Introduction: Excitement Is Sustainability: How to Meal Prep for YOU
I love eating all foods but I especially love eating foods that are good for me and that taste good. To support this way of eating and to prevent eating "quick meals" not consisting of whole foods, I have been in consistent practice of the concept of meal prep for about 7 years. Dedicating a day each week to prepare the majority of the meals for your week can help you stay satiated, happy, and healthy. I like to prep lunches and dinners as they are the most time-consuming.
In this Instructable I am going to share my tips and method for prepping one week's worth of lunches and dinners that are good for you but are still exciting, tasty, and fun. Also, this Instructable will share two of my original recipes that are grain-free, dairy-free and paleo-friendly!
Step 1: Method and Tips for Planning Your Meal Prep
1. Find your Food Philosophy
First you need to find your scope. Figure out what dietary guidelines you want to stick to (if any) this will help you narrow down your searches for recipes and give you a guideline to cook by (i.e., what oils to use and what types of food to omit like processed foods, sugars, dairy or gluten). More importantly this will help you narrow down your search terms when looking for recipes, cook books or food blogs (i.e., “grain free”, “dairy free”, “vegetarian”, “keto”, “paleo”, "quick and easy" etc.) This will also help you to not go crazy in the grocery store as you knowing your food philosophy will influence you to create a routine of what parts of the store fit into your scope.
I personally keep our kitchen paleo friendly which just means we focus on eating vegetables, meat, fruits, nuts, and seeds. I keep our home full of these whole and healthy foods and then when I eat out I treat myself to other foods that I also love but eat in moderation. I am a firm believer that complete elimination of foods is not necessary unless medically recommended.
2. If you're not excited about it don't make it!
Look for recipes that sound tasty and fun otherwise you aren’t going to enjoy eating your meals and lets be real... food should be fun! When I don't enjoy my food is when I turn to high fat and high sugar foods for the satiation that I am missing. My personal way of keeping excitement in my meals is by looking for and creating healthier versions of my favorite foods that I have always loved. Also keep in mind your food philosophy, if I decide I want to stay in the realm of quick and easy then I probably should not pick a recipe that includes lots of ingredients and has a long prep and cook time.
3. Create a routine that works for you
Each week set aside a designated day that works with your schedule to be your meal prep day. The days leading up to that day can be used to plan what you will be cooking. Use a few spare minutes here and there to hunt for recipes on your phone or computer, my preferred method. Save these to a note on your phone or email draft. Come meal prep day, pick recipes from your note that excite you and align with your food philosophy, and then make a grocery list using the ingredients list from each recipe. There are tons of cool apps you can utilize for making your grocery list but I am old school and prefer the good ol' pen and note pad and getting the brain juices flowing. If you prefer recipe finding old school you can also use your food philosophy you've created to search for cookbooks at your local book store and or library.
I like to meal prep on my designated day of the week by making two different recipes that I can pack up into glass food storage containers that stack and store easily in my fridge. These will make up my lunches and dinners for the week and allow me to not have to eat the same food twice in one day if I don't want to
Each recipe you find will most likely include how many servings it yields, use this to help decide if you will need to double the recipe in order to make the amount of meals you need for your home. Pick recipes for meal prep that are going to taste good for a few days, that reheat easily, and that you personally will like as leftovers. Try to avoid including things that don't reheat well like fish or eggs. When you can afford it, buy pre-washed, pre-peeled and pre-cut ready-to-use veggies. Trader Joe's has very affordable ready-to-use produce and you can also checkout your regional grocery chains. Keep in mind not all ready-to-use produce will be worth the price, so you will want to compare the price per ounce (oz) and/or per pound (lb.) between the ready-to-use (i.e., prepped) verses the whole produce item (i.e., non-prepped).
5. Don't be afraid to seek help
I often get excited about recipes and then I think to myself “how in the world am I going to do that!?” We live in a wonderful day and age where answers are right at our finger tips. If a recipe calls for shredded chicken, or ripe plantains, or grated lemongrass and you feel intimidated because you don’t know how to shred chicken or grate lemongrass, don’t feel intimidated! First, double check the recipe you have found and make sure there is not a note in the "notes section" of the cookbook or within the blog post that addresses your question. You can also sometimes find an immediate answer for various cooking how to’s via Google within seconds. For trickier things, click the video tab on Google during your search and you most likely will find a how-to-in-the-kitchen-video that addresses your question. If all else fails ask "the cook" in your family or group of friends. My favorite part about food is the opportunity to connect with others so I say take the opportunity, go connect with your people and pick their brains!
Alright let's do this!
Now that I have shared my method and tips for planning meal prep it's time to cook!
Step 2: Find Your Recipes and Create Your Grocery List
Typically, I find my recipes online using Google or Pinterest. Using my Food Philosophy to create my search terms (see above) I might find recipes using terms like "Paleo Dinner Recipes" or "Paleo Lunch Ideas". I have learned over time that I personally prefer soups, casseroles and Asian dishes for meal prep as I have found they reheat well without compromising the taste or texture for me personally. Therefore, my preferences and my dietary guidelines make up my personal Food Philosophy and I can now search "Paleo Casserole Recipes" or "Paleo Asian Recipes" depending on the mood of the week and what will excite me!
For this Instructable I chose to make two of my favorite original recipes, Turkey Texas Chili and Beef New Mexican Stuffed Poblanos. Both recipes are Paleo meaning they are grain-, dairy- and processed-sugar-free (among a few other omits). Again "Paleo" in our kitchen just means we focus on eating on veggies, meat, fruit, seeds and nuts.
