What if I told you there was a way to eat clean that didn’t mean setting aside two or three hours every few days to have bonding time with every appliance in your kitchen?
What if you could have a day or two worth of meals in as little as 20-30 minutes each day (the time it takes you to call in and wait on takeout, go pick up takeout, and sit down and eat it for ONE meal – not to mention the other two meals you have to find or make throughout the day)?
Plan for Success
We’ve all heard the saying: “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” We know meal prep benefits us, but taking the time to do it is often more of a good intention than something that is actually doable.
And, when this happens, we inevitably end up:
- Spending more money eating out
- Eating whatever is in sight when hanger strikes
- Eating less-than-quality food or settling for anything
- Wishing we had meal-prepped
- Weak sauce because we haven’t eaten enough food
I’ll teach you how to build your daily meals around foods you already know and love, and keep your body (and workouts) fueled to take on whatever comes your way. The only planning involved? The weekly run to the grocery store you are already doing. Here’s the play by play.
2 Simple Steps to Meal Prep Success #1: Grocery Store
First I hit the store to stock up on staples. Meat. Veggies. Healthy fats. Maybe some fresh fruits, and any longer lasting non-perishables I’m running low on (spices, seasonings, boxed almond milk/coconut milk, nuts/seeds, nutbutter, etc.). Here’s a peek at what I usually buy for the week:
- 6lb ground meat (ground turkey, grass-fed bison, or beef)
- 2lb organic chicken thighs
- 1lb frozen cod
- 1-2 natural, organic rotisserie chickens (can also buy a whole chicken and make it yourself)
- 1 carton pasture-raised eggs
- Chicken/turkey sausage (nitrate-free)
- Rainbow chard
- Collard greens
- Power greens
- LOTS of sweet potatoes (all varieties: Japanese, Garnet, Hannah Jane, etc.)
- 2-3 bananas
- Carton of fresh strawberries (or other seasonal berry)
- As needed: coconut butter, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, raw almond butter, macadamia nuts, or almonds
Non-perishables (as needed):
- Coconut aminos
- Unsweetened almond milk
- Coconut vinegar and/or apple cider vinegar
- Dijon mustard
- Balsamic vinegar
- Sea salt, black pepper, garlic powder, cinnamon
- Canned tuna
Once my grocery expedition is checked off the list, I am done with my meal prep for the week until dinnertime.
2 Simple Steps to Meal Prep Success #2: Dinnertime
When dinnertime strikes, I hit the kitchen to whip up my meal. The aim of my meal prep session here? Make enough for dinner tonight and lunch tomorrow, while also whipping up my breakfast and potentially prepping a veggie, sweet potatoes, and/or other protein source to have on hand for the rest of the week.
All of this is accomplished in as little as thirty minutes. I am left with enough food not only for that night and the next day, but also for more options throughout the week. For example:
- Cook a simple protein source to eat for dinner and lunch the next day (turkey patties, grilled fish, or baked chicken thighs).
- At the same time, sautee a lot of rainbow chard and kale on stove top in coconut oil (some for tonight and some for tomorrow).
- And, at the same time, toss chicken sausage in pan on stove top (for breakfast the next day).
- While your food is cooking on the stove top, heat up the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Wash and wrap 5-6 sweet potatoes in aluminum foil. Place Brussel sprouts, zucchini, asparagus, and broccoli in glassware baking dish, toss in extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Place both items in oven (veggies for one hour; potatoes for 75-90 minutes).
- Flip protein sources and stir veggies sautéing on stovetop.
- Break out chicken thighs or pork tenderloin. Plug in crockpot, place meat in crockpot, add spices of choice, and cook on low.
- Lastly, steam some cauliflower on the remaining fourth burner on the stove to soften it in order to make cauliflower mash later this week.
