Healthy meal prepping ideas
What’s in your pantry? It’s important to take inventory of items you have in your kitchen as those items will be the foundation of your meal-planning. In order to plan your menu for the upcoming week, you’ll need to know what you are dealing with, what you have and what you’ll need for healthy meal prepping ideas. How many meals do you need to prepare? Maybe you need to prepare meals that incorporate the ingredients you already have on hand.
First Things First
Create your menu. What will you be taking to work? School? What about dinner? Will you be home every night for dinner or do you have appointments and plans for part of the week? How many nights will you need to have dinner ready?
I like to do a quick review of my weekly schedule to see how many nights I will need to plan for, so that I am not caught short and foraging for unhealthy snacks instead of healthy, delicious meals.
If you have school-aged children, I encourage you to check out this post which provides great ideas for plant-strong snacks and lunches.
One thing I must stress is that eating a plant-strong diet can be difficult, especially if you are in the beginning stages of transitioning. That’s why I would recommend something that I call “batch prepping” which is basically cooking in large batches for the week, so that you don’t have to prep and prepare every night. It takes the same amount of time to cook 2 servings of rice, or 4 veggie burgers, as it does to prepare one.
So cooking in large batches saves time and ensures that you always have a healthy meal on hand to heat up quickly.
Here’s the truth: the foods that heal and protect us are not fast-foods to be tossed into the microwave, or heated up from a box. Healthy foods require time to prepare because they don’t come pre-made. You have to buy the ingredients, and start building, or prepping.
The ONLY way that will happen is if you are prepared. Eating a kick-ass healthy diet means that when you open your refrigerator, you will always see healthy foods. It’s that simple. If opening your fridge becomes a moment of dread, then you will end up ordering pizza or pouring a bowl of cereal and calling it dinner.
An empty fridge leads to eating crap. That’s just the way it is, and it is predictable.
The only way around that is to batch prep, or batch cook. Yes, it means you’ll have to set aside a couple of hours a week and do most of your cooking at one time, so you’ll have healthy, nutritious, nourishing food ready at a moment’s notice.
- Do your grocery shopping on one day, and your batch prep the next. Nothing worse than coming home exhausted from food shopping, only to have to put all the groceries away, make dinner, clean up, and you’re done. Do yourself a favor and prep the next morning when you are fresh and ready to go.
- When you are refreshed in the morning, you are most likely to be efficient and able to multi-task, prep, chop and cook, to get everything done, rather than waiting until later in the day when you are exhausted, or worse, hungry.
- Read your recipes all the way through, and prepare all the ingredients before you begin. Take them out, put them on your counter, and measure the amounts so that you are not frantically searching the pantry in the middle of preparing your meals. Otherwise it will take twice as long to reach the finish line.
- Use your food processor, or your Veggie Bullet to prepare your veggies and fruits. I cannot live without this. It comes with different blades, is easy to clean up and cuts my prep time in half. I talk below about knives and cutting boards, which you will need as well, but I strongly urge you to purchase the Veggie Bullet if you can. You’ll thank me when you see how much time it saves.
- This last suggestion won’t seem so obvious, but it’s important to work in a clean work space, and to then clean it again when you are done. If your counter is cluttered with last week’s bills, the TV remote and other items, how can you get anything done? This is sacred space, and you are creating nourishing meals for yourself and your family, so make the space work for you.
Tips and Tricks
Use a slow-cooker or an Insta-Pot. These are great for low-maintenance one-pot meals. Throw all the ingredients for a bean chili in the Insta-Pot in the morning, and have a delicious dinner waiting for you after work.
Pressure cookers and Insta-Pots (virtually the same thing) dramatically cut the cooking time of dried beans and whole grains.
Prep your veggies on the weekend. Wash, cut off stems, and separate into serving-size containers if that’s how you are planning to eat them. Alternatively, put them into glass storage containers so that you can grab and go, or grab and prepare at dinner, without having to first start cutting and chopping.
I don’t know about you, but the prospect of having to cut up veggies after work is not going to inspire me to stay healthy!
Roast, broil or grill your veggies! Steaming is great but sometimes the veggies get soggy. If you prep ahead of time, just throw the veggies, potatoes, sweet potatoes or whatever you have, into a casserole dish, sprinkle with Braggs Liquid Aminos instead of oil, and add a little salt and pepper, and watch those veggies turn crispy and delicious!
Alternatively, water-frying in a sauce pan is a great way to go as well. You can sauté onions and garlic in water instead of oil, which eliminates the fat.
How are your knife skills? It’s important to have a sharp knife and sturdy cutting board because you’ll be chopping and dicing a lot. You can learn basic knife skills at live classes in your local stores, or through an online cooking class, such as this one, which I highly recommend.
This is an online instructional cooking and nutrition course, which will help you rock your transition to a more health-supportive diet and lifestyle.
Herbs and spices are often the neglected bunch, as we normally just grab the salt and pepper and call it a day. However, I’m here to tell you that herbs and spices, both fresh and dried, totally enhance the flavors of your food without additives and more sodium. Believe it or not, herbs and spices are also packed with antioxidants and phytonutrients.
Once you gain confidence in the kitchen preparing plant-strong meals, you’ll be able to experiment with some new and exciting flavors!
Plant-Based on a Budget
I wrote another post that addresses this, which you can find here, but let me say again that this is LESS expensive than the regular Standard American Diet. As a matter of fact, if you have a limited budget, which most of us do, your money will go further by purchasing more nuts, beans, whole grains and legumes, rather than meat and dairy.
Plant-based foods go further and when compared based on cost per serving, per weight and per nutritional value, plant-strong foods are less expensive.
It is really tempting to fall prey to all the packaged “superfoods” at the grocery stores, so don’t go shopping hungry! Buy in bulk, shop smart for organic produce, and stick with budget-friendly staples like in-season fruits and vegetables. My other post about which fruits and veggies to buy organic will be a big help, and don’t forget that store-brands of organic frozen foods are at their peak of nutrition.
It takes some planning, inspiration, time and discipline, but arming yourself with healthy meal-prepping ideas will prevent impulse buys, and ensure that you have healthy meals on hand for the whole week. How great is that?