Meal Prepping 101
One of the biggest challenges my clients have is meal prepping, from what to prep, to how much to make to how to store it.
In my opinion meal prep is one of the most important things you can do to help you stick to a healthy diet, especially if you have a busy schedule and are following any kind of special diet (vegan, gluten free, paleo, low carb, etc). It will also save you a ton of money, help you eat locally and seasonally and keep a connection to the food you eat on a daily basis.
It is also a life saver for Husband Hanway and I, as at least 95% (maybe more) of the food we eat is made at home, we both have busy schedules, and he doesn't have a lot of time to cook during the week (and he eats a lot)!
I suggest setting aside about 90 minutes on a Sunday to meal prep for the week (if you work a Monday to Friday), or find a day and time that works for you. Make a list of what you are going to prep and the order that it needs to be cooked in, and have your storage containers ready. Ensure you have cleared space in the fridge, freezer or pantry for storage. Finally, put on your favorite music or a good podcast, and instead of thinking of it as a chore, reframe your thinking to know you are taking time out to nourish yourself and fuel yourself for the week ahead.
Getting Prepped for Meal Prep
You don't have to have a lot of fancy kitchen equipment to meal prep for the week, but I do recommend getting a few good basic items to make the process easier. My essentials include:
- Glass food storage containers with lids - varying sizes, and these can be used for both cooking and storage. Amazon has a lot of great inexpensive options.
- Mason jars with plastic lids - swapping out the metal lids for plastic on my mason jars has been a game changer (thanks to my MIL for the tip). They only cost a couple of dollars for 10 lids, and are easier to use and don't rust.
- Ziplock bags - I try and avoid plastic as much as I can and favor reusable items, but ziplock bags are great for freezer storage when you don't have a lot of room
- Unbleached parchment paper - to use in place of aluminum foil
- One good chef's knife
- A chopping board
- Veggie peeler
- Measuring cups
- Blender or food processor (not essential, but there are now a number of good inexpensive blenders on the market).
- 1 cast iron skillet (not essential, but definitely a good investment) or a frying pan
- 1 ceramic saucepan
- Slow cooker or crock pot
What to Prep
This is going to be different for everyone depending on your diet, how much you eat and what you like to eat, but here are some options or ideas. I start with the items that need to go in the oven, then prep the rest as they are cooking to save time. Remember you don't have to prep all of the options below, and we certainly don't do all of these every week!
Roast in Oven
I usually roast chicken breasts or chicken thighs in the oven, and keep it simple by using coconut oil and salt and pepper. This is delicious on its own, but also means I can add different flavorings during the week to mix it up. Cook, cool, then place in a glass storage dish in the refrigerator.
We also roast a big batch of winter veggies in coconut oil - its very easy to do, and they keep well in the refrigerator. Its also a great way to eat seasonally, and in the winter I'd rather eat some beautiful, nutritious root veggies than a salad! What I cook changes each week with whats good from local farms, but at the moment includes carrots (of all colors), squashes, celeriac and kohlrabi. I peel and cube these, coat them in coconut oil, and roast with salt and pepper, and a couple of garlic cloves. Cook, cool, then place in a glass storage dish in the refrigerator. If I have extra I can use these to blend into a soup too.
I'll also cook up one egg based breakfast dish such as a frittata or egg muffins as they can easily be made into individual portions and kept in the refrigerator or freezer (see Turkey Bacon Egg Muffins)
Cook on the Hob
Here I will cook some kind of patties or pancake that I know will be good cold and last well in the refrigerator. Options include Turkey Meatballs, Cashew and Rosemary Patties, or TigerNut and Oat Savory Pancakes.
I will also cook at least one gluten free grain, such as quinoa, buckwheat or brown rice, in some Bare Bones Broth or veggie stock for added flavor.
You can also make a vegan curry or stew on the hob for my plant based eaters, and for this who are trying to get more veggies in your diet (i.e. everyone)! My Chickpea and Quinoa Curry is perfect for this.
Throwing a chili in the slow cooker and letting it cook overnight is so easy, and a great option in the winter. Try my Hearty Cacao Chili for a super nutritious option.
I also use my slow cooker for cooking sweet potatoes - just wash and pierce the skin, and set on high for 4-6 hours depending on how big the potatoes are. I use these either in meals for the week, or freeze and use in my Gut Friendly Sweet Potato Smoothie.
No Cook Breakfast Options
Depending on my schedule for the week I may grab my mason jars and ziplock bags for some no cook breakfasts and snacks - I'll prepare some simple Overnight Oats or Chia Puddings in my mason jars and put in the fridge, and if its a super busy week then I'll portion out all the ingredients for my morning Superfood Smoothies and put into individual ziplock bags and but in the freezer. This is amazing for when I have to eat breakfast at 5.30am in the morning to get to my early clients, and don't have time (or the brain power at that time of the morning) to measure out all of my Maca, Collagen, Spirulina! I also now swear by my Organic Living Superfoods Designer Smoothie Blends as all of the hard work is done for you!
The one other prep I do at the weekends is to organize my supplements for the week, as even I need some help to remember to take them every day. I'll put the supplements I take each day in a small container, and then put them in the fridge next to my almond milk (essential for my morning coffee) so I cant fail to see them!
By following these guidelines it should enable you to have great grab and go options throughout the week. All of the dishes mentioned here last about 5 days in the refrigerator, and you can either portion out all of the meals ready to go for the week, or (what I do) is make a list on the front of the fridge of what we have in there, then mix and match all of the dishes to keep variety during the week.
All of my online plans include what to prep and how to prep for the coming week, grocery lists and recipes. My 28 Day Lean and Clean Plan is perfect if you are looking to clean up your diet and re-energize your training and nutrition regime (or are looking to start one)!
I'd love to hear your healthy meal prep hacks! What are your go-to dishes that you prep for the week?