By Christine Anenberg, NLC
Meal prepping is one of those things you keep saying you should do, but then you never seem to actually make it happen, right?
It can be challenging and stressful (another thing on the to-do list) to plan out and then find the time and motivation to cook REAL CLEAN FOODS during the workweek.
But, if you’re guilty of often saying, “Oh crap, what am I going to have for dinner?!” then you need to listen up. These 4 steps could change your life.
Meal prepping is all about time management and organization, so I’m gonna help you with both right now. By prepping your individual meals ahead of time, you’re less likely to eat junk, overeat, and stress about your next meal.
Meal Prepping Made Easy in 4 Simple Steps:
- Pick a day that works for you. Sunday Funday might take on a whole new meaning. The most important thing is figuring out when you can devote a couple of hours to meal prep. For some, Sunday is key. For others, Monday nights are the only viable option. Once you get the hang of it, 2 hours start to finish (including cleanup!) is about all you’ll need to set aside. Some of you may even be speedier.
- Get your tools ready. Choose containers that are BPA-free and come in various sizes, and organize your fridge before you get prepping so you’ll have room for a week’s worth of grub. Yes, that includes ditching lasts weeks leftovers that are beginning to grow mold. And while you’re shopping for those pretty new glass containers, add a food processor to your kitchen arsenal. Chopping is so much easier and faster when you have a little machine to help you do it. Trust me, it’s worth investing in an electric sous chef when you don’t have a real one.
- Create your meal plan and get shopping. Meal prep is all about cooking in bulk and eating leftovers. I recommend preparing up to 5 days worth of food at a time; 5 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 5 dinners and 5 snacks. Your meals should consist of a protein, healthy starch, healthy fat and tons of veggies. Having a manageable meal plan and grocery list keeps you focused and on task at the grocery store and prevents you from overloading your grocery cart with junk.
- Get comfy in your kitchen and get to work. You’ve laid the groundwork, now it’s time to get cooking.
Breakfast: Keep breakfast simple by getting creative with overnight oatmeal mason jars. Fill 5 jars each with ½ rolled oats, 1 tablespoon chia seeds, 1 tablespoon protein powder and enough almond milk to cover your mixture. If you’re the pop into the coffee shop for a pumpkin spice latte morning type, curb that craving by adding 2 tablespoons of pumpkin puree and cinnamon to your oats.
Lunch: One of my go to lunches is a ground turkey taco bowl. Saute 2 lbs of organic ground turkey, add in low sodium taco seasoning (or make your own), and roast peppers and onions while the turkey is sauteeing. Take out your five containers and add in each ¼ cup black beans, ½ cup prepared ground turkey, salsa, roasted peppers and onions. One huge mistake people make while meal prepping is not using their time wisely or multitasking. This leads to prolonged cooking time, sweat and (sometimes) tears.
Dinner: For dinners, I like to marinate my protein all at once since nobody wants to eat plain chicken breasts all week long. One of my faves: Mix together 1 tablespoon Dijon, ¼ cup balsamic, ¼ cup olive oil, chopped fresh rosemary, garlic and a hint of sea salt into a bowl. Place 5 organic chicken breasts in a glass pan and coat them with the mixture. Marinate for 1 hour then bake for 1 hour at 375 degrees. Save even more time by cutting up sweet potatoes and baking the chicken right on top of them.
Snacks: Don’t forget about your grab and go snacks and remember they don’t have to come in a wrapper. Bag up ready to blend smoothie ingredients like ½ banana, ½ cup blueberries, 1 cup chopped kale, 1 teaspoon each of flaxseed, hemp seed and chia seeds. Freeze them up in individual bags since they don’t keep well in the fridge. When you’re ready to enjoy your smoothie, add 1 ½ cups liquid of your choice (I love using coconut water) to the frozen mixture and blend.
Homemade hummus (this is where the food processor comes in handy!) and cut-up raw veggies are great to store in individual snack containers, too.
Nuts portioned in individual bags are another great snack you can stash in your bag.
Some meal prepping rules you’ll want to follow:
- Stay clear from pre made salads to avoid soggy lettuce or add in lettuce just before eating so it’s fresh.
- If you don’t have access to a microwave at work, stick to something like a Mediterranean quinoa salad with diced chicken, sun dried tomato, kalamata olive, marinated artichoke, cucumber and lemon.
- Be sure to let everything cool in the containers before adding lids and stacking in the fridge. Otherwise, you’ll get soggy food and you’ll raise the temperature of your fridge.
Now that I have your attention, it’s time to put some prep in your step! Whether you’re trying to save time and money or achieve fitness goals, meal prepping will make your life simpler and less stressful.
Find a routine that works for you and your lifestyle, and remember to have fun! Cooking is a fantastic way to express yourself. So throw on your best apron and don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty!
About Christine: Christine has worked with tons of families and single folks all around Orange County for the past 4 years. She grew up in the kitchen alongside her Italian mother who loved finding ways to incorporate a healthy twist to her Italian meals. Her goal is to give her clients the opportunity to come home to a fully stocked guilt-free fridge. Check out her website or find her on Instagram!