Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Art of Meal Prep

One of my chemistry teachers always said: "Fail to plan, prepare to fail." This is accurate in all areas of life, especially when it comes to what you will be eating. And truthfully what you eat has a domino effect into so many other areas of your life, that I truly believe if you get this down pat, then other trouble areas in your life will fall into line as well.
For example. If you set a monthly budget like we do you have a certain amount of money you plan to spend in a month on groceries, by creating a meal plan that is fairly thorough with a bit of wiggle room, you will have a lot easier of a time to meet that budget every month. However if you go to the grocery store aimlessly you will only leave, frazzled, with a bunch of odds and ends that may or may not end up making up complete meals for the next seven days... Then what happens? you find yourself too annoyed with the lack of meal components that you hit up Burger King or Pizza Hut instead...I am picking on those two particularly because they are the only two options we really have on base. The dominoes don't just stop there either. Eating well and nourishing your body has so many positive outcomes that are far more worth the time of planning than not. Doing well at work/in your career field will only be amplified by taking better care of your body. Your down time with family will be better spent as you won't be exhausted at the end of the day. And the best one...the aging process will be slower and you won't be spending so much of your retirement savings on health problems,instead you can be traveling your little heart out, hiking in Alaska, dancing to a Polka song in a German bar, river dancing in Scotland or Ireland wherever the hell they do that? (Ok maybe these are my little dreams, but you get it...)

 Today I have decided to work on something that I have only talked about before and that is meal prep. Most athletes/super fit folk I know of usually plan an entire weeks worth of meals, then package them so that way they can just grab and go and spend less time in the kitchen throughout the week. Though I do stay at home right now with my little guy and don't have to rush off to "the office" in the morning, I do have a pretty packed schedule a lot of times and I am sincerely frazzled around dinner time trying to get dinner on the table at a decent hour. Meal planning and prep takes a lot of the chaos out of the normal week-time drama. I mean between karate, basketball, track, homework, my training schedule, this little blog and the regular household chores I could certainly use a little simplicity, and I am sure you could too. Even if you don't even have kids, your life is full with work, school, training etc... we are all busy in our own ways, so get on board with meal planning then let me know how it changes your life.

 Rules of Meal Prep:
  1. Plan out your menu for 7 days of breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Don't get bogged down in too much variety this can be very stressful and expensive.  Keep It Simple Stupid (ok you aren't really stupid, but just remember KISS).  I usually pick out 2-3 breakfasts I love and rotate them, so maybe say fried eggs, bacon, greens and fruit one morning, egg cuplets another...get it?  Also for those who are working on cleaning up their diet or are new to Paleo this simplicity will be much easier to follow and will have you full on healthy foods that you won't even think about the bread people said they could NEVER give up.
  2. Make a list from your meal plans (this can take 30 min to an hour to really get a good plan/list)
  3. Hit up the grocery store when you have a good hour you can devote to shopping for the items on your list...never go hungry...those Twinkies (are those even still alive?) that you would otherwise never give a second look will be seducing the hell out of you I promise.
  4. Now once you get home you have a choice...do your meal prep that day, but if you are like me when you get home from the store on Sunday after having gone to church there really is no time, and you need a good two hours to get your cook on.  What did I do?  I did it on Tuesday why?  who knows I am weird like that.  However if you work during the week you HAVE to do it on the weekend, the payoff is well worth the work I promise!
  5. Meal prep day:  Go in on a full tummy or plan to eat some of your work, like I did.  Get out all of your meat and long cooking veggies like squash, and sweet potatoes and start there first.  Get slow cookers going, I used two with this meal prep, you may need more (borrow one from a super awesome neighbor/friend...)
  6. Nose to the grind stone for a good two hours....just do it!  A few good podcasts or awesome music (Ellie Goulding anyone?) are definitely nice to have going in the background.  


So here we go, I am not going to get into exact amounts, but this is what I cooked up for my first meal prep round up.

Get the protein going first.  

Protein:

A large bag of frozen tilapia baked off in the oven, I did a simple seasoning of :

melted coconut oil brushed over the fish
sprinkle with sea salt and pepper
drizzle with fresh lemon juice

bake at 400 degrees for 15 min


A whole chicken in the crockpot Cook in crockpot on med-low for approximately 6 hours (we had this for dinner on prep night since I didn't feel like cooking again after this roundup, use whatever is leftover for additional protein source, or husbands leftovers) Save the carcass to make chicken broth the next day...recipe to come.

Another crockpot of about 1-2 pounds of chicken breasts covered with 4-6 cups of chicken stock (make sure the chicken is covered) and a bit of salt and pepper to season simply this way you are not stuck with only spicy chicken meals for the next week ya know?  * note this should actually be started in the morning because it takes about 6-8 hours on med-low to cook properly.  Once cook place the breasts in a bowl and using 2 forks going opposite directions, shred it up. 



This will make shredded chicken that you can use in a multitude of ways:

Chicken salad
Chicken taco wraps
chicken stir fry...etc

Ground Beef:

Depending on how many meals you plan out it can be beneficial to cook up a couple pounds of ground beef as well with some garlic and onion salt and pepper.  This can be used in:

Spaghetti squash with tomato sauce
taco wraps
just as a snack etc...




