In this day and age, we, as a population, are extremely busy. We wake up early to train before work, rush through traffic to get home in time to prepare for our night classes, only to return home later that night to catch up on emails. Then, we will finally take roughly 5 minutes to wind down and hit the hay… only to wake up the next day and do the exact same thing. Where do quality meals fit into the picture?
Enter Meal Prep
Enter the world of meal prep. When I say meal prep, I do not mean portioning out 7 Tupperware containers weighed to the exact gram with a serving of vegetables, rice and chicken breast (although if you do do that, it is completely fine). I mean keeping particular foods on-hand in an attempt to limit the time needed to cook. This is not the easiest thing to do, for as I discussed above, time is limited.
With all of that said, today I look to provide some tips to making the meal prep process easier to complete.
Tip #1: Keep a versatile, lean source of protein cooked and ready to heat stored in the fridge.
Nothing is worse than looking to put a meal together and not being able to complete it with a lean source of protein. Carb sources can be eaten without preparation, such as breads and fruits, and fat sources rarely need cooking—drizzle some oil, scoop some peanut butter, and you have yourself some fat.
Unless you are utilizing canned tuna or luncheon meat as your main protein source, you will want to bulk-cook. A large container of pre-cooked chicken breast will put you in the right place. Me? I always grill my chicken by the pack and cut it into cubes. This way, when I need a meal, I can just grab my container, weigh out how much I need, and boom! I have a meal.
P.S. Lean sources of protein are the easiest to fit into a day of eating. If you have the room in your macros to keep something less lean, such as ground beef or chicken thighs, in your fridge pre-cooked, have at it! It does not have to be chicken breast, but I recommend always having a protein source minutes away from being ready to eat.
And what do I mean by versatile? If you douse your chicken breast in a sweet and sour Asian sauce, will you want to eat it with a sweet potato? Keeping your protein source plain with salt and pepper grants you more flexibility when putting the meal together.
Tip #2: When cooking in bulk, buy in bulk.
With the amount of care that we have for the food that we eat and the overall amount that we eat, it is no secret that grocery store trips can get expensive. Sometimes, when cooking my chicken breast by the pack, I think of how I am cooking $10 worth of food in 30 minutes, and it makes me think about utilizing sales. Because of this, when I see chicken breast go on sale, and any other foods that I consume large amounts of, I make sure that I purchase a freezer full.
This tip is great for two reasons. Reason 1 is that you will be saving money in the long run. It does not make sense to only purchase enough for “right now” when you know that you will be needing more later. When the price is low, take advantage! Reason 2 is that when you run out of whatever the food item is, you will have more at your disposal. For example, I always purchase at least 5 bags of frozen veggies. When I finish one off, I have more!
Tip #3: Take advantage of your down time and weekends.
When you find yourself with ample time to sit around and hangout, either during the week or weekends, spend it in the kitchen! Fire up the grill pan and throw some chicken down, toss a bag of veggies into the steamer, and boil a large batch of rice or bake a few potatoes.
Once everything has finished cooking, store each item in big containers and keep them in the fridge. Then, when you find yourself with 15 minutes to get going for class after work, you can scoop out 1 cup of pre-cooked rice, 1 cup of veggies, and 4 oz. of chicken breast.
Toss your plate in the microwave, and there you go, a complete meal! Only one hour in the kitchen can yield a week’s worth of meals if spent efficiently. No need to portion it out ahead of time, just have it prepared.
A lot of people tend to think that meal prepping involves dozens of Tupperware containers that are perfectly portioned and carried in a bag. Meal prepping is simply having the foods that you consume most that easily fit into your day of eating prepared and ready for instant consumption.
Keeping protein on hand, buying in bulk, and cooking during your down-time will surely lead you along an easier path to your goals.