Meal prep is one of those things in life, like taxes, laundry and cleaning your bathroom.
You know you need to do it (and you feel way less stressed when you do it), but come Sunday afternoon, you’d rather do anything else but spend 3-4 hours chopping, slicing and baking in the kitchen.
Most health and nutrition articles you turn to for meal prep advice, tell you to set aside 1 to 2 days during your week to “do it all”—bulk cook chicken breasts, vegetables, sweet potatoes, muffins and whatever adventurous recipes you’re trying this week.
The problem is: When this intensive specialized meal prep session does NOT happen one week, then all hope is lost.
Whether you were traveling back into town late Sunday night, or pool time and spontaneity high-jacked your typical meal prep schedule, you’re completely thrown off for the week along with 6 more day’s worth of food.
Every (wo)man for herself!
I, like you, get busy and very rarely carve out an entire 2-4 hour chunk of time to cook food.
Nevertheless you CAN still eat a week’s worth of delicious (fresh) home cooked food if you practice my prep-as-you-go methodology.
All you need? Approximately 10-20 minutes each day and an appetite for delicious food.
Check out these 8 tips to make meal prep less daunting and an easy part of your daily life—like brushing your teeth.
Tip 1: Make Your List.
Before hitting the store, jot down your list of the foods you need to stock up on for the week to help you save dollars and not eat with your eyes. Don’t just make your grocery list but make your list of meal ideas you’d like to have on hand or make this week. Keep things simple with a variety of real food options that you can spice up with all sorts of seasonings:
2-4 Bulk Cook Proteins:
- Whole Pastured
- Burger Patties
- Pulled Pork
- Herb Baked Salmon
3-5 Veggies to Roast. (at least)
Choose your faves: Brussels Sprouts, Yellow Squash, Zucchini, Asparagus, Broccoli, Carrots, Cauliflower, Sweet Potatoes, Butternut Squash, Beets, etc.
Get your greens on! I like to buy 4-5 large containers of pre-washed organic spinach and Super Greens (to sautee, throw into salads, hashes and smoothies), but you can also buy the bunches of spinach, chard, collards, kale, etc. Take your pick. Greens are a staple of any nutrient-dense diet and super easy to prep during the week.
1-2 Recipe Fixin’s
Optional, but makes meal time more fun and brings variety to the mix. I like to experiment with one new recipe, and one standby I’ve made before and liked, such as Spinach Chicken Pizza on a Plantain Pizza Crust (new) and Meatloaf Muffins + Cauliflower Mash + Greens (standby) another night.
Don’t forget any staples you may be running low on, such as:
- Cooking fats (coconut oil, ghee, duck fat, butter, olive oil)
- Added Fats (avocados, coconut butter, olives, canned coconut milk, avocado oil mayo)
- Snacks (jerky, nuts, coconut yogurt)
- Herbal Teas
- Yellow Onion/Onion
- Garlic Bulbs
- Bone Broth (use code “thrive” for $10 off)
Tip 2: NO Cook Options.
Keep a supply of foods on hand for those in-a-pinch moments each week (re-stock if necessary during your grocery shopping). Some ideas:
- Rotisserie Chicken (organic or humanely raised, no antibiotics or additives)
- Canned Wild Salmon & Tuna
- Nitrate-Free Deli Meats & Jerky
- Pre-Grilled Chicken or Salmon (no additives)
- Frozen Organic Chicken/Turkey Sausage
- Frozen Organic Turkey Burgers (easy to heat on stove and eat)
- Pastured Eggs
- Jar of Raw Nutbutter or Raw Nuts/Seeds
- Sweet Potatoes
- Organic Plain Greek or Coconut Yogurt (Full Fat)
- Additive-Free Protein Powder
- Frozen Veggies & Berries (no additives or sugars)
Tip 3: Make Enough for 2-4 Servings
Cook enough portion to last you for lunch the next day or two. Stick to simple meals (like chicken, beef, fish or ground turkey with 1-2 veggies).
