Are You Meal Prepping?
Meal prepping has become my weekend pastime. I love the routine of shopping for fresh ingredients, then turning on the tunes and working in a cleaned kitchen to prepare a number of dishes that we will warm up throughout the week. Time savings and healthy eating? I am in.
When it comes to my food prep strategies, I just have a couple of steadfast rules. First, do not make it ahead of time if it isn’t going to freeze well or otherwise hold up in the refrigerator. Second, it does not actually save time and money if you don’t follow through with eating said prep items. It can be so easy to lose steam mid-week and want to order in. But through the magic of food-prepping, temptations are kept at bay and the stress of dinner decisions is left to one day a week, rather than every single night.
With home kit meal delivery services, the convenience of having all your ingredients showing up in one box is not lost on consumers eagerly supporting Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, Freshly, and others. You know you are getting recipes that have already been vetted, delivered with fresh ingredients, and all perfectly portioned. The same thing kind of happens with meal prepping at home if you are doing it right. The idea is to maximize your ingredients, cooking when everything is freshest to prepare meals you will enjoy eating throughout the week. With all of the slicing, dicing, measuring, and cooking accomplished in one day, you remove the annoyance of wondering what to prepare for dinner each night, and have the convenience of just warming something up when the work week has you weary.
For my personal meal prepping, I keep it simple. I make Sunday Sauce, (in full disclosure, I am not Italian or have a family history with Sunday Sauce, I just like how it sounds when I say it). I grill a bunch of chicken and veggies, sauté beef (burger usually) with onions, garlic, fresh peppers, and olives. And all of that goes into healthy dishes I create to eat later throughout the week. We portion fruit into small containers and throw the rest into gallons of water. We have come to love our weekly fruit water and experiment with watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumbers, berries, mint, and lemons. It is refreshing and special so it can make a tedious midweek day just a little better.
So, for the Sunday Sauce, I like to use a mix of fresh and canned tomatoes and fresh herbs to get a richer flavor. I also usually add a little “Better than Bouillon” to give it pizzazz. Separately, I brown the burger, olives, and veggies and add a good portion of that to the red sauce. I generally make one batch with meat and one without. Store leftover burger flat in a baggie in the frig and serve over pasta. The rest of the burger mixture is used for tacos, empanadas, dirty rice, or stuffed peppers, which I make ahead and have ready to go in a baking dish, stored in the freezer.
With the grilled chicken, I make my favorite salad (Lime Tequila knockoff) with greens, chicken, fresh bell peppers and onions several times a week. I just love it and the grilled chicken is usually so flavorful, only a scant amount of salad dressing is even needed. We will also eat the chicken over pasta with frozen peas and olive oil. I portion the remaining chicken into lunch and snack containers. The rest of the grilled veggies get tossed in with pasta, wraps, or over rice. I always cook them a little less than al dente so when they have warmed again, they do not get soggy. I also meal-prep breakfasts for my children. Bacon or ham, spinach, good eggs, and dairy-free cheese on Grand’s biscuits or in wraps is great for on-the-go. Muffins with fruit or a few shreds of hidden zucchini are another great make-ahead item. I put half in the frig and pull the rest from the freezer the latter part of the week. Breakfasts are always hot and tasty.
And that’s it! Even if you do not like to cook, buying a rotisserie chicken from the deli, shredding it, and storing in plastic bags is a great start to meal prepping. Boil pasta, add the chicken and some sauce, and freeze for that end of week lull when you crave something that tastes homemade but lack the time or energy to create it. It is that easy to plan ahead, making sure you are eating healthy and economical. Plus, as an aside, your kitchen smells like Thanksgiving or a version of it at least once a week.
Photos courtesy of Basic Cooking and Meal Prep Facebook Page.