Working in town with loads of healthy food choices (and not-so-healthy for those kind of days) meant I never really had much of a need for meal prep. Sure, sometimes when money was a little tight I’d cook a few days’ worth of meals and take them to work, but I never really enjoyed eating re-heated chicken and rice when I knew Barburrito was just around the corner.
Now I’m leaving for work at 7am and getting home after CrossFit at 9pm, and the thought of chopping vegetables makes me want to weep when all I really want to do is shower and hop into bed. I’ve been preparing meals in advance for dinner, and I think I’ve just about cracked what works for me.
First up, I do a food shop on Saturday, or whenever I can. I just grab a couple of different fresh meats – usually lots of turkey – fresh and frozen vegetables, and make sure I’ve got enough seasoning and carbs. Easiest carbohydrates for me are long-grain rice, brown pasta and potatoes.
Then I have a look what I have and plan a few different meals that could be made with the ingredients I have. This is the opposite to how many meal prep, I know – but I just can’t think what to make without the ingredients in front of me. That’s why I buy stuff I like and know I will use, then go from there.
I don’t cook the food completely, as I found reheating food was what I didn’t like about meal prep and why I always found an excuse not to eat what I’d prepared. I use my blender to make tomato-based sauces, mixing in garlic, chilli, turmeric, pepper and cumin, to taste, then chop whichever vegetables I think will go best with the dish. Into Tupperware it goes, then in the freezer, and I write down what’s in each tub and what needs to be added to make a full meal, in case Chris is home first or I just plain forget!
To the uninitiated this may seem overly-controlling, but both Chris and I get home late and are so glad there’s something super quick and easy to make. It takes me half an hour to put all this together on Sunday, then we have dinner ready in around 15 minutes without using any brain power – the tubs get left out in the morning to defrost, whoever is home first will chuck it in the pressure cooker with meat and whichever carb we fancy.
I’m not too fussed about watching my macros at the moment, but I make sure there’s lots of vegetables in each meal, with a fairly sizeable portion of protein too. I’m just glad I’m getting an all-round balanced meal quick without resorting to ready-made microwave meals, though I also make sure I schedule in a pizza day throughout the week too, for my own sanity.
For those who are similarly time-starved, here’s a few more healthy food hacks:
• Tins of mixed bean salad from the supermarket. I have half a tin as a snack at work – it’s fairly filling due to the protein and the carbs also perk me up mid-afternoon.
• Boil up some new potatoes and eggs to leave in the fridge. These can be quickly made into salads or even eaten on their own if you’re desperate!
• Make a big batch of flapjacks, energy bars, protein balls.. Whatever you find quick and easy. Freeze them into portions so you don’t eat them all at once and take to work as required.
• Peel vegetables in advance and part-boil. This can be done when you’re watching TV on Sunday night – if you don’t want to go through full meal prep this is a good way to shave some time off of a weekday evening.
• Get big bags of nuts. Preferably ones you don’t absolutely love, so you’ll only eat a few at a time (this is speaking from experience..!). They’ll give you energy and are also full of nutrients.