Coming home from a long day of work completely starving to an empty fridge (because you postponed your grocery shopping, again) sucks. Factor in a sink full of your roommate’s dirty dishes, the hour of traffic you just sat in, and a looming cloud of 7pm hanger hovering above your psyche, it’s almost enough to make you lose it, like – ‘lose it’ lose it. And it’s in these instances that our most well-intended food choices are thrown out the window, usually by the likes of quick and greasy takeout, last night’s leftovers, an entire jar of peanut butter alongside wine and a quarter pound of cheese, or anything else we can get our hands on. It’s also in these instances that even the slightest bit of preparation makes the world of difference. Because the secret to eating healthy, and more importantly, sticking to eating healthy, in addition to knowing your body and what foods work for you (spoiler alert… it’s probably not takeout), is making healthy eating convenient as f*%k—which fortunately, isn’t that hard.
Meal Prep 101:
Enter meal prep: The art of preparing healthy staples (i.e. the components of healthy meals), so that when breakfast/lunch/dinner rolls around or the early morning slept through-your-alarm rush happens, you can easily whip up something that’s actually good-for-you. Basically, meal prep is doing the “hard” work beforehand, so you have something ready-to-go when you’re ready to eat.
Undoubtedly our best line of defense against eating (and feeling) like sh*t, post workday hanger, and spending hours and hours in the kitchen, we’ve been doing some form of meal prep or “batch cooking” since college. While we don’t plan our meals in the traditional meal-by-meal planning sense (we have a much more intuitive approach to eating), preparing healthy staples to have on hand has become our saving grace. It might be overwhelming and seem like it requires a lot of effort at first, but the more you do it, the easier it gets. Eventually, it will become second nature, something you just “do” as part of your routine.
“But I don’t have time!”
Too busy to cook? Meal prep actually saves time. You don’t have to make everything for the entire week. The whole point is just not to start from zero when you open your fridge. In the grand scheme of things, one or two hours a week of prep work isn’t much, especially if you’re currently cooking dinner on the spot or waiting for delivery which can easily take up to an hour each night. And that hour x 7 = 7 hours per week. And your time is much too precious for that.
Meal Prep Basics:
Make this easy.
As you’re preparing your food, keep it simple. Designate time (an hour or two) one day each week for meal preparation. Remember, you’re prepping the components of healthy meals, not making breakfast, lunch and dinner from start to finish for the entire week. Like we mentioned before, the whole point is to prep staples you can build from so when it comes time to eat you can just throw them together. Ideas include:
Smoothies and shakes
Make in advance and store in the fridge (most smoothies and shakes will stay good for up to two days in the refrigerator) or fill your blender container with smoothie ingredients and store the whole thing in the fridge. Blend when you’re ready to eat. Ideas include: green smoothies, smoothie bowls and thick shakes.
Prep freezer smoothie packs (fruit + greens [or whatever your smoothie ingredients are], frozen ahead of time). Make a bunch of these at a time using freezer safe containers or small ziplock bags. Not the “greenest” option, but to reduce waste, reuse the bags to make more freezer packs.
Make a single serving at night before bed or make a big batch for the entire week. Add toppings in the morning stir and eat. Recipes here.
Wash and chop fruit or make a big fruit salad.
Peel and freeze ripe and spotty bananas to add to smoothies or banana soft serve.
Make a batch of easy vegan banana bread muffins.
Lunch & Dinner:
Wash and chop veggies to use throughout the week.
Make big batch of beans, lentils, grains or pseudograins (quinoa, millet, brown rice, wild rice, etc.).
Bake sweet potatoes or yams.
Make an easy salad dressing, homemade hummus or guacamole to use in salads and sandwiches or as a dip for raw veggies.
Prepare a massaged kale salad or a large tossed salad (without the dressing).
Make a batch of the best veggie burgers ever and freeze leftovers (recipe makes 6).
Make a big pot of soup. We do this once a week during the winter months.
Roast chickpeas with a bit of coconut oil and spices.
Prep snack size portions of fresh cut veggies (cucumbers, carrots, celery, peppers, etc.).
Prep snack size portions of fresh cut fruit (oranges, apples, grapes, berries, etc.).
Again, these are just ideas. Don’t feel like you have to do everything on this list. Be realistic about your schedule and your eating habits and pick what works for you. One of the big mistakes people make when they’re just starting out is trying to do too much all at once. It’s probably not realistic to make a huge pot of soup, homemade granola, 7 containers of overnight oats, 3 different salad dressings and 14 servings of roasted vegetables (unless you’re willing to do it and have a very large appetite). Instead, try picking one or two things from this list to try each week. Ask yourself, “what meal do I hate making?” or “when do I most often opt for takeout?”, and start there. Gradually build upon your prep regime as you get more comfortable in the kitchen.
From Prep To Plate: AN EXAMPLE
Ie. How to use grains (like quinoa) throughout the week:
On top of salads, chilled or warm
As a side dish to any lunch or dinner
Heated through in a skillet with mixed vegetables for a quick stir fry
Warmed with homemade nut milk for a morning porridge instead of oats
As a snack with nutritional yeast, guacamole and salsa
Stuffed inside baked sweet potatoes
- Added to soup or stew for protein, fiber and bulk
If you need additional help assembling your meals or going from prep to plate, check out Nourished By Nature, our 14-day guide to eating whole and living well.
Do you make your own meals? We want to know. Share your best home cooking tips in the comment section below. Next week we’re sharing an inside look at what we eat on a daily basis - recipes included.
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Erika & Jess
PS. Check out our guide to food shopping made easy (because that’s just as important).
**This post is part of our month long Back To Basics series. If you’re just catching up:
1. Back to basics - An introduction
2. Food shopping made easy
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