Meal Prep 101
I’ve mentioned meal prepping in passing before, but today, I want to delve deep into what I consider meal prepping (or food prepping) and give you a peek inside of my own kitchen!
Simply put, meal prepping is the art of cooking more food than you need on a given day and storing it in the fridge (sometimes in individual portions if you choose) for you to use for the rest of the week. Meal prepping is common among athletes or fitness competitors, but it can also be anextremely valuable tool for busy students or professionals as well.
When it comes to choosing exactly what foods to meal prep, it comes down to two questions:
What do you like to eat?
What keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days?
For each person, the answers to those questions will vary. Nevertheless, the basic foods that can be prepped ahead remain constant: veggies, meats, starches, and so much more. To give you a better understanding, I’m going to lay out my weekly meal prep for you – what, when, and how!
First off, I shop for groceries on Wednesday afternoons, mostly because it is double ad day at Fresh Thyme, meaning that last week’s sales are still valid, and the current week’s sales have just started.
Typically, I purchase the following items: sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, plantains, carrots (regular and baby carrots), cabbage (red or green), kale, asparagus, green beans, zucchini, avocados, apples, bananas, mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, salmon, and any other veggie or fruit that happens to be on sale at a good price.
Then, when I get home, I store most of the food in the fridge until the weekend when I have more time to meal prep. Sometimes on Wednesday afternoons I have to do a mid-week mini-prep if I’m running low on food, but otherwise, I stick to the weekends for my main meal prep days!
Here is my usually schedule for meal prepping. I always follow this order because it is more efficient to put food in the oven while you are prepping more food to go on the stove top.
First, I wash and wrap about five or six regular potatoes and place them in the oven to start baking. Usually, I set the oven to around 400 degrees and let them bake for one hour. These are for my lunches during the week.
Second, I get my huge sheet pans out and cover them with parchment paper. I cut up the broccoli and cauliflower and roast them alongside of the potatoes. I make sure to sprinkle them with a little sea salt, garlic powder, and black pepper.
Third, once everything is in the oven, I peel and cut up the regular carrots into 2-3” matchsticks. Then, I place them into steamer basket and steam them on my stovetop.
After the broccoli and cauliflower are finished roasting, about 35-40 minutes, I take them out and transfer it all to glass storage containers.
Then, I take my sweet potatoes and cut them in half lengthwise. I place them skin side down, flesh side up on the sheet pans that had my broccoli and cauliflower on them (sometimes I don’t even get new parchment paper!). I put the pan back into the oven for another 45 minutes or so or until the potatoes are tender and starting to get black spots on the top.
Around the time that I put the sweet potatoes in, I take the regular potatoes out of the oven and let them cool for a bit before placing them in the fridge.
If there is anything else that I want to cut up or bake, I do that when everything is in the oven. Examples include cutting up raw veggies or fruits, cooking up a pound of ground beef, making hard-boiled eggs, or roasting a whole spaghetti squash.
There it is – it’s that simple! And honestly, it takes me less than 2 hours. Sometimes I break it up over the course of the weekend; sometimes I do it all at once. It just depends on how much time I have!
Now, when it comes time to actually use the food I prepped, I follow the same pattern each morning Monday-Friday.
First, I thaw a piece of salmon each night in the fridge. I normally do one piece at a time, but you could do more if needed.
Second, every morning while I’m eating breakfast, I cook a piece of salmon in the skillet. It only takes about 6 minutes, and I can let it sit and cool while I continue to eat breakfast.
Once I’m finished with breakfast, I take my rectangular glass container and put my piece of salmon in it. Then, I take a little bit of cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots in the container, put the lid on it, and place it in my lunch box. To complete my lunch, I throw in a baked potato (still in the foil!), and half of an avocado (I eat the other half at breakfast). Done.
So there you have it – that’s how I make my meal prep work for me each week. Since I have more time at night, I can make my supper without needed to prep ahead for it.
However, if you don’t have this luxury, you can just increase the amount of food included in your meal prep that will be stretched further for more meals. Or, you can do a bigger mid-week cook up in addition to one on the weekends.
I gave you my meal prep, but you could definitely switch up the veggies or foods that you prep.Roast asparagus, steam green beans, bake your sweet potatoes whole, throw a whole chicken in the slow cooker on low all day, hard boil a few eggs – you could even just chop and store veggies and fruits in the fridge for easy grab-and-go options…the possibilities are truly endless!
No matter what you choose to do, meal prepping will make your life easier! It allows you to spend less time in the kitchen throughout the week, and more time enjoying your food. I encourage you to give it a try this week. Seek out recipes or foods that you enjoy and make meal prepping work for those foods.
Happy cooking, and as always, let me know if you have any questions or want some help!
P.S. Can you believe it is already May?!?!?