Planning and Prepping your Food: How to Set Yourself up for Success!
Now that you have awareness of your current habits and your ready to make a change (If you don't know what I'm talking about go back to the video and blog on Awareness Week) WHAT’S NEXT?
Nutrition is the key building block for anybody to help them reach their goals. We all want to look better naked, lose weight/body fat and feel our best. Exercise is one variable to help us in that goal, but remember the old saying ABS ARE MADE IN THE KITCHEN? It is so true, if we want the results we have to put the work in the kitchen, more so than we do in the gym. If you don’t believe me, let me tell you, I used to own a gym and I will be the first person to tell you priority #1 is getting your nutrition on track, not workout more.
I get it, eating healthy is hard. It’s not enough that work, home, kids, stress, and the simple craziness of every day are huge obstacles, we also have to deal with hyperpalatable, super convenient foods that are always availiable...especially when we didn't plan well.
~How can we be successful at eating healthy?
The boy scouts put it best, be prepared! If you’re prepared when there’s no time to make anything and your hectic life gets in the way, at least you’re guaranteed to be consistent. Consistency is the first step in being successful and getting results. How many times have you gone to the drive thru because you didn’t want to or didn’t have time to cook? We have all been there but that needs to be the last resort. If you meal prep properly it can be as easy as grabbing a meal from your fridge.
My goal today is to simplify the planning and prepping process so you will have some ideas on how to start meal prepping. This won’t be a complete guide and if you have any food allergies please know these are general recipes not designed for specific dietary needs.
If we can make meal prepping fun and easy, we can make it a habit! Here is a 4 step guide to get you started!
STEP 1: CHECK YOUR CALENDAR
How many breakfasts, lunches, and dinners will you need for the upcoming week? Start by figuring out what meals you’ll need to prep for—factoring in things like date night, meals with clients, kids school lunches, and travel schedule. You have to start from the end of the week and work your way backwards. Knowing exactly how many meals you will need, how many people you will need to feed depending on your family size/schedule, and when you’ll need those meals is your starting point. This will help you plan more efficiently and avoid being hungry so plan for a couple emergency meals in case things come up or change. My #1 rule always make more than you need because you can use it as leftovers or freeze it.
STEP 2: MAKE A MENU
Once you know how many meals you’ll need for the week, it’s time to decide what to eat. Here’s what you should keep in mind:
The protein should come primarily from lean options like chicken, turkey, fish, lean beef, eggs, or Greek yogurt. For fat, think about good sources like olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, and nuts. Your go to carbs should be vegetables first, then berries and citrus fruits with the complex carbs like brown rice, quinoa, and grains last. AVOID all processed foods, simply put they will kill you slowly!
Be creative with your meals. Prepping a couple of ingredients in bulk is easier than cooking different ones for every night of the week, however, eating the same stuff over and over is boring. Think about how you can utilize core ingredients in different ways, I call this modular cooking. For instance, you can cut beef sirloin into cubes to make beef stew, slice it into thin strips for stir-fries or fajitas, or grill it like steak. Bell pepper and zucchini can be eaten raw with dip, tossed into salads, or added to stir-fries. A little different spice on the same foods makes it a completely different meal.
Take advantage of leftovers. There’s no rule that says you have to eat something different every day. One easy way to cut down on meal prep is by doubling or tripling your dinner recipe and bringing half for lunch the next day or freezing it for use in a week or two when you are running out of ideas.
Keep it simple. You don’t have to cook like you’re on Top Chef. The less complicated your meals are, the easier it’ll be to prep them. Think 3 ingredient meals and spices- protein, fat, and veggies with some spices for flavor. Use time saving appliances like a pressure cooker, slow cooker, and food processor.
STEP 3: FOOD SHOPPING.
With your meals lined up, it’s time to make a grocery list and buy your groceries. I say buy your groceries because there are so many ways to get groceries.
Buy them online and have them delivered to your door. This is a great way to get your staple foods, spices, and specialty items you can’t get at any store. My favorite place for this is at Thrive market. They have great specialty foods separated by categories and dietary needs. Another option is through amazon and have it delivered on a schedule you set up.
Order them from your local grocery store and schedule a time to pick them up. Every grocery store I know of has some version of this option. With our current restrictions from Co-vid this is a great option but you have to plan for it. All the stores have apps, you can save grocery lists, recipes, and favorite items. This is our favorite option and we use it all the time. My favorite part of this is you get exactly what you need and aren’t tempted to buy things you want but don’t need(i.e.- impulse items).
Actually go to the store and shop for them. Use this method in emergency situations and for when you only need a few items. Stick to what you need and don’t buy things you don’t want to eat because now they are in your house and you will eat them. The other use for this method is bulk shopping like Costco. Until they have a free order online or delivery option, we go here every couple weeks to get some of the big items and bulk amounts of things that can last several weeks.
Aim to do your big weekly shop on Saturday or early Sunday, so you have time to prep your ingredients before the work week begins. I would also suggest when you bring your groceries home, prep your veggies while you start to make at least one of your meals. That way you can be working on multiple things at once and everything can be separated into containers and ready to go for the week. Be efficient in the kitchen.
Breakfast cupcakes (mix 6 eggs, veggies, cheese and pour into cupcake tins, bake for 15-18 minutes, refrigerate for up to 5-6 days).
Bacon (don’t skimp on quality, buy the good stuff).
Use modular cooking (see above)
Make large amounts of protein, vegetables, and starches all at the same time.
Use different spices to make various meals using the same proteins and veggies you made.
Mix and match the starches (quinoa, rice, potatoes).
Use different fats for flavor (olive oils, avocados, olives, cheese, nuts).
STEP 4: PREP AND PACK YOUR FOOD.
This goes back to when you get your groceries, prep veggies and make proteins to last you for at least 3 days. Then you just have 2 days per week (for us it’s Sunday and Wednesday) to make meals and you can mix and match all week as described above. This is a big step most people don’t make time for and it’s a HUGE mistake. Once the week starts, all bets are off. Lets face it, shit comes up, plans get changed, and schedules fall apart. Don’t try to cook everyday or it just won’t happen.
Here are some basic principles to stick to:
Prep your ingredients. No matter what’s on the menu, you can always find a way to prep it ahead of time.
Proteins: Roast, bake, or poach poultry, meat, or fish. Use time saving appliances like pressure cookers and slow cookers.
Produce: Steam or roast vegetables in a big batch, bake multiple potatoes or sweet potatoes, and wash and cut up vegetables. Put them in sealed containers for quick access when needed on salads, meals and snacking.
Grains: Make a big batch of rice in the pressure cooker that’ll feed you all week long.
Other components: Make sauces, dressings, or dips, and any other items on your list together so they are ready to go.
Assemble what you can. Toss hearty grain or bean salads, layer a casserole so you can pop it straight in the oven, and put solid ingredients for individual smoothies in zip-lock bags so you can quickly throw them in the blender.
Store smart. Pack food in clear glass(I prefer glass snapware) or plastic containers so you can access them easily and know exactly how much you have. (Refrigerate cooked ingredients you’ll use within 2 to 3 days; freeze the rest and thaw them later in the week.) Divide single servings of finished dishes into individual containers for easy portion control.
Pack up to-go meals. Things like wraps, sandwiches, and leafy salads can get soggy if they sit in the fridge all week. If you’re having those things for lunch, assemble them the night before. Then in the morning pack it all up and you're out the door in less than 5 minutes.
Eat Well, Live Well