the blog is back! i hadn't posted since november 2011, eek. i remember why too, it's a lot of work. for my favorite people, here is my breakdown of the meal prepping. i also added a handful of recipes to the blog. you're welcome. :)
menu for the week (four meals per day for four days = two for each my husband and myself): (1) korean barbecue beef with steamed veggies and cauliflower mash, (2) marinated chicken (two flavors) with steamed veggies and baked sweet potatoes, (3) basic turkey meatballs with steamed veggies and short grain brown rice, (4) boiled eggs, (5) cleaned and cut fruit, (6) egg souffles, (7) protein pancakes.
hopefully this will be as un-overwhelming as possible. i'll be as specific as possible but there will be some self-motivation and guidance required on your part if you decide to give meal prepping a try (i hope you will and if you do, let me know how it goes!).
before prep day
your first step is to plan ahead by preparing a grocery list. decide how many meals you want to make and prepare a list for the appropriate amount of food needed to make those meals. this is just a sample of what i made for this week (there are a bunch of ideas for various meat dishes and side dishes in the "recipe index" section of this blog). this does not include any kind of macro-nutrient planning or a specific caloric intake for either myself or my husband. it's simply a means for us to eat balanced and "clean" as often as possible as we juggle busy schedules but planning around macro's and calories is easy if you take the time to write down your goals and prepare accordingly (email me if you have more questions about breaking down macro's and caloric needs).
back to the grocery list. i buy the majority of my meat and fresh veggies from costco. the veggies can be spread out to last for two preps total before going bad (i.e. i can use 1/2 a bag of costco's fresh broccoli florets, asparagus, carrots or green beans for one prep and the other 1/2 the next week as long as i keep the it in the produce drawer in the fridge). variety combats the monotony that can sometimes be associated with food prep. choose more than one protein, carb, veggie and fat combo.
obviously containers are a must. the more universal the size, the easier to store.
day of prep
first start with whatever will take the longest to prepare/cook. in this week's case, i started the korean barbecue beef marinating first thing in the morning before i went to the gym. the week before, i prepared cilantro lime chicken in the slow cooker so i had that started early in the morning as well.
this prep took me just under 4 hours which is pretty good considering i documented the entire prep and did several loads of laundry and a lot of dishes during the prep (have i ever mentioned that i'm without a dishwasher?).
(1) prepare korean beef marinade
(2) wash, cut chicken breasts and weigh (here i have just over 2 pounds of chicken. each breast i cut through the middle lengthwise to make 3-4 oz pieces. when grilling chicken, i find the thinner the breast, the better it cooks without drying out).
3) divide breast into two freezer gallon ziplock bags. i used two different "grill mates" marinades. we've tried all of the flavors and the two below as well as the tomato garlic one are our favorites.
(4) prepare marinades and pour into bags. below you see the two chicken marinades as well as the korean barbecue beef. put in the fridge.
(5) pre-heat oven for sweet potatoes (375)
(6) start brown rice in rice cooker. my rice cooker takes about 2 hours to cook the brown rice. lundberg's short grain brown rice is by far the best brown rice i've had so far (i get a big bag from costco and i will last several months if i keep it sealed tight and stored in a cool area). this week i kept it simple and cooked the rice in water and 1 tbsp of coconut oil.
(7) wash and wrap the sweet potatoes in foil (puncture with fork before wrapping). two things here; i prefer red sweet potatoes to yams or golden sweet potatoes and, they tend to sweat while they're cooking so i always line bottom rack in the oven with foil. bake at 375 degrees for 70 minutes.
(8) start the boiled eggs. cover eggs with cold water and set burner to high. bring to a boil, boil for 5 minutes and then turn the heat off. leave pot on burner for 20 minutes.
at this point we have meat marinating in the fridge, rice in the cooker, potatoes in the oven and eggs boiling. watch the timer on the eggs, only 5 minutes of boiling before you need to turn off the heat.
(9) wash fruit and set aside to be cut. (if it's clean and cut in your fridge, you're far more likely to grab it "on the go.")
(10) start the cauliflower mash. now you have three timers going (sweet potatoes, eggs and cauliflower). the eggs should be just about done.
(11) make the batter for the protein pancakes. it needs to sit for at least 10 minutes to thicken up before you make the pancakes.
