Meal prepping the Mark Twain way

October 15, 2018

How strong is your meal prep game?  You may be better at it than you think!  Meal prep comes in many forms.  It’s not just about stacks of perfectly packed meals in individual serving containers.  The overarching idea is to make it easy to make healthy food choices and save time.  The system that works for your coworker, your sister, or your neighbor may not work for you, and that’s ok.

There are three components to meal prepping.  Following Mark Twain’s advice, breaking it down into pieces will help you develop a system that works for you.

Part 1: What are you going to eat?

If you know what you’re going to eat next week, then you know what recipes to review and what groceries to have on hand.  You also know how long each dish takes to prepare and cook.  There are many resources for inspiration and weekly menus, including ETP Menus page.  When planning out your menu, there are a few things to consider: 1) how labor intensive are the dishes and does that fit with the time you have to cook, 2) what are the cooking methods involved and do they lend themselves to the way you like to meal prep, 3) will the dishes keep well and make good packed lunches, and 4) how many plant-forward meals are in the menu if that is important to you,

Part 2: When is the food going to be cooked?

You can make everything for the week in one massive cooking marathon if that works best for you.  Or, you could break it up into two smaller cooking marathons.  Or, you could do some prep and a little cooking a few times a week.  Or, a combination of these approaches.  It’s all about what works for you!  Keep in mind meal prep doesn’t have to be tackled the same way every week.  Say, you’re going out of town for the weekend, and you normally do your meal prep on Sunday morning.  No worries!  Simply plan out what you want to eat the week you return and make a cooking plan.  That week it might be easier to spread it out over several days.  Another consideration is what day of the week is best for you for grocery shopping and cooking.  It doesn’t have to be a weekend activity.  Say, for example, you hate the idea of meal prep on the weekends.  No problem!  Plan out the menu on Thursday or Friday and pick up groceries on your way home from a weekend outing on Sunday or Monday after work.  Then, do the cooking after work on Monday and/or Tuesday.

Part 3: How is the food packaged?

Here’s the big time saver!  When you cook food that will be packed in a lunch box or eaten on the go, go ahead and store it in the container it will be packed in.  Take smoothies for example.  Blend a larger batch of your smoothie of choice for the next few days and pour it into individual serving size jars.  Seal tight and store them in the refrigerator.  Then, they are ready to go when you are running out the door.  And, you only need to make smoothies  and wash your blender every few days!  (That is if smoothies are your go to breakfast.)  Are you starting to see how this saves time?  As a second example, think about that delectable pasta you had for dinner.  You’ve got options.  Embrace the bachelor style, put a lid on the pot, and put the pot directly in the refrigerator.  Pro: no unnecessary dishes dirtied!  Con: to pack the pasta for lunch, the next morning you need to spend time transferring the pasta from the pot to a lunch container.  Another option is to divide the pasta into individual serving containers and the last portion goes on your dinner plate.  Let the leftovers cool as you eat dinner, and then store them in the refrigerator.  Pros: packing lunch is faster and no unnecessary dishes are dirtied.  Con: there’s one more task between you and your dinner.  Of course, these are the extremes; anything in between could work too!

Hopefully, breaking meal prep down into smaller steps makes it easier to find a system that works for you.  If you need more guidance, speak with an ETP food coach.  We’ll work with you to develop menus and food prep plans that work for you.

Bonus tip: Meal prep is more fun with a buddy!  Get your spouse, friend, neighbor, or co-worker involved.  Cook together, or each take responsibility for a few meals for the week and share food.

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