To make my grocery list I will look at one recipe at a time and write down the ingredients I don't already have at home on the list. Next to the item on the list I am going to write the amount of that item that I need (i.e., 3 lbs, 1 carton, (2) 14.5 oz cans etc.) As mentioned in my tips I recommend purchasing ready-to-use veggies that are pre washed, peeled and cut. A good example of this is showcased in the turkey chili I am going to make, here I choose to purchase Mirepoix Mix from Trader Joe's which is a 14.5 oz tub of chopped celery, carrots, and onion ready to use as this saves me tons of time. Therefore, on my grocery list I am going to write "2 containers of Mirepoix Mix" in substitution for the quantities of "celery", "carrots" and "onion" found in the turkey chili recipe ingredients list.
Below are my two recipes:
Step 3: Time to Make Our Chili
Turkey Texas Slow Cooker Chili
Turkey Texas Chili:
- 2 lbs ground turkey
- 5 carrots peeled and diced
- 5 celery stocks diced
- 1 small to medium sized onion diced
- 1 yellow bell pepper diced
- 1 (29.5 oz) can of tomato sauce
- 3 (14.5 oz) cans of diced tomatoes with juice
- 2 cups of beef broth
- 1/2 cup of chili powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- 2 bay leaves
In a large sauce pan over medium heat, brown the ground turkey and break up using a cooking utensil of your choice. Once browned, add the ground turkey and juices to your slow cooker. Using the same sauce pan, add the mirepoix mix and chopped bell pepper to the pan and sauté until the onions are translucent. Once onions in your veggie mixture are translucent, remove the mixture from heat and add into your slow cooker. Now add all other ingredients with the exclusion of the bay leaves to your slow cooker and stir until combined together. Lastly, slowly insert your bay leaves into the chili being careful not to break them. Cook on high for 3 hours or low for 6 or until all veggies are tender (keeping in mind all slow cookers vary).
Step 4: Now for the Stuffed Poblanos & Cauliflower Rice
New Mexican Beef Stuffed Poblanos with Spanish Cauliflower Rice
for the stuffed peppers:
- 3 lbs of ground beef
- 8 poblano peppers
- 1/2 cup of beef broth
- 3 tablespoons of nutritional yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 2 (14 oz) tubs of New Mexico Red Chile, *I use Señor Pino's, (can substitute red enchilada sauce)*
for the cauliflower rice:
- 32 oz of riced cauliflower
- 4 roma tomatoes seeded and chopped
- 1 cup of chicken broth
- 1 (6 oz) can of tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon of marjoram (or oregano)
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil (or oil of your preference)
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon of pepper
Serves 8 (*I used 7 Poblanos on this specific instance as when I went to the store they were rather large)
1. Place you poblano peppers in a large stock pot and cover with water filling about 85% of the pot, cover pot with a lid and place over medium high heat to bring to a boil. Once brought to a boil, reduce heat to medium and let peppers cook for 10 minutes.
2. Place the ground beef in a sauce pan over medium heat, break up using a cooking utensil of your choice, cook until browned. If you would liked to drain fat and juices do so now. Once ground beef is cooked add the beef broth, nutritional yeast, and salt and pepper, stir until combined. Remove from heat, cover (to prevent meat from drying out) and set aside.
3. Remove poblano peppers from heat and pour out over a colander. Grease two casserole dishes (rub oil on the sides) and set aside. After letting the peppers cool for a few minutes, move them to a cutting board to de-seed. Split the TOP LAYER only on each pepper with a knife making a T-shaped incision, then using your hands, fold open the pepper and scoop out the seeds from the inside (you can do this under running water if you are having trouble). After deseeding each pepper place each one with its opening side up into the casserole dish and continue until you have completed the process with each pepper.
4. Place your ground beef mixture (using a trivet) next to your casserole dishes with a serving spoon or tongs handy. Open your tubs of red chile (or enchilada sauce), pour into a bowl or pot and place next to your casserole dishes with a separate serving spoon or ladle. Using one hand, fold open each poblano pepper while you use your other hand to scoop the ground beef mixture into the pepper until the pepper is mostly full but not bursting open. Repeat until all peppers are full of the beef mixture. Now using a large serving spoon or ladle, top your peppers with the red chile (or enchilada sauce). Bake at 350 degrees (Fahrenheit) for 45 minutes.
5. Now for our Spanish Cauliflower Rice. In a large sauce pan over medium heat, add olive oil, tomatoes, onion, and garlic. Cook while stirring occasionally until onions are translucent and tomatoes have blistered and opened up. Add tomato paste, chicken broth, marjoram (or oregano), and salt and pepper to the pan, stir to combine. Add the riced cauliflower to the sauce pan and slowly stir ingredients all together until your sauce mixture has completely coated the Cauli Rice or when cauliflower rice is no longer white. Cover pan for about 10 minutes (or until desired tenderness) stirring once or twice.
Step 5: Pack It All Up!
Once your recipes are complete and you have allowed all food to cool, it is time to pack it all up into your preferred type of storage containers. I prefer to use glass storage containers with snap lids for extra sealing purposes and easy stacking. I also used BPA free and microwave safe containers I found on Amazon for low cost during this instructable meal prep session that are also easy to stack and very low cost. There are lots of great options out there for all types of preferences and needs, I recommend finding ones that don't leak and stack well.
I like to create an assembly line when I pack up my food by having all containers lined up without tops and the food in the cookware on tributes on the same counter space (see picture).
Once you're all packed up find some space in the fridge. I prefer to keep my different types of meals apart from one another inside my fridge by placing on separate shelves for easy finding.
ASIDE FROM DOING THE DISHES.... WE ARE ALL DONE!
Dig in & Enjoy!
Runner Up in the
Meal Prep Challenge