Ohhh this is a very wordy post, people. In part one we covered the pros and cons of food prep and today we are going to look at how to prep successfully. These are my tips for you, I want you to be successful so I’ve tried to make this as comprehensive as possible! For the purpose of Part Two, we will assume you are prepping for yourself and one other lucky person, who I hope will do all your dishes in return.
DECIDE HOW MUCH FOOD YOU WANT TO PREP
Before you start cooking you need to decide how much food you actually want. Are you prepping just for yourself? Or are you prepping for others? I would recommend keeping it to a maximum of two adults, anymore and you will really need either a bigger kitchen or a second helper. Assuming you are prepping for two adults, you need 10 lunches and 10 dinners that are completely prepped and ready to go (i.e. containers that are complete meals and only need to be reheated), plus 10 breakfast options (not necessarily completely made but are easily and quickly put together) and 10 snack options. This means that each person gets 1 breakfast option, 1 lunch, 1 dinner and 2 snacks each day.
DECIDE ON RECIPES BEFORE FOOD SHOPPING
Before going to the supermarket/grocer you need to plan what you’re making. Sit down and decide what meals you want. Ideally you want 20 servings all together for lunches and dinners so consider what meals give you the most servings, e.g. 2 grilled marinated chicken breasts + 4 serves of brown rice + 8 serves of mixed frozen vegetables = 4 servings of a very nutritious and balanced lunch or dinner. 20 – 4 = 16 more serves to go.
While you don’t need 10 breakfasts in containers ready to go, you should still prep for it as much as possible. Consider making egg bites (mini egg omelettes) which can be frozen and reheated in the morning. Keep some wholegrain english muffins in the fridge, one toasted with some avo and an egg makes a really filling and delicious breakfast. Alternatively you can prepare some muesli – mix some rolled oats with no sugar added apple juice and leave in a container in the fridge. In the morning just grab some of the muesli and eat it with some fresh fruit and yoghurt. All of these choices are really quick and easy and require minimal work.
Make these easy for yourself. Portion fruit, have a pack of protein bars ready to go or portion a can of tuna with some corn thins. Snack don’t have to be complicated, just be sure they fit into your diet. If you’re going low calorie then the cookie probs isn’t a good idea. If you’re going low carb, don’t eat a banana, pack some shaved turkey and cream cheese instead.
BALANCE YOUR MEALS
Write a list of your recipes and aim to make each fit into your diet (paleo, gluten-free, low carb, low calorie, etc.) Let’s say you found a really yummy looking recipe for panko fried chicken, but don’t know how to make that fit into your low calorie diet. First look at how you can customise the recipe, if it says fried, just give it a little spray with cooking oil and bake it. Or you’ve made some super delish butter chicken marinated chicken breast but aren’t sure what to do with it. Grill your chicken and serve it with a generous helping of vegetables and a serve of brown rice. Aim for half your container (plate) to be full of salad or vegetables. Depending on your particular diet, add protein (meat) and carbs (grains, rice) to your desired ratio.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
Do yourself a favour and pick this that are easy. Do you want to use some brown rice but only plan on making a few serves? Just buy some cheap ready to go microwave rice. Only 90 seconds to cook, it will take out a good chunk of cooking time. Like tuna? Make some tuna salads, that way you only need to prep the salad and bring a can of tuna along. Try to limit your work while still aiming to keep costs low, so don’t go for already flavoured chicken breast or pre-cooked chicken breast slices, it’s way cheaper to just cook and season it yourself.
DON’T GROCERY SHOP AND PREP THE SAME DAY
Shop for your ingredients the day before you prep or you’ll be very run down by the time you finish. Plan and shop the day before, cook and organise the day after. However, if you want to give yourself a head start, go for it. Prepare your chicken or marinade the meats the night before, that way all you have to do the next day is cook.
You must prioritise on the day. Let’s say you have purchased a chicken for roasting, some chicken for grilling and vegies that need boiling. Start the task that will take the longest first. Get your chicken roasting first, then start a pot of water boiling, while the vegies are cooking get the chicken on the grill. Always begin with food that needs to be baked, you can keep cooking and prepping while food is baking. Prepping salads will be last because it’s by far the fastest.
There are a few things you need for food prep, at least 20 takeaway containers, some little sauce containers, a box of regular sized ziplock bags and a bag of mini or snack sized. It’s also handy to keep a set of kitchen scales nearby and some pen and paper for your lists.
ORGANISE THAT CONTAINER
You’ve got a container that has some shredded mexican spiced chicken, mixed salad, pico de gallo, rice and dressing. How are you supposed to heat it up without heating the lettuce? Separation, my friend. Sauces and dressings go into little dressing containers. More than one thing being heated up? Leave it in the container and put the salad in a ziplock bag. This way you heat the container, the chicken and rice gets nice and warm and the salad stays cold, all you do is just tip it in. If I’m making a salad I like to use cherry tomatoes instead of sliced ones because I can just chuck them in whole and not worry about things going soggy. Or if I’m using salsa or pico de gallo, I put it into a snack or mini ziplock bag to keep the lettuce dry. Beware of cheese, I put that into my containers on the day, otherwise it can go weird if you don’t wrap it in clingwrap or separate it.
Phew, we’ve gone through a lot of things! All these points are from my experience so if you don’t particularly agree with all of them, that’s totally fine. In fact, if you’re a veteran food prepper then leave some tips! In part three I will share one week of my food prep with you, including recipes and step by step photos plus any extra tips, so stay tuned!