Fall is around the corner and usually this means our schedules get busier. Whether we have children heading back to school or our work schedule becomes increasingly hectic, it’s important that we keep eating healthy. This may seem a little daunting. Usually, when we start eating more healthily, we get into a time consuming routine of constantly having to find recipes, buy groceries, wash, chop and cook ingredients, and clean up a messy kitchen. Most of us are aware that performing meal prep- the art of planning and preparing some or all of your meals in advance- could save you a ton of time. There are also some other big benefits like:
- sticking to your meal plan (if your meals are prepared, you may as well eat them!)
- You’re in the driver’s seat- ensuring refined sugars and processed junk don’t make their way into your body (and your families bodies!)
- Less waste (if everything in your fridge has a purpose, it is harder for leftovers to get pushed to the back and crispers to get slimy)
- You’ll save money- because you aren’t ordering out every lunch and/or dinner and can buy in bulk
You have probably thought about these things already- but so far you just have not managed to do it and keep it going! This may be because:
- You have not made a plan yet
- The convenience of freezer aisle food still trumps chopping and stirring
- You have not found a plan that works with your dietary needs
- You find eating the same thing everyday boring
- You have not heard of how batch cooking makes everything easier
- You are not layering your meals to decrease time on prep days
So, in this article we are going to eliminate all those reasons you have not succeeded in the past and set you up to celebrate how meal prep WildFit Style leads to a calmer, healthier and happier life!
Here are your first steps:
- Decide on your goals. This is the base of your meal planning. In WildFit you will learn how to create your plans around your seasonal ratios which are in keeping with your goals of weight maintenance, loss or gain. If you know your goals you can better decide on recipes.
- Research recipes that you would like to include in your plan. You should aim to use many common ingredients to make things simple. Variety will come from herbs, spices, and sauces that you will make. Ideally, you will be making 3 dressings each week and 2 sauces, as well as chopping vegetables (one container to serve fresh, another for cooking), mixing salad greens, boiling eggs and cooking 2 large servings of meat or fish. If you are a vegetarian, you will replace meat with cooked beans, if preferred.
- Create a standard grocery list for these staple items, and include a section for pantry items that you will keep stocked (coconut aminos, flaxseed, coconut flour, almond flour, nuts and seeds, herbs, spices, etc.)
Before determining what meals sound best and which ingredients you’ll be working with, ask yourself the following questions:
1. What are the most stressful meals to create during the week: breakfast, lunch, dinner or snacks?
For example, if you often skip breakfast, plan to make something overnight in the slow cooker, or make egg muffin cups in the oven it grab quickly. If you go out for meals often, focus on prepping healthy salads, and mixed bowls, as well as larger dinner portions to carry for lunch the following day. It is difficult to prep everything in one day, so gradually building up stock in your freezer.
2. How many eaters am I prepping for?
Keep this in mind when choosing the recipes you’re going to make and how much you need to prep for. Be realistic in your schedules and plan around them. Plan to double most recipes and make it a habit.
3. Are you a leftover lover or a fresh foodie?
Meal prepping success often comes by recycling main meals into new dishes through the week. For example, add prepped chopped veg and cooked cauliflower rice (stored in a gallon freezer bag) to the leftovers from Sunday’s oven roasted chicken. Or, use prepared chopped salad greens, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers and a dressing for a simple Chicken Caesar Salad for lunch.
4. Schedule It In
Take a look at your schedule and set a time to meal prep and make a date with your kitchen- time will depend on your household size, but usually it is 2-3 hours or so. If you can commit to this as a standing appointment, it will more easily turn into a habit.
5. Get the Right Equipment
Having the right tools can make this process much less painful and maybe even enjoyable. This includes meal prep utensils like a great cutting board, sharp chopping knife, a food processor (for chopping), a food scale (faster measuring than measuring cups) an immersion blender for soups, storage containers, freezer bags and jars. Get labels and a permanent marker as well.
6. Keep it Organized
Keep a list on your fridge of what pre-prepped ingredients you have to work with so that no food goes to waste. A small whiteboard with erasable marker is my favourite strategy. You can write it as batch ingredients, as well as menu style, and thereby know what is available for lunch or dinner quickly. Also keep your plans in one binder, so that you can cycle through a few of them.
When it comes to the actual prep time, you will be practicing batch cooking. Batch cooking basically means making large quantities of dishes at one time so that you build up a stock of soups, casseroles, chopped vegetables, dressings and meats in the freezer. The key is portioning and clear labeling. There are a few ways to do this: spoon single portions of your dish into freezer baggies, or portion with muffin tins, and then transfer to 1 large freezer bag. If you are freezing salad dressing or sauce use ice cube trays. Remember to always date and label your freezer baggies! Defrost your meals in the refrigerator for a day before eating, or cook it on low heat in a stovetop pot.
We know that fresh is always best, however if it comes down to eating pre-cut vegetables or not eating them at all, it is much better to choose the first option. To enhance the nutrition of your meals, always try to freeze things that will sit in the fridge longer than 5 days, and choose roasting and slow cooking methods rather than high heat options whenever possible. And try not to take it all on yourself- employing sous chefs (your kids or partner) to help you out- teaching them cooking skills while you’re at it! Play your favourite music, listen to a great book or podcast, make it a nice activity rather than a chore. In the beginning it can seem tedious, but after you get the hang of it you’ll find that a few hours in the kitchen each week saves you a ton of time and energy in the end!