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!


  1. Meal prep & planning are SO IMPORTANT! Keys to success!! You nailed it! :) :)

  2. This is a fantastic post - I printed it so I could make notes and highlight - i am a dork like that. I do the same though with meal prep on Sundays. My husband loves it becuase he usually gets home before me and doesn't want to think when he needs to be cooking food. I have post it notes with heating and specific instructiosn but still make it as simple so a caveman can do it. I was seriously going ot host a meal prep party! HA! We should so skype one time and meal prep from afar :)

  3. So helpful. I pack my lunch everyday and usually do leftovers but it is chaos in the morning getting all ready! :)

  4. I'm all about the planning! Works like a charm :)

  5. Great post! I need to do this more. I end up getting frazzled and just grab things. I just went from working only 10 hours a week and not packing anything but a snack to working 30 hours a week and needing to pack a lunch daily. I'm not doing well! So I'm going to work on these ideas you have listed.

  6. the husband needs this.

  7. Wow, what an awesome post!! Seriously, this information will be so helpful for a lot of people. It sounds like you're SUPER organized. I don't have as strict of a work schedule (my days and hours switch around a lot at the last minute), but I definitely still make an effort to prepare my lunches at home and bring them with me. I make sure that I have a main meal as well as a few snacks. I really need to invest in some glass tupperware! I always bring my food in my plastic tupperware, transfer it to a bowl to microwave it, and then have to wash both. Inefficient!!

  8. Hello I am relocating jobs to a location that has zero healthy options nearby leaving me with no option but meal prepping for my lunches. I would need to prep at least 4 meals I am wondering do you recommend freezing any of these meals to preserve the freshness? I'm not a huge leftover gal so the fresher something tastes the more likely I'm going to follow through with this type of commitment. Please help me if you have a moment thanks so much in advance, gina

  9. I know I'm a little late to this post...

    How did you keep your avocados slices fresh throughout the week when you were prepping meal 2? Anytime I slice an avo by its self it turns brown with in a day or two..

  10. I know I'm a little late to this post...

    How did you keep your avocados slices fresh throughout the week when you were prepping meal 2? Anytime I slice an avo by its self it turns brown with in a day or two..

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