avocados in half. Set aside for now.
roughly chop your spinach and set aside.
chop up your romaine if using heads of lettuce. Obvi skip this step if using bags. Divide into 4 Tupperware containers.
halve or quarter your brussel sprouts - total personal preference here. Put on sheet pan, add .5 of diced red onion you set aside, drizzle with EVOO, salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Dice up 4 pieces of bacon, sprinkle over top. Leave it.
pat chicken breasts dry, put on sheet pan, and season with cajun seasoning and/or drizzle with buffalo sauce of choice.
spray your muffin pan with nonstick spray, and line the outside of each with 1 strip bacon.
By now, your oven should be ready. Put the 4 pans you prepared above into the oven, and set a timer. Check and stir the veggies at the 15 minute mark, and take out when roasted to your preference (around 30 minutes). Cook bacon for ~15 minutes. Chicken will depend on thickness of breast, but usually takes ~ 20 minutes at this temp. Slice one open and check at that point, continue cooking for 3-4 minute intervals as needed.
While the above is cooking...
grab a big mixing bowl, crack all 12 eggs, and add 1/2 cup milk of choice. Whisk until well combined, and then stir in the spinach you set aside. Add salt + pepper to taste. Once bacon is done (you can drain grease at this step if you would like, divide between the 12 cups. They should be a little more than halfway full. Top with cheese (optional) to taste, bake for 15 minutes, and set aside too cool. Done!
take your shrimp out of the bag, and roughly chop into pieces. Add to bowl with peppers and onions you previously set aside. Add 1 Tbsp each fresh lime juice, fresh lemon juice, and EVOO, add to bowl. At this point, mince up 2 TBSP fresh cilantro, dice one avocado, and add to bowl. Salt and pepper to taste. Mix everything up, and let marinade for awhile. This one is done!
At this point, everything you put into the oven in the first step should be done. Take out, and allow to cool. Now the easy part...
divide your Greek yogurt among 4 containers. Mix with 1 serving collagen peptides/protein powder of choice for an extra dose of protein. Divide raspberries + blueberries among containers. You can also add 1 serving of granola at this time, but I prefer to portion those into ziplock baggies to avoid the granola losing its crunch. Just as easy to grab and go in the morning this way! These babies are complete.
divide your 4 remaining avocados. Put 2 egg cups and 1/2 avocado each into containers. Just like that, 5 days of breakfasts for 2 people are done!
among 4 containers, divide your tropical shrimp salad. This will go over your romaine when ready to eat for lunch.
split your chicken breasts into 10 containers (1 each). To 4 of them, evenly divide your brussel sprouts. To 6, add your fajita veggies. If using grains, bring 1 packet with each fajita veggie meal to make a healthy burrito bowl! If not using grains, eat as is, or over greens.
AND JUST LIKE THAT...
You have 5 days work of breakfasts + lunches for two people. I know that was a LOT - but once you find your cadence, it seriously takes less than 2 hours in the kitchen. Here are a few tips/reminders of how to make your meal prep life as easy as possible:
Utilize grocery delivery services, such as Instacart or your local store
Purchase pre-cut produce as you are able to save time shopping
Have a good set of storage containers ready to go. These are what I use - I love the variety of sizes, and eating out of glass feels more like a "real" meal to me.
Clean up bowls/pans/utensils you are finished with as you go. You'll likely have random 2-3 minute pockets when food is cooking were you can get a head start on cleaning, and avoid a colossal mess at the end.
Make it FUN! Get the kids involved (hello mini dishwashers!), or use it as the perfect opportunity to catch up on your favorite podcast, show, e-book, playlist, etc. Kitchen time can be very therapeutic - take advantage of it!
IF YOU'RE STILL WITH ME...
Thanks for taking the time to be here! Feel free to comment, reach out via email or DM, or send a carrier pigeon if you have any questions. Meal prep doesn't have to be this immensely complicated ordeal. Substitute proteins, produce in your egg cups and salads, etc to switch things up weekly - but still keep them simple - and watch your meal prep game improve week after week!
As always, I appreciate every single one of you. See you in class this week ;)