Meal Prep Made Simple: [All it takes? 20-30 Minutes!]

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Written By

Rhea Dali

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Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

 

 

“Ughhhh. I didn’t prep my food again this week.”

 

“I know I neeeed to meal prep, but I just don’t like to.”

 

“I am so scattered. I don’t make the time to meal prep.”

 

Said many, many, many people.

 

We’ve all heard the saying: “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail” (sound like a broken record?).

 

 

We know meal prep and meal planning benefits us, but actually taking the time to sit down, make our grocery list and map out our meals for the week, go to the grocery store, spend 2-3 hours on a Sunday cooking in our kitchen (when we’d rather be outside playing, or napping, or watching paint dry) sometimes is more of a “good intention”, then something that is actually doable.

 

And, when this happens (i.e. failure to prepare), we inevitably end up:

 

  • Spending more money eating out
  • Hangry
  • Eating whatever is in sight when hanger strikes
  • Eating less-than-quality food (settling for anything)
  • Wishing we had meal-prepped
  • Weak sauce (because we haven’t eaten enough food)

 

What if I told you there was a way to eat clean that didn’t have to mean setting aside 2-4 hours every few days to have bonding time with every appliance and utensil in your kitchen?

 

What if you could have a day or two or three’s worth of meals in as little as 20-30 minutes each day (the time it takes you to call in and wait on takeout, go pick up takeout, sit down and eat it for ONE meal, not to mention the other 2 meals you have to find or make throughout the day).

 

The only planning really involved?

 

Your weekly run to the grocery store you are already doing.

 

 

Otherwise, you will build your daily meals around foods you already know and love, and keep your body (and workouts) fueled to take on whatever comes your way.

 

Here’s the play by play:

 

Step 1: Grocery Store.
Hit the store to stock up on your staples. Meat. Veggies. Healthy fats. Maybe some fresh fruits, and any longer lasting non-perishables you’re running low on (spices, seasonings, boxed almond milk/coconut milk, nuts/seeds, nutbutter, etc.). Here’s a peak at what I usually buy for the week:

 

Protein:

  • 6 lbs. ground meat (ground turkey, grass-fed bison or beef)
  • 2 lbs. organic chicken thighs
  • 1 lbs. frozen cod
  • 1-2 natural, organic rotisserie chickens (can also buy a whole chicken and make yourself)
  • 1 carton pasture-raised eggs
  • Chicken/turkey sausage (nitrate-free)

 

Veggies:

  • Chard
  • Kale
  • Collard Greens
  • Power Greens
  • Spinach
  • Zucchini
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • LOTS of sweet potatoes (all varieties: Japanese, Garnet, Hannah Jane, etc.)

 

Fruit:

  • 2-3 Bananas
  • Carton of fresh strawberries (or other seasonal berry)

 

Healthy Fats:

My favorite!
  • Avocados
  • As needed: Coconut butter, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, raw almond butter, Macadamia Nuts or Almonds (if out)

 

Non-perishables (as needed):

  • Coconut Aminos
  • Unsweetened Almond Milk
  • Coconut Vinegar and/or Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Dijon mustard
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Sea Salt, Black Pepper, Garlic Powder, Cinnamon
  • Canned Tuna

Once my grocery expedition is checked off the list, I am done with really my ‘meal prep’ for the week until dinnertime!


Step 2: Dinnertime.

When dinnertime strikes, I hit the kitchen to whip up my meal. The aim of my meal prep session here? Make enough for dinner tonight, lunch tomorrow, while concurrently also whipping up my breakfast, and potentially prepping a veggie, sweet potatoes and/or other protein source to have on hand for the rest of the week. ALL of this is accomplished in as little as 30-minutes, and I am left with enough food not only for that night, and the next day, but more options throughout the week. For example:

 

Day 1: Dinner Time

  • Cook a simple protein source to eat for dinner and lunch the next day (turkey patties, grilled fish or baked chicken thighs)
  • At the same time, sautee A LOT of rainbow chard and kale on stove top in coconut oil (some for tonight and some for tomorrow)
  • And, at the same time, toss chicken sausage in pan on stove top (for breakfast the next day)
  • While my food is cooking on the stove-top, heat up the oven to 425-degrees. Wash and wrap 5-6 sweet potatoes in aluminum foil; Place Brussel sprouts, zucchini, asparagus, and broccoli in glassware baking dish, toss in extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and pepper; Place both items in oven (veggies for 60 minutes; potatoes for 75-90 minutes)
  • Flip my protein sources and stir my veggies sautéing on stovetop
  • Break out chicken thighs or pork tenderloin. Plug in crockpot, place meat in crockpot, add spices of choice, and cook on low
  • Lastly, I put some cauliflower in my steamer on a pot of hot water on the remaining fourth burner on the stove to soften it in order to make cauliflower mash later this week

 

By the end of 20-minutes, I have tonight’s dinner and the bases of my breakfast and lunch prepped for the next day; as well as some healthy foods to have on hand cooking in the oven and crockpot while I sit down to eat.