(12) by now you've removed the eggs from the hot water and transferred them to the fridge.
now we have the pancake batter "resting," the meat marinating, the rice still cooking and the cauliflower boiling.
(14) the oven is ready for the turkey meatballs. make the turkey meatballs and bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes. i weigh each meatball so i know that a serving size of 3 meatballs is exactly 6 oz.
(15) at this point the cauliflower should be soft and can be drained. once drained, "mash" the cauliflower and mix in the parmesan cheese. move to a sieve that has been placed inside a large bowl (so the liquid will continue to drain) and put it in the fridge while you continue prepping.
(16) the rice is done now and the pancake skillet can be pre-heated over medium heat. while the pancake pan heats, make the egg souffle mixture and pour into muffin tin sprayed with non-stick spray.
(17) take the meat out of the fridge to set at room temp for 20 minutes or so. pre-heat the grill (low heat for both the beef and the chicken).
(18) start cooking the pancakes and soon, the meatballs will be done. once the meatballs are done, put the egg souffles in the oven at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. after 25 minutes, top each souffle with a small amount of reduced fat cheddar cheese and continue cooking for 10 minutes.
(19) the grill should now be ready for the beef. i cooked the beef first, cleaned the grill, and then cooked the chicken together. the beef needs to be cooked over low heat for 7 minutes per side (turning only once). once it's cooked, let rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing against the grain.
this is another moment when you need to be watching the timers closely with the meat cooking, the eggs and the pancakes.
(20) some of the meals have steamed broccoli and carrots and some have steamed broccoli and a bell pepper mixture that i love. basically, i saute red, yellow and orange bell peppers in coconut oil, add mushrooms, garlic powder, onion powder and continue to cook until softened. once soft, squeeze the juice from 1/2 a lemon over the top and let cook for another 30 seconds or so. yum!
start the pepper mixture by chopping the peppers, washing and chopping the mushrooms, and heating the oil.
how are your pancakes? eggs (are they ready for cheese)? beef?
(21) at this point i start steaming veggies (add one more thing to the timer that needs to be watched carefully, you're welcome). overcooked veggies are gross and you need to keep in mind that everything will be re-heated at some point so don't over cook the veggies. carrots take the longest. broccoli and asparagus cook relatively quickly. once they are cooked, i transfer them to a large bowl and just set aside. it's almost time to start building meals.
(22) the beef should be done now. turn the grill up to high heat to burn off the beef marinade before starting the chicken. keep watching the veggies and the eggs souffles.
(23) remove the cauliflower mash from the fridge and dump the drained liquid. by now you should have been able to steam quite a bit of veggies (broccoli and carrots for us this week).
(23) remove the egg souffles and set aside to cool for about 5 minutes before transferring to a tupperware. (i've been slicing the strawberries up and doing dishes in between everything else).
(i forgot to buy cheese this week)
(24) clean the grill and turn heat back down to low. slice the beef and start the chicken (6-7 minutes per side, turning only once).
build your meals! (exclamation because this is so much fun)
i have enough extra pieces of grilled chicken and steamed rice left over for the kids to eat several dinners. i buy individual veggie steamers for them. they also eat a lot of grilled cheese. ha!
(korean barbecue beef, cauliflower mash and steamed veggies)
(marinated, grilled chicken, sweet potato and steamed veggies)
(turkey meatballs, brown rice and steamed veggies)
stack and store!
but first, a few things:
- heating food in plasticware is bad, bad, bad. don't do it unless you absolutely have to. instead, flip the food onto a real plate before heating it.
- sweet potatoes take longer to heat than the meat and veggies so i heat them first and then add the rest.
- the egg souffles tend to "sweat" in the tupperware so every time i take one out, i drain any liquid from the container.
- the older your eggs are, the easier they will be to peel after boiling.
- this is not all i eat all week. it's just the main meals and those items that i prefer to have ready-to-eat. i keep a lot of fresh fruit on hand as well as other healthy "snack" foods.
- we put real butter on our sweet potatoes and veggies (in moderation).
- if the chicken seems dry (mine never is), add a few drops of water to it before re-heating.
- all of this can be done on a much smaller (or larger) scale. consider the amount of time you put into thinking about what to eat and then having to prepare it. this takes all of the guess work out of it and sets you up for greater success.
here's a few other weeks i took the time to photograph:
i hope this will help a few. if you decide to give it a try, i'd love to hear about your prep. maybe we can swap ideas?