The idea of meal prep is so misunderstood. It is wrongly associated with body builders, tupperware, lots of rice, lots of bland chicken, and lots of time. But what is meal prep really? To me, it's preparing extra every time I cook. It's using the slow cooker to save time. It's making sure I have a healthy lunch every work day- no excuses.
Today, I want to share some insight into how I meal prep including favorite recipes, how I go about the preparation and what sorts of meals I put together with what I make.
Tip 1: Teamwork. This past week, I did a big meal prep on Sunday because my sister was around to help. Teamwork guarantees quicker prep. Two- or three- people work faster than one, plus you can put someone on dish duty. I admit, the absolute worst part of a big meal prep day is the endless dishes that can accumulate. That's why I encourage you to enlist family, a significant other, or roommate to get involved- then you can split the not so fun clean up part.
Tip 2: Do what you can. Meal prep does not need to happen in one day! Spread it out over two days. Or, my preference, is to save some things for Monday and Tuesday. For instance, plan to cook dinner on Monday, double the recipe, and then you have leftovers for lunches.
Tip 3: Keep it simple. Meal prep does not need to involve cooking. It can be chopping up celery to last for a few days or washing grapes in a big bunch so you don't need to do so everyday.
Okay, ready to take a look into my Meal Prep Sunday? Hope you get some ideas of easy make ahead foods to help you have a healthier, less stressful week. Enjoy!
Make an all in one..
Chili is one of the best dishes out there. No matter what your favorite version is you can pretty much guarantee it will give you a well balanced, simple meal. Chili has real food sources of carbohydrates, like beans or squash, and meat for protein. Top with cheese or full fat sour cream (I prefer Daisy brand) and you have a quick lunch or dinner.
My go-to chili recipe these days comes from my favorite talk show, The Kitchen on the Food Network. Five chefs hang out, cook, and craft, it's really a lot of fun to watch. I made this chili on Halloween and have made it three more times since! Why do I love it? No tomato products, which seriously cuts down on the acidity, and no beans, so it's nicer on the digestive system. I highly recommend including the red wine- and if you accidentally finish all of your red wine on Saturday night and live in a state where liquor stores are closed on Sunday (why, oh why)- then you can actually half the volume and use red wine vinegar instead (just an FYI). I also added frozen broccoli.
Having a one pot/pan meal, like your favorite chili or casserole, should be a main focus of a food prep day. These meals require the least clean up and are full meals as they are. I also like to make some sort of meat by itself so that I have a protein to put into different meals. Here is what I have been making...
and some flavorful protein...
My crockpot is my best friend when it comes to making meat in bulk. Using the crockpot saves time, and frees up the oven so that you can cook other things. My sister and I doubled this recipe last week and it made enough chicken for us both to have lunches throughout the week. We used chicken thighs, bone-in, skin-on, but feel free to use whatever you prefer. Don't let the name fool you, this "honey-garlic chicken" does not have an overwhelming garlic taste. Find the recipe HERE.
The juices that are left when the chicken is done cooking are so tasty. Enjoy over some cauliflower rice, regular rice, spaghetti squash, or any other veggie!
In addition to the chicken, I also cooked up some pulled pork this week. I actually used the oven to slow roast it. Usually I do a barbecue rub and put a pork shoulder in the slow cooker but I needed my pork cooked quick, so I searched around for an oven recipe. I was super impressed with how tasty this impossibly easy recipe was! My boyfriend said it was the "best ever." Find the recipe HERE. Notice, the recipe calls for using a grate to cook the pork over the liquid...it's not necessary. I tossed my pork cubes in seasoning, then put water and liquid smoke droplets in around it. I used a two pound pork shoulder, put it in a glass pan, covered it with foil and followed all other steps. It worked!
So delicious! Made pork carnitas for dinner with this. Warmed up corn tortillas and topped it with cheese, sour cream, avocado and some green dragon hot sauce.
Don't forget the carbs!
I personally don't do rice, pasta, or bread very often. I prefer to get my carbohydrates from vegetables because they are less carbohydrate dense and therefore help to prevent energy spikes and crashes. They also help me to feel fuller. Read more about carbs in this archived post.
I like to cook up some squash or other carbohydrate options to have with breakfast, lunch, dinner, or as a snack! Here are some of the things I made this week.
My anytime acorn squash recipe. It is great as a snack, or with breakfast.
Plantains!!!! Need I say more? My step-by-step photos show you how quick and easy it is. I fry my plantains in coconut oil or bacon fat. This week I cooked up bacon to put with my breakfasts and then used the same pan to cook the plantains. Buying the yellow (not black) plantains provides a less sweet, more starchy taste that I personally prefer to have with my breakfast. The harder plantains cook well sliced like this. If you have a super black or mushy one I could cut it in half and then slice each half length wise into thirds before frying.
I also roasted some butternut squash cubes in the oven. I used the unused cubes from the butternut squash bought for the chili I made (link above) It was a giant squash so at least this helped it go farther. I like this with my breakfast, while my sister really enjoys it with the chicken.
As seen above, I also cooked some bacon to put in my tupperware with my breakfast. I bought spinach and green beans to add some more veggies and green to my meals. And I bought some celery hearts and cut them up to pack with peanut butter as a snack.
I hope that this post helped to give you some ideas of how you can better prepare for your week. Hopefully you found a new, simple recipe to try. What are some staples that you like to cook ahead?
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