By the end of twenty minutes, I have tonight’s dinner and the bases of breakfast and lunch prepped for the next day, as well as some healthy foods to have on hand cooking in the oven and crockpot while I sit down to eat. A vast majority of my meal prep has been accomplished for the next several days, and I won’t need to cook anything again until tomorrow night.
Here’s an example of what days two and three might look like. Since my chicken thighs are prepped from the night before, I decide to have those for dinner, along with a cauliflower mash and some more sautéed greens. I break out my food processor and the steamed cauliflower from the night before, combine it with some grassfed butter and chicken stock, and make some cauliflower mash.
Since I have some more time on my hands tonight (about fifteen minutes more if we are on that twenty-minute clock), I decide to go ahead and prep some more turkey patties tonight to have on hand. I cook up 2lb worth, which makes eight burgers in about ten minutes on the stove. While those are cooking, I decide to hardboil my carton of eggs on the stove top for an easy grab-and-go option (or you could also make egg muffins), as well as wash and roast a few more veggies in my toaster oven.
I eat my dinner in about 25 minutes, with more food prepped for the rest of the week.
I feel like fish tonight. So I pan fry some cod or salmon on the stove, to pair with a sweet potato and my favorite power greens (lots!). Tomorrow for lunch, I will toss it on some spinach with avocado and half a sweet potato mixed in my salad, drizzled with coconut vinegar. While these are cooking, I pop a few more sweet potatoes in the oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
For breakfast the next day, I heat up some more chicken sausage (patties). These are great with avocado on top. That’s all I need to do tonight.
As you can see, meal prep is a simple part of the daily routine. It takes just about 20-30 minutes out of your day in order to have plenty on hand, not only for dinner that night, but breakfasts and lunches throughout the following days and week. And it ebbs and flows. Some days you may spend thirty minutes, other nights five minutes just reheating your food. You decide, according to your daily schedule.
Problem #1: I Hate Leftovers
If you really don’t love the idea of leftovers, here are some easy, grab-and-go options to keep in your fridge to throw in our cooler or lunch box the night before.
- Hardboiled eggs (from salad bar; or Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods sell already pre-made)
- Canned tuna/salmon (mix with Primal Kitchen Mayo or avocado or Dijon mustard)
- Nitrate-free deli meat (Applegate Farms)
- Nutbutter and coconut butter packets
- Rotisserie chicken
- Pre-made salmon, chicken (Whole Foods for instance has in their cold case)
- Boxed spinach/lettuces
- Pre-washed, pre-sliced veggies (zucchini, carrot sticks, celery, etc.)
- Frozen turkey patties (Applegate Farms), turkey/chicken sausage (takes 6-8 minutes to re-heat on stovetop)
- Sweet potatoes (wash, dice, cook for 6-7 minutes in the microwave – not as good, but gets the job done)
Problem #2: I Want Variety
Are meat, veggies, and healthy fats super boring to you? If you like recipes and variety every day, there are still options. Recipes can be simple, and it’s all about finding those little pockets of time to make ‘em happen.
Again, meal prep can occur throughout the week. The common Saturday/Sunday meal prep day is not the end all be all. Remind yourself of that. Just because you may not have made everything on Sunday does not mean all cooking hope is lost.
Some simple recipes that come to mind:
- Meatballs or meat sauce over spaghetti squash
- Chicken drumsticks
- Chicken/beef stir fry over cauliflower rice
- Ground taco meat wrapped in lettuce wraps
- Coconut crusted or almond crusted chicken or fish
- Pulled pork with no-sugar added BBQ sauce
Personalize Your Prep
Again, you can whip up a recipe of your choice (one that may take longer to cook) while concurrently cooking a simple supper one night, then have your creation for the next day (and several days after that) to bring some spice to your life.
The bottom line? Keep it simple.
You Might Also Enjoy:
- 5 Steps to Easy Weekly Meal Preparation
- Eat to Perform: Simple Dietary Advice for the Athlete
- Eating Clean On the Go: It’s All In the Planning
- What’s New on Breaking Muscle Today
Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.