School starts in a matter of weeks. Those of you with kids of any age know that our schedules are about to change. Are you ready? I’m not sure I am, but this post might just help. It has always been important to me to serve healthy, nutritious and delicious meal with as few prepared or processed foods as possible. Now that I have two sons (and soon to be 3) out on their own finding ways to eat healthy and balance their time I’m trying to share with them ways to be efficient with their time and still produce fresh delicious and even affordable solutions. Today I’m going to share three recipes that can be made in one afternoon and packaged for the week.
Do you meal prep? If you don’t have time to cook every day, or you’re following a specialized diet, or looking to eat clean without having to pay for a food-delivery service, then meal prepping is for you. Not only does it save you time, but it also helps to ensure you eat healthier foods more often with the proper portions, instead of reaching for quick processed and prepackaged snacks or meals that go over your caloric needs. The premise behind meal prepping is to take one or two days a week and prepare all of your food for the next three to four days. You can prep just one meal (dinner) or all three meals and snacks ahead of time. The key to successful meal prepping is having a good plan.
MAKE A PLAN. It’s far easier to be successful when you have a plan to follow. Take one day and sit down and plan out all your meals for the week. If you don’t mind leftovers, then meal prepping will be a breeze. But if your taste buds require variety, then planning several different meals will give you the variety needed to keep it interesting. My mom used to cook a turkey with all the fixings on Sunday then package everything into frozen dinner like containers and freeze the individual portions for busy nights. The trouble was many of our nights were busy and it didn’t take long to grow sick of turkey dinner. (I’m still not a fan of Thanks Giving for this very reason), sorry Mom! Variety is so much better.
Here are the basics to planning any meal: pick a protein, one or two vegetables and a carb (starch or fruit). Then consider any seasonings and sauces you will need to jazz things up. You can only handle plain chicken and steamed broccoli for so long. And don’t forget to add in some healthy fats like avocado, coconut oil, hemp seeds and nuts.
GO SHOPPING. Once you’ve settled on the menu for the week, make your grocery list. This will help keep you organized and focused when you are food shopping and leaves little room for items to accidentally slip into you cart. Stock up on plenty of fruit, vegetables, protein, starches, dairy, nuts and seeds. It’s better to have too much than not enough food.
STORAGE. You may have containers on hand that will work perfectly. Hopefully you can match the bottoms with the lids. I found purchasing a new set of containers, especially ones of the same size, makes stacking in the fridge much easier than stacking odd shapes. It is helpful to have a few sizes that can accommodate either meals or snacks. The 3 cup containers (square or rectangle) are great for lunches and dinners, while the ½- or 1-cup size is better for snacks. Snack-size zip-top baggies are great for making your own nut/seed/dried fruit combos. Plus, these bags offer built-in portion control.
COOKING IT ALL UP. Set aside one or two days a week to cook up big batches of food. For example, When I meal prep I like to cook on Sunday for the whole work week, which leaves us with the weekends to go out and be more flexible with our meals. Some people like to cook twice a week and make enough food for three or four days and then cook again for another three or four days. To be honest, I like to cook so I tend to cook fresh dinners regularly. I have the time. If you simply don’t care to cook or especially clean up and you want delicious hot meals at the ready especially after a long work day or if you only have a few minutes before you have to taxi the kids to their next activity then meal prepping is the way to go. I have to say that this week has been really nice to have no messy clean up and a good dinner ready in minutes. In order to be successful you have to tailor it to your specific needs.
HOW LONG CAN YOU KEEP MEAL PREP IN THE FRIDGE? If you are using meal prep containers and have stored your meal prep well, these meals will last in the fridge for up to 7 days. If you have freezer-safe meal prep containers, you can also freeze these meals to have them store even longer. Frozen, meals will save for about 3 months.
Click the links below to view the meals we’re prepping:
- SPICY COCONUT GRILLED CHICKEN THIGHS with white rice and sautéed zucchini (a Roeckell family favorite)
- KOREAN BEEF with brown rice and cucumber salad
- CILANTRO LIME CHICKEN with sautéed broccoli and roasted sweet potatoes
This is the work flow we used…
- Preheat the oven to 425° for the sweet potatoes.
- Start with the starches. We use a rice cooker so I started the batch of white rice. When that finishes move it to a bowl and start the brown rice.
- Meanwhile, make the marinades and get the chicken soaking in their respective marinades.
- Chop the sweet potatoes and put them in the oven, set the timer for about 15 minutes.
- Mix the sauce for the Korean beef.
- Start your grill. I cooked both the chicken breasts and the thighs on the grill. While they are cooking place the extra coconut marinade in a saucepan on the stove to reduce. It will be thick and about half of its original volume when it’s ready. Stir occasionally.
- Peel and slice the cucumber slices add ingredients and set aside.
- When the coconut sauce is reduced pour it over the cooked chicken thighs on a platter. (We allotted for two chicken thighs per dish.)
- Cook your ground beef starting with the onions (see recipe) and add the sauce, cook until incorporated. Remove from heat.
- Now you can start to assemble. Do one recipe at a time. Set out 4 containers. Add the starch then the meat with the veg in the middle. Cover and assemble the next recipe.
- When all recipes have been assembled, cover and refrigerate.
- If anything is piping hot let it cool before sealing and refrigerating.