Pimp My Food Prep

Let’s see…today is Monday.  One of my favorite days of the week – it’s another chance to hit the ground running and crush some more accomplishments!  Monday morning also means I wake up to a fridge stocked with meals for at least the next three days.  That kind of security gives me all the warm fuzzy feels.

mondays meme dwight

Don’t you wish you knew what you’ll be having for lunch two days from now?

Well, let me tell you a secret: It’s not a team of house elves that prepare my food for me and pack it neatly into Tupperware.  Nope, I ain’t no #DNB.  I do food prep every weekend to set myself up for the week with good meals that don’t take much – if any! – time to get onto a plate and into my belly.  See, I’m a firm believer in time-management and setting yourself up for success.  Spending a few hours doing food prep each weekend will end up saving you hours and hours of your weekdays, and it makes it so much easier to eat well when you have healthy food prepared in ways that makes it both delicious and easy to take on the road.

Remember, a healthy lifestyle is the result of healthy habits.   Habits are choices that are repeated consistently.  The best way to make healthy choices is to make your environment such that the best choices are the easiest choices.  And food prep just so happens to be a fantastic way to do exactly that!

A lot of people might hear “meal prep” or “food prep” and think of bodybuilders who cook up a week’s worth of tilapia and asparagus in an afternoon.  While that stereotype exists for a reason, the food prep tips in this post can be applied to any diet or health priorities. 

Lactose intolerant?
You can food prep.
Vegan?
You can food prep.
Paleo?
You can food prep.
Gluten free? 
You can food prep.
Diabetic?
You can food prep.
Cardiovascular patient?
You can food prep.
Trying to pack on mass?
You can food prep.
Trying to lean out?
You can food prep.
Training for an athletic event?
You can food prep.
Just trying survive a chaotic week at work?
You can food prep.

If you’re not on the food-prep train yet, consider this your official invitation.

All abooooard!

These are my best general suggestions for making food prep effective and fun.

Turn on your favorite playlist or your guilty pleasure TV show.

Food prep is when I catch up on Keeping Up with the Kardashians or Gossip Girl  No shame.  (Ok, maybe a little shame.)

Have a plan of attack!

Whether you are cooking for the next 2 days or the whole upcoming week, you need to know 1) what foods/meals you plan to make, 2) how much of each you plan to make, and 3) what you need to make everything.

Defrost ahead of time.

Again, this takes planning…try to defrost things the night before so you’re not stymied by a heap of frozen turkey when you get around to food prepping!

Set a timer.

If you know you’re on the clock and have 2 or 3 hours to finish everything, it keeps you hustling.

Prep or pick up things that make grab-n-go meals easy.

For me, protein powder is something I always like to have on hand for adding to shakes (see note below on bananas!), oatmeal, etc. Rice cakes are another thing I love to have on hand – portable, tasty, and an easy-to-digest carb source…Add some PB and a small protein shake and you’ve got a solid snack!

Multitask for efficiency.

If something needs to cook for 90 minutes, prep it and get that bad boy in the oven first so you can spend the cooking time working on something else.

Clean and cut all the vegetables at once.

Lay out a few towels so you can wash and dry all your produce, and then get chopping (literally).  Use mixing bowls or serving bowls to keep all the chopped veggies organized for when you get to throwing actual dishes together.

Use your food processor.  
confetti salad

Seriously, throw everything you’re prepping up in there. No, not literally.  But I do use mine for anything that needs to be diced, minced, or shredded (i.e. cabbage slaw), and it saves so much time.

Make sure your Tupperware is clean. seriously.

Nothing like figuring out you have to hand wash 20 pieces of Tupperware after 3 hours of food prep.

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Work in this order: clean, cut, combine, cook, clean.

This means clean all your produce, then chop all your produce, then combine all the ingredients as called for by their respective recipes, then cook all the things.  And while that ‘ish cooks, you can clean all the dishes.  (Again, this is where that guilty pleasure TV show is clutch!)

Some Practical Foods To Prep:

Frozen bananas.

Peel ‘em, break ‘em into chunks, toss ‘em in a gallon baggie, and pop those suckers in the freezer.  Throw a couple handfuls of frozen banana hunks into a high speed blender with protein powder and milk, and you’ve got the perfect base for a mind-blowing delicious protein shake.  See THIS post for tons of great protein shake ideas! (My current go-to: frozen bananas, THIS protein powder, cashew milk, cocoa powder, and powdered peanut butter.  It’s like peanut butter cup ice cream with a side of gains.)

Chicken in the crockpot.
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Toss three or four chicken breasts in the crockpot (confession…I almost always put them in frozen), and flip it on low for 4 hours or so (for frozen, I do 6-8 hours on low). It is a foolproof way to make delicious chicken and it never turns out dry.  Super easy to shred when you cook it in the crockpot, too!