Tip 4: Prep As You Go
While you’re waiting on your dinnertime salmon to ding in the oven, pick 1-2 foods to spend 10-minutes “bulk prepping” alongside your dinner, such as throwing your Brussels Sprouts and carrots into a glassware dish to roast while you’re at home that evening, and setting the crockpot up to cook your pulled pork overnight so you can take it out when you wake up in the morning.
The next day, you may whip up some stove top turkey burgers and cauliflower mash for dinner while slicing and baking a bulk order of homemade sweet potato “fries” in your toaster oven. The next night may be nothing at all since you were at a meeting. A little bit of extra prep WHILE you are making your breakfast or dinner, or while you’re chilling at home goes a long way.
Prep as you go, and think about taking 10-20 minutes while you’re doing less instead of making everything all at once. (*I prefer to do this at nighttime when I know I am home and can keep an eye on the timer and oven).
Challenge: Time it! Give yourself a 10-20 minute time cap to bulk prep a little bit several days or nights per week, then let it cook itself in the oven.
Tip 5: Spice It Up
Instead of relying on elaborate recipes to make or break your meals for the week, kick it up with simple spices and herbs to bring out flavors of real food. Bland chicken breast becomes herb crusted with some thyme, sage, sea salt, pepper and coconut flour on top. Steamed broccoli melts in your mouth when roasted with ghee, nutritional yeast and sea salt. A little bit of olive oil or avocado oil plus salt and pepper makes any veggie delectable. Cut, drizzle, season and roast at 400-425-degrees for 45-60 minutes.
Tip 6: The Basics
Get comfortable with the basics of cooking that you can use for most foods:
Roasting Veggies & Potatoes:
Drizzle with olive oil, coconut oil or melted butter. Add sea salt, pepper or whatever other spices you prefer. Roast at 400-425 degrees for 30-60 minutes (check for desired softness or crispiness).
Stovetop Veggies, Greens & Potatoes:
Heat cooking fat on low-medium heat. Wash veggies and throw in pan. Add preferred spices. Cover to soften if desired. Stir occasionally.
Chicken Breasts & Pork: Add bone broth or water + onion + garlic + sea salt + pepper + splash apple cider vinegar. Cook on low for 5-6 hours.
Beef: Add bone broth or water + onion + garlic + sea salt + pepper + splash apple cider vinegar. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
*The more meat you have, the more cooking time will increase.
Stove Top Meats:
Pan grill chicken, fish, steak, pork chops, or burger patties on the stove. Add coconut oil to medium heat pan or cast-iron skillet. Cook on both sides (approx 4-6 minutes, until desired doneness). Note: With steaks, finish in cast iron when it is slightly pink, then let it rest in hot pan in oven or alongside stove to prevent over-cooking.
Generally, bake chicken, fish, pork tenderloin or beef roast in oven at 375-degrees-400-degrees. Fish takes approximately 10-12 minutes, chicken: 30-45 minutes, pork tenderloin and beef: 45-60 minutes.
Tip 7: Connect
Invite friends in to share in on your home cooked goodness. Make a simple meal prep date with some girl friends, host a dinner party, recruit the kids to help be “Master Chef’s”—have fun with it. You can also share recipes with one another for extra inspiration.
Tip 8: Supply Arsenal
Invest in a few key kitchen staples to help make meal prep a cinch, such as:
- A good set of sharp knives and non-plastic cutting boards
- Ceramic Cooking Pans (one for sautéing greens and veggies, the other for stovetop meats; avoid traditional non-stick and aluminum pans )
- Cast Iron Skillet
- Glassware Baking Dishes (for roasting veggies)
- Toaster Oven (you can leave it to cook without worrying if you forget it’s in the oven—it automatically turns itself off)
- Non-Toxic Kitchen Spray & Cleaners (clean as you go and keep your kitchen area toxic-free; I use White Vinegar, Baking Soda and 7th Generation or Myer’s Multipurpose Cleaner)