Meal prep has been a major part of my weekend routine for almost a year now. There are so many ways to do meal prep, I cook my meals to completion and store them in the fridge to eat during the week. Other ways to do meal prep include freezer bags for Crock-Pot meals, prepping veggies and meat to be cooked day of, making individual components of a meal and putting together in different combinations etc. I love doing meal prep because it saves me time during the work week and gives me more time to be doing the things I want after work, like hitting the gym. It keeps my family on track with healthy eating, and is a fun creative outlet. Now, I understand that not everyone loves cooking as much I do meal prep may seem daunting or overwhelming so let me give you a few tips for a successful meal prep. 1) Keep it simple! I love making different dishes for each day of the week however, if it easier to make two dishes and alternate through the week OR eat the same thing each day, go for it. 2) Write out your menu for the week. 3) Make a grocery list and stick to it, this will save you time and money. If you are like me and love grocery shopping its common for a few extras to sneak into the cart and that can add up if you are on a budget. 4) Use storage bags to portion ingredients that you will cook later like veggies, meat, smoothies. 5) Crock-Pot one meal each week and freeze a portion for later. This will help with those weeks that you have less time. 6) If you are short on time during the week pre-cook anything that takes more than 20 minutes like chicken, rice, sweet potato etc. With the invention of the Instant Pot this might not be such an issue any more. 7) Multi-task using your oven, stove, Crock-Pot/Instant Pot at the same time. 8) Use the same ingredients in multiple recipes and prep at once, chopping, cooking etc.
My Menu Brainstorm for the week: Curry Sesame Slaw with Shrimp, Miracle Noodle Lamb Pho, Smokey Salmon Quinoa Pilaf, Lentil Soup, Taco Meat, Rainbow Salad, Cauliflower Fried Rice, Bacon Cheddar Broccoli Eggcups, Roasted Butternut Squash. This week I did not go grocery shopping so my menu was guided by what I had in my fridge and freezer. Here is a custom grocery list I made based on the items I buy most frequently.
Breakfast for the week alternating: Eggcups and Smoothies.
Lunch Soup and Salads: My lunches consist mostly of salads and different protein options. I love to make a huge bowl of salad with all different veggies and store it in the fridge all week for easy lunch prep. Proteins I prepped this week for my lunch salad are taco meat, salmon, and I always have canned sardines on hand for a shortcut protein source. Sardines are full of omega 3’s which are good for brain and heart health. This is my favorite brand Season Sardines in Pure Olive Oil.
One of the things I love to do is try to get as many different colors into my meals as possible. The watermelon radish and purple cabbage in the salad make it so pretty. The taco meat, salmon (for salad and quinoa pilaf), and venison steak (for salad and cauliflower fried rice) took a total of 15 minutes to cook all three using some of the time saving tips above mainly multi-tasking. Soup is a great way to use up veggies, leftover meat, beans, rice etc. and is also a great Crockpot meal to eat now and freeze for later.
Lentil Soup Recipe (makes 6 cups/ 3 servings):
Veggies-1/2 onion, 2 sticks celery, 1 large carrot, 1/2 small head green cabbage, 2 cloves garlic. Saute in a large sauce pan in olive or avocado oil. Seasonings: 1 bay leaf, 1 tbsp no salt organic seasoning (Costco), salt and pepper to taste. 1/2 cup precooked lentils (Trader Joe’s) 4 pieces of cooked chopped bacon. 4 cups stock/broth/water I used 2 cups of homemade bone broth w/ 2 cups of water.
Directions: saute veggies and seasonings except the cabbage. Add in pre-cooked bacon and lentils. I like to cook my bacon in the oven on a baking sheet in a non-preheated 400 degree for 20 minutes. Add in liquid and cabbage, simmer until cabbage is cooked. Easy and tasty.
Dinners: This week I took some help from my freezer with the Lamb Pho. I had some meat and broth from a previous week’s meal prep that I have defrosted. To complete the dish I will saute some veggies and add rinsed Miracle Noodles. If you are looking for a great low carb option to curb your pasta craving try these out.
I used a lot of over lapping ingredients in my quinoa pilaf and cauliflower fried rice, I chopped and sauteed once and distributed between the two dishes. The main difference is the seasoning and the the size of the cauliflower pieces. One pot meals are such a time saver.
The quinoa pilaf will be paired with the smokey baked salmon and the cauliflower fried rice will be paired with the 5 spice venison steak. Recipe Cauliflower Fried Rice/Quinoa Pilaf: veggies- Cauliflower divided: 2 cups rice (pre-packaged or florets chopped very small) 2 cups florets, 2 cups broccoli florets, 1 carrot chopped, 1 yellow squash, 1/2 onion, 2 sticks celery, 4 mushrooms, 4 cloves garlic, 1 tbsp no salt organic seasoning (Costco). Saute veggies (minus the cauliflower rice) and seasonings in coconut oil, add half (but all of the whole cauliflower or as much as you can) to 2 cups cooked quinoa. Add cauliflower rice, 2 tbsp coconut aminos, 1tsp grated ginger, 1tsp sesame oil, 1tbsp coconut oil, 1tsp rice vinegar, 1tsp hot sauce optional. Cook until cauliflower rice is tender.
Lastly, we have Curry Sesame Slaw w/ garlic coconut shrimp. I love shrimp because they cook up so fast even from a frozen state. I sauteed them in coconut oil, garlic power and pepper. Slaws are an awesome meal prep staple in my house because they usually taste better the longer they sit. Unlike salads the cabbage won’t get mushy when it is dressed, the flavor absorbs and melds together. Again using overlapping veggies from the rainbow salad and lentil soup this came together very quickly. Recipe: 1/2 head purple and green cabbage, 3 carrots (I used purple, orange and yellow for more fun) 3 green onions, 2 cups broccoli florets. Dressing (similar to the fried rice): 1tsp curry powder, 1tbsp coconut aminos, 1tsp rice vinegar, 1tsp apple cider vinegar, 2tsp grated ginger, 1 clove garlic, 1tsp sesame oil, 1/2 c avocado oil. Blend in Vitamix or Magic Bullet (you can shake to combine but I like to make sure there are no chunks of ginger or garlic) This slaw will be good for at least 4 servings.
When doing a weekly meal prep I always make sure I will have enough food to last at least 5 days. Usually, Friday and/or Saturday will be a designated leftover day to finish off anything from the week, and then I start again. Friday I will survey what I have, make a menu, take out any protein or frozen meals from the freezer, and make a shopping list.
I would love to hear your experience with meal prep OR if you are interested in getting started and need help send me a message or comment below.