Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Meal Prep 101: Lunches


One of the questions I am asked the most is "How do you prep all of your meals?"

If you have been following this blog for awhile you know I work full time as well as commute for 3 hours a day in addition to my workouts 5-6 days a week.
For me meal planning is not only necessary it's crucial to my healthy living lifestyle.

I am going to break this post into 3 or 4 separate posts because I have a lot of ideas/information that I don't want you to miss out on. This first one will focus on LUNCHES.

Before I hop into the logistics of how I meal prep I want to note a few things:

1. I LOVE everything about cooking.
My favorite channel is the Food Network, it gives me so many ideas to recreate a recipe or put my own spin on it.
If I had it my way I would work from home and have this channel on all day long.

2. I read/research a lot.
I use blogs/websites/magazines[eat clean magazine]/diet plans [Tone It Up] and recipe books as inspiration. My favorite things to read are about food, especially healthy recipes. 
 When I come across a recipe I take a screen grab of it [if I am reading on my phone/ipad] or pin it directly to my recipes board.

3. I have an overactive, ADD brain. 
I am always thinking, I just cannot shut my brain off.
 Ideas randomly come to me all day/night.

For example: This morning my mom said she was going to make pasta for dinner.
-30 minutes later I was on the train and had a full meal idea:
Chicken sausage-broccoli-garlic-oil with quinoa 
All ingredients we have and all of them are healthy.

I don't know if this happens to anyone else but it's common for me.
I have recipe notes/ideas in my planner, on my phone, and on several napkins. 
I just wish I had more time to create/photograph/film them for the blog.

4. Social media is a great tool for inspiration/recipes. 
Instagram and Pinterest are tied for first place in the best recipes in my opinion, if you're not on one or both---GET ON IT!
While I am watching TV, sitting on the train or on a treadmill I am usually on my phone reading blogs or looking at things on instagram/pinterest. It's a great way to multitask and start planning.

How I Meal Prep:

*Work Week Lunches*

I block out 2 hours every Sunday to cook and prepare my lunches for my work week. Most of the time if I plan correctly it takes less then that. Taking these 2 hours saves me time and stress during the week worrying about what I will eat or how I will stay on track.

If you're really lucky, like I often am you will have someone to cook with you which allows you to make more meals in less time.This Sunday I am hosting a meal prepping party with two of my friends that way we are all set for the week and get to hang out in the meantime.

- Plan Plan Plan!
I pick 2 lunch recipes for 4 work days and allow myself to buy lunch once a week, usually on Friday.
I like to pick my two recipes by Saturday because it allows me enough time to food shop and think of other meals for the week.
{I already have my lunches picked for next week as I am writing this post} 

2 recipes also cuts down on food costs and makes prepping easier.
 *If you plan correctly you will use some ingredients in all four meals which will allow you to buy those ingredients in bulk which will also cut costs*

This week my 2 recipes/4 lunches were: 
-Ground chicken with cauliflower mash and coconut brussels
-Stuffed sweet potatos with black beans, avocados, salsa and scallions

-Buy things that will save you time during the process
I have mentioned in my cooking videos before that I like to spend the extra money [usually only a $1 or $1.50] for pre-chopped veggies/ shredded cheeses.
This makes my meal prep time shorter and the clean up process faster.

Example: I buy both peeled and minced garlic and use them for two different things. For salads I buy shredded lettuce, chopped red onions and matchstick carrots.. that is a lot of time saved!

-Two on the stove, One in the oven
Before I start to cook, I chop/dice/slice everything for my recipes and preheat my oven.
A great time saver is roasting/baking one part of your dish while cooking the rest on the stove top.

For example: My chicken/brussels recipe- Ground chicken in one pan and cauliflower mash in the other on the stove top, while the brussels were in the oven.
2 meals from start to finish were prepped, cooked and placed into Pyrex containers in under 30 minutes.

-Make salads FUN
Salads are one of my favorite lunches, as long as they are full of "accessories"
I keep a variety of nuts and canned vegetables in my pantry to make these lunches easily achievable.

For example:
In the pantry:
 Nuts:sunflower seeds, pumpkin [pepita] seeds, walnuts and sliced almonds
Veggies: canned corn, beans, hearts of palm, chopped artichokes and diced tomatoes
In the fridge:
Veggies: Shredded/matchstick carrots, celery, red onion, peppers,shredded lettuce, spinach,avocado
Cheeses: feta, shredded low fat cheddar
Protein Ideas: Chicken or Turkey-ground or breast, sliced/diced/cubed
Beef: Groumd or flank
Beans: Black, garbanzo, kidney

The salad combinations are endless with all of these ingredients...mix and match!

 -Having proper food containers is important
Whether it is plastic or glassware you have to make sure you have the right containers for all of your meals.
I suggest 4 or 5 for lunches for one person.
I use Pyrex because I prefer heating my food up in glass rather then plastic...ya know I try and avoid eating toxins when I can ;)

**When I am prepping my lunches I like to line up my containers that way I can divide all of the food evenly between them and pop them right into the fridge**

I think that just about covers my work week lunch planning. Next week I will talk about quick & easy breakfast ideas.

I hope you found this post helpful and if you have any questions please don't hesitate to ask!


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