MEAL PREP. It’s the coolest food craze. Everyone posting their meal prep pictures on Instagram and buying specific food storage containers to stack neatly in their perfectly clean fridge. Batch cooking like Julia Childs on steroids and eating the same lunch every single day. Don’t get me wrong, I’m ALL about prepping and setting yourself up for success when it comes to healthy eating. But I have a confession – I’ve let meal prepping go to the wayside, and this is why I don’t meal prep…
It’s not for lack of desire. And I’d be surprisingly fine eating the same lunch every single day (truth be told). But my life has changed in the last year, and carving out an hour or two (or three or four) on a Sunday to prep my breakfasts, lunches, and dinners isn’t doable, or desirable. If you’re like me, and a busy mom/boss lady/sleep deprived zombie, maybe you’re sick of believing that precious weekend hours should be spent slaving in the kitchen. I believe when you have just a few hours of quality time, it should be spent doing something fun for yourself or with the kiddos (because maybe your kids aren’t napping anymore – and for that I say, God bless you).
“But Chrissa, you HAVE to prep if you want to eat real-food meals. You CAN’T stay on track without meal prepping!” You’re right, sort of. There must be a component to planning and prepping in order to succeed at eating a non-processed diet. But let’s reinvent the way meal prep is supposed to be – make it conducive to OUR time, our lifestyle. So I did just that.
So how the heck to you meal prep without batch cooking, pre-baking, and assembling?
Devote more time in the kitchen for dinner? No.
Spend more money on already assembled food or delivery meal services? No.
Eat the same thing over and over? No.
Think small. Think one day at a time. Think simple.
What the heck am I talking about? Meal PLANNING vs. meal PREPPING.
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Why I Don’t Meal Prep
Lately I’ve gotten the kids down for bed, and as EXHAUSTED as I am, I do one thing before I
pour myself a massive glass of wine get ready for bed. I think, “Ok, what’s for dinner tomorrow?”
Probably not the thing you want to focus on after a hard day’s work, but hear me out. Taking 5 minutes to plan for tomorrow will make a world of difference.
Pick a meal, any meal. Then break if down.
Does it need to be marinated?
Does it need a sauce?
Do I need to thaw something?
Does it need a variety of spices?
Does it need to be boiled or roasted?
Do things need to be chopped or diced?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, do what needs to be done right now. For example, if you answered yes to any of the following:
Does it need to be marinated? Make the marinade, pour into a bag, throw contents in and refrigerate.
Does it need a sauce? Make the same beforehand or have everything assembled or set aside to make it the next day.
Do I need to thaw something? Set it out or refrigerate overnight.
Does it need a variety of spices? Measure out all the spices and pour into a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and keep on the counter.
Does it need to be boiled or roasted (think rice, quinoa, veggies, etc)? Do this now. It’s the most time consuming step to making meals, but if you can throw it in the oven or in a pot of boiling water, and do your nightly bedtime ritual as it cooks, then throw in the refrigerator once cooled, you’ll save a ton of time later.
Do things need to be chopped or diced? Grab your cutting board and get to work. Throw components in containers and refrigerate.
Are you getting where I’m going with this? Ok, I admit, there is a little prepping element here – but SIMPLIFIED. Get in the mindset – “pick a meal, tackle 1-2 small things the night before”. While you’re at it, think about lunch. Find inspiration while you’re prepping for dinner.
Throw a breast in the microwave on defrost to thaw quickly, cut into strips, throw in a pan with olive oil and cook (this takes 10 minutes, tops) then add veggies, leftovers, or throw on a bed of lettuce for a salad.
Add a few for lunches and pair with hummus or homemade ranch (or buy one from Primal Kitchen). Grab an avocado and combine it with canned tuna for a quick tuna salad with veggies.
When you throw that bag of marinating goodness in your refrigerator, check for leftovers. Throw together something weirdly inventive use what you have. I love to pair leftovers with marinara, pesto, or a mayo-based creation (mayo + lime juice, mayo + hot sauce, mayo + fresh herbs). This makes leftovers taste new again, and gives you an easy way to throw something together that isn’t conventional, but still tastes yummy.
Without writing a total novel here (because I know you are biz-zzzpay!) here are a few Cliff’s Notes:
Plan for dinner/lunch the night before
Complete 1-2 small elements beforehand that will help you create that meal
Find inspiration for lunch when you prep for dinner
Reinvent leftovers like a crazy mad scientist
What are some other ways I prep a bit, without the whole production?
When I buy a big bunch of those beautiful leafy greens, I throw them in a pan, add some mad flavor, sauté it up, then cool and refrigerate. Sautéed greens can be paired with eggs in the morning, as a base leftovers for lunch, or used as a side for dinner. Click here for my favorite lemon butter sautéed kale with garlic.
Pre-make or double homemade condiments
Whenever I DO make my own condiments or meal additions, I double the recipe and store in mason jars in my freezer. This is clutch for those days I’m not really feeling dinner inspiration and make something pretty basic like grilled chicken, or hamburgers. Paired with pesto, caramelized onions, or homemade salsa, and you have a basic meal full of flavor. Check out all the options you can make and freeze for later in this post – click HERE.
Roast veggies like it’s your job
If I do have a little time to roast veggies for dinner, I seriously scour my fridge for any and all veggies and throw them on a separate pan to roast. Because it’s SO easy to grab pre-made, roasted veggies from the fridge to reheat for lunches. Plus roasted veggies can be great to puree and make into sauces (like in this Whole30 cream of asparagus baked chicken) or soups later!
Find pre-made things that are actually good for you
If worse comes to worse, and you literally cannot make something from scratch, desperate times call for desperate measures. Ok, it’s not really desperate, it’s smart 🙂 Sanity = everything. That’s why I created this Ultimate Trader Joe’s Whole30 Shopping List. Rest assured you actually can buy healthy food with squeaky clean ingredients.
The last ditch effort…
When all else fails my friends, it’s called improvise. Throw some sh*t in a pan and just cook. You might fail (like, a lot). But I guarantee eventually you will get the hang of it, and learn what plays well together. Break it down Barney style:
1. base – cauliflower rice, quinoa, sautéed greens, broccoli slaw, softer veggies that sauté quickly like eggplant, finely sliced potatoes, cabbage, peppers, etc.
2. protein – ground beef/turkey/chicken, chicken breasts, pork chops, fish, etc.
3. meal enhancement – sauces (marinara, pesto, enchilada sauce), condiments (mayo, ketchup, dijon, coconut aminos), spices, etc.
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So there you have it. The whole novel on why I don’t meal prep (or don’t take hours to meal prep). Healthy eating doesn’t have to be difficult or time consuming or involve an insane amount of planning. Like what you’ve read? Be sure to share it and spread the word!
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