 

A vast majority of my meal prep has been accomplished for the next several days, and I won’t cook anything again until tomorrow night.

 

Day 2: Dinner Time

  • Since my chicken thighs are prepped from the night before, I decide to have those for dinner, along with a cauliflower mash and some more sautéed greens
  • I break out my food processor and the steamed cauliflower from the night before, combine it with some grassfed butter and chicken stock, and mix: BOOM, cauli mash.
  • Since I have some ‘more time’ on my hands tonight (about 15-minutes more if we are on that 20-minute clock), I decide to go ahead and prep some more turkey patties tonight to have on hand (I cook up 2 lbs. worth, which makes 8 burgers in about 10-minutes on the stove), and while those are cooking, I decide to hardboil my carton of eggs on the stove top for an easy grab-and-go option (could also make ‘egg muffins’), as well as wash and roast a few more veggies in my toaster oven.
  • I am eating dinner in about 25-minutes, with more food prepped for the rest of the week.

 

Day 3: Dinner Time

  • I feel like fish tonight. So I pan fry some cod or salmon on the stove, to pair with a sweet potato and my favorite power greens (lots!). Tomorrow, for lunch, I will toss it on some spinach with avocado and half a sweet potato mixed in my salad, drizzled with coconut vinegar.
  • While these are cooking, I pop a few more sweet potatoes in the oven at 425-degrees.
  • For breakfast the next day, I heat up some more chicken sausage (patties). These are great with avocado on top!
  • That’s all I need to do tonight.

 

As you can see, meal prep is a simple part of the daily routine that takes just about 20-30 minutes out of your day in order to have plenty on hand, not only for dinner that night, but breakfasts and lunches throughout the following days and week. And it ebbs and flows. Some days you may spend 30-minutes, other nights 5 (just reheating your food). You decide, according to your daily schedule, but like I said, it takes that same amount of time (if not more) to call something in, wait on it, get home and eat.

 

A few considerations:

 

“But I Hate Leftovers”

Leftover meatsauce is awesome!

 

If you really don’t love the idea of leftovers, here are some easy, grab-and-go options to keep in your fridge to throw in our cooler or lunch box the night before.

 

  • Hardboiled eggs (from salad bar; or Trader Joes and Whole Foods sell already pre-made)
  • Canned tuna/salmon (mix with Primal Mayo or avocado or Dijon mustard)
  • Nitrate free deli meat (Applegate Farms)
  • Nutbutter and coconut butter packets
  • Rotisserie chicken
  • Pre-made Salmon, Chicken (Whole Foods for instance has in their cold case)
  • Boxed spinach/lettuces
  • Pre-washed, pre-sliced veggies (zucchini, carrot sticks, celery, etc.)
  • Frozen turkey patties (Applegate Farms), turkey/chicken sausage (take 6-8 minutes to re-heat on stovetop)
  • Sweet potatoes (wash, dice, cook for 6-7 minutes in the microwave—not as good, but gets the job ‘done’)

 

“I want variety.”

Spice it up!

Meat, veggies and healthy fats super boring to you? You like recipes and variety every day.

 

There are still options! Recipes can be very simple and it’s all about finding those little pockets of time to make ‘em happen.

 

Again, meal prep can occur throughout the week—the common Saturday/Sunday meal prep day is not the end all be all. Remind yourself of that. Just because you may not have made ‘everything’ on Sunday, does not mean all cooking hope is lost.

 

Some simple recipes that come to mind?

  • Chili
  • Meatballs or meatsauce over spaghetti squash
  • Chicken drumsticks
  • Chicken/beef stir fry over cauliflower rice
  • Ground taco meat wrapped in lettuce wraps
  • Coconut crusted or almond crusted chicken or fish
  • Pulled pork with no-sugar added BBQ sauce

 

Again, you can whip up a recipe of your choice (one that may take longer to cook) while concurrently cooking a simple supper one night, then have your creation for the next day (and several days after that) to bring some spice to your life.

 

The bottom line?

 

Keep it simple!

 

Recipe: Chicken Drumsticks

Whole Foods had chicken drumsticks on sale this weekend for $1.99/lb! Score.

 

You gotta try this uber easy recipe.

Ingredients:

– Raw chicken drumsticks (10-20)

– olive oil or coconut oil

– salt

– black pepper

– garlic powder

– paprika

– cinnamon

– parchment paper

– baking sheet

 

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Take the chicken out and lay it on the sheet so none are touching. Coat the chicken either with olive oil or coconut oil and then evenly sprinkle with all seasonings to taste. Bake for 30 minutes. Turn them over. Bake for another 30 minutes. Easy peasy!

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