One of the common things I work with clients on if they’re looking to overhaul their diet and make better food choices for better energy, clearer skin or to drop a few kilos, is food prep. There is an old cliche that says if you ‘fail to prepare, you better be prepared to fail’ and this is so true when it comes to making food choices that serve you best.
Notice I didn’t say menu planning ~ this is much more involved and includes choosing meals that best fit the schedule, which is often too overwhelming for people new to attempting to be more prepared in the kitchen. Meal Prep, however, simply involves dedicating a specific chunk of time to batch-cook ingredients and components of meals (or prepare the full meal if you choose to) for the week ahead.
The focus of all meal prep should be to make your life easier. A little bit of effort in advance has your future self thanking you multiple times over!
It can be as simple as chopping a bunch of veggies for salads or stir-fries, mixing up a homemade dressing and pre-soaking some oats for easy breakfasts. It does not need to be hugely involved and a marathon kitchen cook-up that takes your whole precious Sunday!
My hope is that my clients will open the fridge and see components of easy meals starring right back at them and be more likely to construct a more nutrient-dense meal from these, then dial for that pizza, burger or fish & chips.
The other benefits of meal prepping are that it is time-saving (not having to cook from scratch), can be money-saving (if you’re no longer dropping $20-30 on takeaways nightly) and done right, can save you a lot of stress and mental brainpower (cook once, eat multiple times!).
So what is my process you ask? Here’s an outline of what I do.
- Choose a day ~ for me this is Sunday afternoon and often also Wednesday evenings. I find that I really only prep food for 3-4 days and need to do another batch cook mid-week if I want to have easy food choices to reach for later in the week.
- Menu plan ~ now even if you’re not planning out EXACTLY what you’ll be eating every meal (I rarely do this), you will need to put some rough thoughts into lunches and dinners so that the components you prep can work, ideally for multiple meals at a time. I like to do a combination of some complete meals in advance, like a soup, chilli or stew (that can be easily reheated) and some basic staples that can be constructed for easy lunches and dinners eg. tray of roast veggies and a batch of brown rice or quinoa.
- Make a list and shop ~ this is self-explanatory, just stick to the outer regions of the supermarket (where the fresh produce and less refined foods are located) and avoid the pull of the inner aisles where you’ll find the chippies, chocolate and highly processed ‘foods’.
- Cook ~ My tip here is to learn to multi-task and make the most of your time. Throw the rice in the rice cooker or pot to cook while you chop up your veggies for the oven. While you’re waiting for things to cook, you can be busy prepping other ingredients. Don’t make one meal start to finish, then start another, utilise your precious time well! Focus on simple meals with lots of flavours.
- Store ~ it’s important to have proper containers. You want containers that are: BPA free, freezer safe, dishwasher safe, microwavable, stackable and obviously reusable. I recommend investing in some glass containers. My favourite is Borosilicate glass; a type of glass that resistant to thermal shock, so will not shatter when placed in the freezer. It’s also pretty resistant to being dropped on the floor (my daughter has tested this repeatedly for me!). You can buy these fairly cheaply from any online container retailer (such as LunchBoxInc) and is well worth the investment as they should last for years.
Some of my weekly food prep items:
- nut and seed bread
- grains eg. brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat
- Roast veggies
- Hummus, pesto or green goddess dressing
- overnight oats or chia puddings to grab in the mornings
- homemade granola or breakfast cookies
- smoothie packs to freeze ~ think chopped banana, sliced zucchini, avocado, chia seeds, almond butter and spinach leaves.
- Bliss balls, granola bars or muffins
If you’re not plant-based, boiled eggs, baked chicken or cold cut meats are easy to chuck into a big salad, wrap or sandwich.
Lastly, have fun! Put on some music, throw some uplifting and energising oils in your diffuser, make yourself a nice drink to sip as you work and enjoy the process!