If you follow me on instagram (madeline_moves), then you probably know I’m an advocate of “meal prepping.” I know it sounds a bit like a mom who is talking about stocking her freezer with a month’s worth of casseroles, but I like to imagine it’s a bit more glamorous than that. And before I get a lot of heat, my mom is terrific cook and rarely made casserole and they were never frozen...I learned so much of my appreciation for fresh foods from the variety she cooked. The advantage of meal prepping for me (a teacher) is that the never-ending chore of packing a lunch each evening for the next day is done. Not only done, but I know it’s nutritious, balanced and tasty! I also happened to be one of those odd people who enjoys working out early in the morning (5:15 am), so the odds of my brain putting together a good lunch before that is slim to none.
For you, it could be for completely different reasons but the truth remains: nutritious food usually isn't as convenient. Meal prepping makes piecing together a meal much easier and sometimes knowing you have food sitting in your fridge makes you less likely to eat out which also saves money. Whatever your reasons may be, try it a few weeks and see if you notice your stress levels drop! Here’s how it goes down:
1. Shop for the Goods:
By this time I already have the groceries for the week and it typically includes a protein (chicken, ground turkey, fish), vegetables (endless options, but my current favs are brussel sprouts, asparagus, cauliflower, butternut squash), and sometimes a carb (potatoes, brown rice, quinoa).
2. Prep the Veggies:
I LOVE roasted vegetables. There are few more comforting tastes to me and I will never get sick of them. I wash them, chop them, spray them with coconut oil spray and put them on a baking sheet at 400 degrees for 30 minutes and finish them with the broiler because I love the char. My favorite seasonings right now are the Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel seasoning and garlic powder--absolutely delicious!
3. Cook Protein:
Meat is cheaper in bulk, so sometimes I buy the family pack chicken breasts and use what I need and put the rest in the freezer. But I will put seasoning on the meat, cut it into bite-sized pieces and cook it on the stove top. You can get creative with this: adding Trader Joe’s Soyaki to chicken for an Asian flare, taco seasoning to ground turkey for more Mexican-style, I also love adding Indian Saffron spices to chicken for a change-up. I cut it up into smaller pieces, spray the pan with coconut oil non-stick spray and cook it on medium heat.
4. Carb Sources
If I’m being honest, most times I don’t include a carb source besides vegetables at lunch. The reason for that is I prefer my post-workout meal to be higher in carbs to replenish glycogen (muscle fuel). Oatfit and cream of wheat 100 calorie packs are so convenient to make at school with a scoop of protein mixed in. I like to save more carbs to eat later in the day. It’s all about balance (I want my protein ice cream toppings!). But if you prefer carbs with every meal or to have on hand, you could boil your rice, quinoa, pasta or fruit and then add it how you prefer.
5. Portion it Out
If you’re someone who counts macros (carbs, fats, and protein), then you probably weigh the portions out, so you’re consistent from day to day. I usually aim for 3oz protein and then veggies I’m not too strict on at all-- I usually weigh it once and eyeball the other four meals for the week.
DONE! Stick the containers in your fridge and you are done for a week!! I always pack a greek yogurt snack (tip: add stevia or fruit to unflavored yogurts to avoid unnecessary carbs and sugars) and sometimes “protein brownies” if I have them on hand. Meal prepping doesn’t have to take hours and hours, take up your entire fridge or be completely bland or boring. Make things you enjoy and can piece together for different meals throughout the week. It’ll save you from grabbing things out of hunger that might not be as nutritious. The BEST part is that after the pans are clean and put away, you don’t have to dirty them again each meal! Just toss it on your plate, reheat and enjoy!
I'll heat up any random assortment of these things with rice for asian stir-fry, over a salad, on a FlatOut wrap with some cheese for a flatbread or with some whole wheat pasta or zucchini noodles and for a veggie-packet spaghetti dish. Allow yourself to get creative with your staples and you won't find it boring.
I hope some of these tips inspire you to try it out! You won't regret it once it's done and your kitchen is clean--it's the best feeling.