Saturday, March 12, 2016

How To: Meal Prep

People choose to meal prep for many different reasons. As for me and my little family, we find that it helps us to:

1. Eat healthfully,

2. Avoid overspending on food, and

3. Use the time that would be spent on daily cooking and cleaning the kitchen on doing other awesome things.

I'm going to share with you one example of meal preparation. Depending on your needs/wants/diet/budget/lifestyle/etc., there are several different ways to tackle weekly meal prep. This is how my husband and I prepped all of our meals for this week.

First of all, this week's prep was soooo much easier than our prep from last week. Last week our meals were great, they just took way too long to prep. My handsome husband had the marvelous idea of having chicken with every big meal and pairing it with different vegetables.

Here's our Meal Plan:

2 people
6 days
12 breakfasts
24 big meals (lunches and dinners)
24 snacks (2 snacks daily)

BREAKFAST: full fat yogurt sweetened w/Splenda, Crunchy Cranberry Almond Granola, banana

SNACK ONE: carrots & celery, peanut butter, cuties

SNACK TWO: strawberries & pineapples, turkey slices & sharp cheddar

We have 3 different options for our 2 big meals (lunch and dinner) each day.

To get 24 big meals, we prepared 8 servings of each of the following delicious entrees:

1. Grilled Chicken Thighs, Grilled Asparagus, Sautéed Balsamic Garlic Mushrooms and Brown Rice

2. Grilled Chicken Thighs, Steamed Broccoli and Brown Rice

3. Grilled Chicken Thighs, Collard Greens and Brown Rice

This is how we made it happen:

First, I made a meal plan and a shopping list. Then I went shopping to purchase the ingredients.

Then my husband and I high-fived each other and started cookin': 

My husband seasoned the boneless skinless chicken thighs and grilled them outside on the flattop grill, along with the asparagus. 

Meanwhile, I was inside cooking the vegetables, rice, and prepping the breakfasts and snacks.

I sautéed the mushrooms in a wok on the stove (with olive oil, onions, garlic, balsamic vinegar and a little salt and pepper).

I steamed the broccoli with a steamer basket in a large pot on the stove.

And the collards pretty much cooked themselves in a large pot on the stove (with olive oil, onions, garlic, chicken bouillon powder and water).

(Psst...there's a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in these greens).

I steamed the brown rice in a medium pot on the stove.

Then I conquered the breakfast and snacks:

I put 1 cup of yogurt and 2 teaspoons of Splenda in each of 12 mason jars.
I baked the Crunchy Cranberry Almond Granola, and after it cooled and hardened I placed a 1/2 cup of granola into each of 12 snack bags 

Snack One:
This is the ridiculous part. Of course I have to be difficult and peel and cut my own carrots. Yes, I'm aware that they sell baby carrots at the grocery store. But I like mine better. I store my carrots and celery in water in the fridge and then put our portions in snack bags each night. I like for them to soak in the water for as long as possible to maintain that fresh and crispy crunch! So I peeled and cut my carrots and cut my celery and placed them in a big storage container full of water.

Then I grew the cuties on my cutie tree lol (one day...).

Then I placed about 2 tablespoons of peanut butter into little containers.

Snack Two: I washed, peeled and cut my pineapple into chunks and placed them into 12 snack bags. I washed and cut my strawberries in half and placed them into 12 snack bags (by the way, I buy generic brand snack bags because they are cheaper and, as you can see, I use a lot of them!)

I cut the sharp cheddar cheese into about 1 ounce chunks. 
(my math: the whole block was 8 ounces, so I cut it in half, then cut those halves into halves, then those halves into halves to yield 8 1-ounce chunks. That explanation was a blessing to someone, I just know it).
Then I cut each 1 ounce chunk into 4 little squares.
I placed 4 little squares into each of 12 snack bags with 4 folded slices of turkey.

Breakfast - done! 
Snacks - did that!

As I prepared our breakfasts and snacks I kept an eye on the mushrooms, tossing and stirring them as needed.

I set a timer for my rice so we don't have to eat mushy rice like we did last week (which actually wasn't so bad, but still...)

Then when all the foods were finished cooking and mostly cooled, we portioned out everything into our food storage containers.

So that's how we did it. Everything tastes amazing, I don't have to cook during the busy week, we are eating healthful, delicious foods, we are staying on our clean eating path, and it was fun working together. It was like a romantic meal prep date. Kinda.

My meal prep tips to you:

1. Keep it simple. When cooked well, leftovers are such a beautiful thing! Prepare one or two of your favorite big meals to last for the week. This week we prepared 3 big meals, as you can see, but we made foods that didn't require too much work.

2. Plan. Decide on the few foods you want to prepare, then create your shopping list. Remember to write down the amounts of ingredients you'll need so you'll have enough. Shop at a store that will give you the best value for the amount of food you plan on buying. If possible, create a plan that incorporates some of the foods that you already have. You can plan to prepare as much as you need/want. For example, prepare only your breakfasts and lunches for work; or only your dinners; or only your snacks; or prep for only 2 or 3 days out of the week instead of the whole week. Do what works best for YOU right now.

3. Teamwork. It makes the dream work. Two sets of hands get twice as much done than one. A third set of hands can bust some suds (a.k.a. do the dishes). And there will be lots of dishes. But four people...that's too many cooks in the kitchen! ;)

I hope this was helpful!

Follow me on Instagram @howtogetawaywithcooking for more instructions and inspiration for cooking healthful and delicious foods.

Or on Twitter @HTGAWC, even though I don't quite understand how to use Twitter...

Questions? Feedback? I would love to hear from you! Leave them in the Comments section below or you can email me at HTGAWC@gmail.com.

Have fun!

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