We are in week two of our Healthy Eating Challenge here are the gym and I am really enjoying this one. Four weeks of no sugar (or sugar substitutes) and attempting to hit Macro goals while eating a healthier diet that avoids processed foods. Since it is rather hard to avoid processed foods if you eat out often, I wanted to let you guys in on some tips and tricks that have really helped me out with food prep.
1. Write a weekly dinner menu
This allows you to have a general plan for the week and should take no more than 3-5 min.
It does not have to be detailed, but can be as simple as: chicken/green bean mon, stir fry tues, fish+veg wed, stew thurs, coconut curry fri, eggs/waffles sat brunch + pork chops/veg sat dinner.
This simple menu allows you to grocery shop quickly according to list, buy veggies on sale, and not get sucked into looking at foods that might be not so great for you. I find that when I have a plan it takes me half to 1/4 of the time to buy groceries.
2. Cook more than you need for dinner— plan on 2x the servings
Leftovers mean lunch the next day or an easy snack. It will take the same amount of time to cook 4 chicken breasts as it would 2.
You can eat the same meal or just cook extra meat and add to a salad if you prefer variety.
3. Prep veggies when you get home from the store
Cut veggies will last about 3-4 days in the fridge.
This significantly cuts down on cooking time during the week while adding a smaller amount of time to groc put-away. If you know what your menu calls for chop/mince/julianne and put into individual containers.
Cut up veggies are also a great snack!
4. Plan 2 hours a week for food prep
In two hours time you can get done 3-5 meals to be used for both lunch and dinner. This helps reduce time later on in the week for cooking and also provides you with set meals, reducing the chance that you will be left with limited options at lunch time.
Use oven to bake multiple meals at once, for example egg dish for breakfast, roast veggies for meals, and bake chicken; this gives you less time cooking since you can throw everything in the oven and leave it.
5. Use a crock pot while cooking dinner
Prepping chicken for dinner? Double the protein and put half in the crock pot with a different seasoning (eg baked pesto chicken and crock pot chicken chili; making burgers or stir fry w/beef? make meatballs and throw in crock pot).
I cook overnight on the lowest/slowest setting and let it stay warm for dinner the next night (if you're Chad you can always throw in fridge in the morning).
6. Re-use food
Wtf does this mean? No, don't regurgitate your food and baby bird it. It means plan two or more meals around the same base. Grab a rotisserie chicken (or 2) for dinner, then strip and shred the meat and turn into chicken salad or taco meat for your next meal. Have roasted veggies for dinner and then make into a quinoa salad for the following day. Think how you can use the same base as a different meal to avoid monotony.
7. Give up the idea that only breakfast food can be eaten for bfast
Thinking you have to have eggs for bfast every day means having the time to cook bfast every day (while this is possible for most people sometimes it is not).
Leftover stew makes an amazing bfast; a can of drained tuna with hot sauce was my go-to morning snack while I was a nurse.
8. Use a food prep company
It does not have to be every night of every week or even every week.
This gives you a break from cooking once in a while. I know couples that alternate cooking dinners every week and for his week he just gets Chomp Nola!
How much is your time worth? We used to spend at least 7-6 hours a week on food between prep and cooking meals. Now it is cut down to 2-3 hours every week. It makes a difference if you are a busy individual or say, cooking for the family but need a different meal for yourself.