Introduction: Healthy and Affordable Meal Prep 101
Here are 5 meals for 5 lunches. You can prepare these meals on a Sunday night for the coming week. If you have all the ingredients, my estimate on time is about an hour. This is a great way to budget and have a healthy eating lifestyle. Each meal will cost about $3.00! I don't know where you can buy a healthy lunch at that price. Yes, there are $1.00 menus out there but they are not healthy. They have tons of fat, processed extras and calories to boot. If you are serious about losing weight, this is a healthy, wholesome way to do it.
Step 1: You're Going to Want to Buy Meal Prep Plastic Containers
These containers are very light weight, easy to wash and easy to stack. You can use them in a microwave too! They come in a wide variety of styles with 1,2 or 3 compartments. They range in prices so do your homework and shop around and find what best fits your budget. Click on the link below, then search for meal prep containers.
Step 2: What to Buy and Where
Ok, ok, yes. You may have to shop!
I have a Costco membership and it makes buying chicken in bulk very cheap. I bought a frozen 10 lb. bag of chicken tenders at Costco. It had 40 pieces of tenders in the bag for $17.99. I eat 2 as a serving but you may need more. At $18 a bag and 40 tenders, that's $18 divided by 40 pieces = $0.45 for each tender. Two per serving comes out to $ 0.90 for one serving of chicken.
If you do not have a Costco membership, try Trader Joe's. They have frozen chicken and all the other ingredients needed for prepping.
No Trader Joe's? Head to a local grocery store.
Gross! Yuck! No way! I know, I know, you hate them. But honestly, they are good for you. I'm not saying go buy veggies you hate. Find veggis you like. I like Chinese broccoli and sweet potatoes. I went with organic here. Its not that expensive if you only buy a week's worth.
Organic broccoli and sweet potato = $6.00. Six dollars divided by 5 servings = $1.20 per serving. Cheap!
"It's so hard to cook!" Yup, you are right, for me at least. I buy Trader Joe's Organic brown rice. Its cooked and ready to be heated! A box of brown rice is $3.00 for 9 servings, maybe more depending on how much rice you add to your meals. Math: $3.00 divided by 9 servings is $0.33 cents per serving, people! Woo hoo!
Stock up if you can. Buy frozen chicken and frozen brown rice. Head to a grocery store every week or the day before you prep. Buy fresh veggis. and fruit. I don't like frozen veggis. They don't have the crunch I love and, well, they are not fresh.
Sauces, Salts, and Oils!
Sauces, salts, and oils are essential! You'll read more about these when you get to the section on flavor.
Step 3: Pre-Heat That Oven!
Yes, this is an essential step. Wrap a sheet pan in foil. No sheet pan? Use the grill in your oven and wrap that up in foil. Also, now is a good time to wash your filthy hands.
Step 4: Cooking the Chicken
I use 1 tablespoon of garlic salt and 1 tablespoon of seasoning salt.
Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to this.
Lay out all your tenders onto the sheet pan.
Mix up your salt and olive oil. Use a spoon to spread this mixture on the chicken.
Step 5: Into the Oven
20 mins at 425 degrees! Get to cookin!
Step 6: Chop Chop Chop!
So at this point, you are going to want to wash your veggis and chop them up. I cube the sweet potato into pieces about 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch. Then, add 2 tsp of olive oil, 1 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of pepper. Take apart your broccoli and give it a quick rinse. Add 1 tsp of sesame oil and 1 tsp of soy sauce. I divide the foil on my sheet pan for two compartments. I don't want the oils to mix. I set the timer for 15 minutes at 425 degrees. When the timer goes off, take out the broccoli and add another 20 mins to those sweet potatoes.
Step 7: Brown Rice
No need to cook! It will thaw in the fridge and you can warm it up later when you microwave your meal. I add about 3/4 cup of this pre-cooked, frozen rice into the meal prep containers.
Step 8: Start to Assemble
After cooling your chicken, start to assemble your containers.
Step 9: Almost Done
After your sweet potatoes are cooked, finish assembling all your containers. Put the lids on and let them cool for about 30 minutes. Then stick them in the fridge.
Step 10: Flavor!
Here is where the taste comes in. I'd like to introduce you to some friends of mine: Olive oil, sesame oil, garlic salt, seasoning salt, soy sauce, Sriracha, vinegar, fresh ginger, pepper and coconut milk. Hello friends.
Honestly, these should be in your pantry because they add flavor to just about anything! If you don't already have them, Trader Joe's and many other stores carry these products. If you live by an Asian market or Latin market, shop there. They have the best prices on soy sauce, coconut milk, Sriracha, ginger and sesame oil. (A note on sesame oil: make sure the first ingredient in you sesame oil is sesame oil. It has the full flavor you need and great in Asian cooking.) Spend some money on good oils. Get a good olive oil too. The taste goes a long way.
Other amazing sauces that will make meal prepping exciting are marinara sauce, pesto, salsa, mustard... I could keep going. Stay away from creamy sauces if you are trying to lose weight or if you are like me and just can't tolerate them in the tummy.
Enjoy! Look for my B-fast meal prep coming out soon!