I also boiled 8 eggs for easy snacks throughout the day or a great pre or post workout snack

Carbs:

The fuel for the furnace...a crucial part of your success relies on good quality carbs
I cut up 3 large sweet potatoes into roughly 2 oz segments, drizzled them with melted coconut oil and sea salt then baked them off at 375 for about 20-25 min until tender.  I kept the peels in tact because sometimes I prefer them on, but they come off easily as well in the event that you simply don't want them on.

I also peeled, seeded and cut up a large butternut squash into larger segments and drizzled with coconut oil, and sea salt, baked at 375 for about 35 min until tender.

I placed all of the baked squash/potatoes into a large container to store in the fridge.

You could also bake up an acorn squash and even some spaghetti squash for some variety. 


Vegetables:

While the squash and protein sources are cooking up, this is the time to break out all of the great veggies that you bought and get to work.  Make sure your knives are sharp and at the ready....  this is what I did:



  •  I diced 1.5 large yellow onions
  • sliced 1.5 large yellow onions
  • diced 1 large red onion
  • sliced 1 large green bell pepper
  • sliced 1 large red bell pepper
  • peeled and sliced 4 large carrots
  • chopped 4 large zucchini with peels intact
  • peeled 1 large bundle of garlic
  • chopped up 3 stalks of green onions
  • sliced 4 large radishes
  • chopped 1 pound of thin asparagus into 1 inch pieces 
  • bought green beans that are already ready for cooking
  • a couple bundles of lettuce, I wash these and spin them in a salad spinner (I also store them in the fridge in the spinner, it keeps them crisp)
  • I also have ziploc's of washed greens in my crisper drawer (mustard greens, spinach and kale)


So obviously you can do whatever vegetables that you choose these are just our favorites, but you will see that having this all done will keep your weekday nights less crazy and much more relaxing.

Some of the staples I have on hand for seasoning are

  • my basic balsamic vinaigrette
  • a good quality dijon 
  • grass-fed butter
  • coconut oil
  • olive oil
  • cinnamon
  • salt and pepper
  • apple cider vinegar
  • canned organic diced tomatoes
  • coconut aminos, soy sauce replacement ( I buy them on Amazon)
  • lots of avocados
  • lots of fresh fruit 
You could also make a few batches of my cilantro-lime marinade and my honey-ginger marinade, if you are feeling ambitious...this would open up a lot of different meal options throughout the week.

For snacking if you are hungry between meals I suggest these combos:

  • handful of nuts (almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts) and a hard-boiled egg
  • handful of nuts and an apple or banana
  • sliced veggies and salsa
  • sliced veggies and nuts
  • nitrate free beef jerky and some veggies or fruit
As you can see now you have some good quality protein sources, carb sources and lots of ready-to-go veggies on hand just throw in some diced avocado, or coconut oil in whatever you make and you are set for a great well-rounded meal.  I will try to post up some pictures of what I have made throughout the week to give you an idea of how some seemingly simple staple items can be made into yummy dishes.  Many of the fitness buffs I follow have jobs outside of the home, so usually they end up putting together a container that may look something like this:

6 oz of protein, 2 oz of carbs, 1-2 oz of fat.

For myself however since I am at home and value variety far too much I keep the options seperate then decide that day what I am going to combine...for example after doing all of this roundup I made myself this:

 (sorry about the lame pic, I was starving and almost ate this up before documenting)
A Mediterranean stir fry I call it:

Zucchini, red bell peppers, sauteed in coconut oil, throw in the already baked sweet potato segment, a few black olives and an artichoke heart chopped up and voila yummy lunch that is satisfyingly simple to make since you already did all of the grunt work.  

And later I made this for my post leg-day meal:

Shredded chicken with a fried egg and some avocado diced up served with half of an apple on the side...so much better than a protein shake!

 
See how just having those simple things done can make it easier to move about with your day and not have to stress about lunch dinner and snacks along the way? 


I hope this takes some of the guesswork out of WHATS for dinner and also helps those that are new to clean/paleo eating, or helps out us veterans who just need to be reminded that sometimes simple is better.

I also failed to post a pic of a batch of banana-walnut muffins that I made for a grab-and go breakfast for the kids things that I might change about the recipe are the ratio of almond-meal : coconut flour as my kids do not prefer the grittiness of the almond meal so much.  Here is the link to the recipe though  http://perfectcouplet.com/2013/01/06/paleo-banana-bread-muffins/  
these are not Whole30 approved though

Remember for breakfast KISS...eggs and bacon with fruit or sweet potatoes and greens etc.... 


Is this not the hugest post ever?  Epic proportions but hey it needs to be out there, I don't want you all running around like chickens with your heads cut off during the week so carve out some time to plan and prep.... Just Do It...then tell me your tricks and tips I love love love learning new things!



1 comment:

  1. Love this post!! Huge help! Keep them coming girl! :)

    ReplyDelete