  • Stir in 1 cup BBQ sauce. Add 1 small bag frozen corn during last hour of cooking, and 1 can (drained) black beans when finished.
  • Dried oregano + basil + black pepper + garlic powder. Toss in some sundried tomatoes during the last hour if you’re feeling frisky.
  • Taco seasoning from a packet or chili powder + cumin + garlic powder + onion powder + paprika + optional red pepper flakes.
  • 1 cup BBQ sauce + 1 cup pineapple juice + 1/3 cup honey. Add 1-2 small cans of water chestnuts during last hour of cooking, and add pineapple chunks for last 15 minutes.
  • Soy sauce + ginger powder/grated ginger + lime juice + a small squeeze of sriracha
Brown rice/quinoa/barley/grain of choice.

I actually go with white rice these days because my belly likes it much better than brown rice.  Once your rice is cooked, it’s a perfect carb source to make a nice little bed for your protein of choice – crockpot chicken, ground turkey, shredded pork, fried eggs, tofu, or whatever tickles your fancy.  Pro tip: If you don’t have a rice cooker….get one.

Veggie sticks and homemade hummus.

Veggie sticks: self-explanatory.  Cut them up, store them in cold water to keep them crisp, and you’re done. Hummus: Break out the food processor or bullet-type blender and whip up 1-2 cups garbanzo beans (drained if you’re using canned), 1-2 tablespoons tahini, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and paprika + garlic powder + salt + pepper (or other seasonings of choice).

Overnight oatmeal.

Mix dry oatmeal (rolled oats or quick oats, but not the flavored kind in the packet) with almond milk and Greek yogurt (1:1 ratio seems to work best) to make a soupy textured mess.  Add mix ins of choice: protein powder (this will make it much thicker, so it’s a great choice if you’re dairy-free like me and can’t use Greek yogurt!), chopped nuts, peanut butter, chopped fruit, flaxseed meal, chia seeds, mini chocolate chips (no shame), etc.  Keep in the fridge overnight, and it will thicken into a thicker pudding-type texture by morning.  And it will keep a few days if you want to make several servings ahead of time, too. Pro tip…This looks adorable if you put it in mason jars, but normally my rachet self just makes it directly in the Tupperware.

Cook some vegetables stir-fry style or fajita style.

My go-to is fajita veggies: 1 onion + 2 bell peppers sliced and quickly cooked over high heat on the stove with the aforementioned taco-seasonings (for crockpot chicken).  Add canned olives and/or jalepeno slices after cooking and you are in biznizzzz.  For a quick meal, you can slap them on top of a chopped greens and/or rice (I vote both!) and add some protein of choice.  Wham, bam, thank you, ma’am.

Hardboiled eggs.

These are one of the best protein sources in terms of bioavailability and portability!  Bonus points (aka make-your-own-life-easier points) if you peel them ahead of time and keep them in Tupperware lined with a paper-towel or two.

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And there you have it! I know that is a lot of information at once, and you probably don’t want to go in making everything listed here in your first-ever food prep session…because 1) time, and 2) even I couldn’t eat that much food.  And I can stinkin’ eat.

But I hope that you’ll at least try implementing some of these ideas into your food prep routine. And if you’re not already food prepping, then I challenge you to try prepping one thing this week!  Maybe it’s just throwing some banana chunks into a freezer bag and sticking them behind your ice cream stash.  Maybe it’s busting out that dusty old crockpot and cooking two chicken breasts.  Whatever it is, try it.  See how making a little effort ahead of time changes your week later on down the road.  You might find that it’s a little easier and more efficient to eat healthy foods when the majority of the prep work is done ahead of time.

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And spoiler alert: Food prep, and the resulting ease of eating well, is pretty damn addictive.  Next week, you might want to go all out and prep allthefood.  Embrace it.  Prep it. And then stuff yo’ face like the beautiful, hungry people that you are.

Tell me…

Do you do any food prep/meal prep?

What’s one time-saving trick you use regularly?

Go-to meal for taking on the road/to school/to work?

What’s ONE thing you are going to do for food prep this week?!?

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4 thoughts on “Pimp My Food Prep

  1. I need to get better about prepping my food for the week! I mostly want to do this for my husband because he buys lunch at work and I know we could save a lot of money if I prepared his lunch every evening. Last week I made a batch of beans and it was so easy. Not sure why I’ve been using canned black beans for so long!

    1. Oh man, that’s such a good point – food prep DOES save a ton of money by eliminating meals out and wasted groceries. Crockpot beans are one of my favorite autumn-y comfort foods.

  2. I’m definitely getting more into food prep… the hubs is a chef and is usually so busy during the day that he doesn’t have time to eat a “real meal.” My solution has been making him smoothies and then packing him a lunch full of foods he can grab (veggies, a piece of sausage/chicken, a couple pieces of cheese, some nuts) as he’s running around. Gotta love finger foods! It’s been nice because I pack both of us the same things and we’re finding we are using up everything in the fridge and not getting to the week and having to throw out the lettuce that liquified in the crisper. Great post!

    1. Finger foods are some of the best! Your lunches sound almost like a little antipasto plate. Nicely done haha. And I’m sure cooking the meat and chopping the veggies/cheeses ahead of time is a lifesaver!

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