Introduction: Meal Prep Boot Camp: 20 Meals in 2.5 Hours!
Hello and welcome to Meal Prep Boot Camp! We're going to show you from start to finish, the steps on how to make 20 delicious meals (lunch and dinner) for 2 hungry people. We have timed it down to 2.5 hours between 2 people, including doing the dishes. Been doing meal preps for almost a year now, the time you save each week (and the lack of headaches) with just committing to one day of meal prepping is outstanding.
You will be always thankful to your past self when you come home tired and all you have to do is reheat one of the meals. Knowing full well it's a delicious, healthy* meal and another day you didn't have to go out, order take out or pizza. LET'S GET TO IT!
*Depending on your idea of healthy and the recipes you do for each meal.
You will first need to assemble the following:
- Glass containers that can hold one lunch - 10ea (Oven Safe)
- Glass containers that can hold 2 dinners - 5ea (Oven safe)
"Why glass?" We have used both and find that glass is more versatile, as it can hold a higher temperature, makes a nice air tight seal, doesn't stain, doesn't leach chemicals, and most importantly it cleans way easier.
- An assortment of pots and pans (the larger the better)
This is highly dependent on the recipes you make, but the larger they are the more you can fit into, saving you precious cooking time.
Step 1: Think of Your Menu
Depending on how hungry you are this could be the easiest/hardest part. To save time, try to think of recipes that you can work in parallel. For example, we will be using the oven and 2 pans at the same time, for 3 of the recipes.
When possible choose pre-chopped ingredients, such as meat or vegetables (especially if it's the similar price). We rarely use pre-seasoned meat, but it is an option if we want to minimize prepping time.
The recipes we have chosen for this week are the following:
- Tenderloin + Sweet Potatoes (Caribbean Variety)
- Honey Sesame Chicken + White Rice
- Chicken Teriyaki + Shelled Edamames
- Chicken Tacos Al Pastor
- Chicken Burgers
Now that you have the recipes, time for....
Step 2: Grocery Shopping
We use the Walmart grocery shopping app; it saves us a lot of time of aisle walking, waiting in line, and you buy just what you need. We also buy in other stores things that aren't available there, like the sweet potatoes that we use.
Notice the frozen pizza? Yeah, you're gonna need some food in you while you cook. For us, meal-prep day is our cheat-day, it's the pat on the back for such hard work!
Step 3: Warming Up
- Make sure all the pots, containers, measuring spoons and other utensils are clean and accessible.
- Take out all the ingredients needed, and keep them out until you finish (you minimize staining everything with sauce in your hands looking for the salt that you just used)
- Pre-heat the oven and pans for the first recipes.
- Put some music on, it will help you get a nice rhythm and enjoy the whole experience.
QUEUE THE MUSIC!
Step 4: Go for the Easy Ones
-"Easy? I actually burned a pot making hot water!"
-How?! Never mind, that's actually impressive!
How do you know if it's easy? The less attention you have to give it the better!
- 2.2 lb pork tenderloin
- Baking pan
- Cooking Spray
This tenderloin already pre-seasoned, we normally avoid buying these but this has been a hectic week and this one tastes delicious.
- Grease the pan with the cooking spray.
- Place tenderloin in pan (fat side up for more flavor, fat side down for less fat in your meal) and stick it in the oven.
- 30-35 minutes for each pound.
- Set the timer and go to the next one!
- 1/4-1/2 tsp of salt
- 3 cups of rice
- 3 cups of water
- 1 - 1 1/2 tsp of oil
Yes, we add salt and oil to the rice. That way it will be loose, not clumpy, and have a nice flavor. I only measure the rice and water, the salt and oil would be to your taste. We use a 1:1 ratio, 1 cup of water for every cup of rice.
- Add the water, mix in the salt until it dissolves.
- Add the oil.
- Add the rice on top of the oil.
- Stir lightly.
- Place lid and start the cooker
- In High Heat add the water and mix in the salt until it dissolves.
- Add the oil once it starts to boil.
- Add the rice.
- Once the water in the top of the rice has evaporated, decrease heat to simmer and place lid.
- After 15 mins it should be done, depending on the size of your pot.
Step 5: Bring in the Chicken!
Chicken for Honey Sesame & Teriyaki
- 5 lbs of chicken, sliced
What differentiates one recipe from the other is the sauce. But the prep is the same:
- Cut chicken breasts (chicken thighs preferable, the weren't available this week) into manageable sizes. These chickens are pretty thick so we have to slice them down the middle for even cooking. I don't do cubes as it takes longer to cut, move, and mix.
- Grease the pan with olive oil and throw all the chicken that you can handle (yes, for both recipes).
- If the chicken doesn't fit in your pan set a plate a side and cook by portions.
- Do not add salt to the chicken, as both dishes contain soy sauce. You can add grounded pepper for additional seasoning.
- Cooked until chicken is cooked through (no pink; all white or little brown on both sides).
While the chickens are being cooked, time to make some burgers.
- 2 lbs of ground meat
- 1/2 tsp of garlic powder
- 2 tsp of paprika
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp of salt
- 1/4 tsp of oregano
- 1/4 tsp of basil
- 1 tbsp of oil
- Cooking spray (for hands)
- Weight scale (optional)
- In a large bowl, mix all of the ground meat and spices.
- Place pan on stove at Medium Heat with oil.
- Use cooking spray in your hands to "shape" the burger, the flatter the better.
- Weigh your patty, it's a meal for two, some need more than others to quell the hunger.
- Place patties in hot pan.
- If you made them too thick, stab them with a butter knife a few times so that they can cook evenly. Careful not to scratch the pan or yourself.
- Cook until lightly brown on both sides
Step 6: Peel, Flip and Sauce. THE BEANS! Peel, Flip and Sauce Again.
So now you have the tenderloin, rice, chicken and burgers. Look at you, all multi-tasking and not panicking one bit!
Don't space out now, let's spice it up a notch! While everything is cooking we're going to start making the sauces, peel the the sweet potato, and not burning the food.
- 3 Large Sweet Potatoes (Caribbean variety)
- Start by peeling the sweet potatoes and cutting them up to smaller chunks.
By now the burgers should be ready to flip.
Start making the honey sesame sauce.
Honey Sesame Sauce
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 1/2 cup of soy sauce
- 1/3 - 1/2 cup of honey
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 tsp cornstarch
- Mix it all and set it aside.
- 1 lb of shelled edamames (2 bags)
- 1 tsp of salt
Who got so distracted taking pictures, and dancing that he forgot the edamames? Not this guy!
- Throw the edamames in the pot (Please don't actually throw them, we have to clean up afterwards)
- Fill water an inch above edamames
- Add salt
- After 3 minutes boiling they should be done
In the upcoming recipe there's a ginger that needs to be peeled (use a spoon). Just after you finish peeling and shredding the ginger, flip the chicken/burgers. Serve the burgers that are ready in containers.
- 2/3 cup of soy sauce ("2/3? did he run out of soy sauce in the middle of cooking?") Nope, 2/3 is ok, you can go to 1 cup but that's a lot of sodium.
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 0.5 oz of ginger, peeled and shredded
- 1/2 cup of honey
- 40tbsp of white rice vinegar
- 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes
- 2.5 tbsp of cornstarch
- Mix it all and set aside
Chicken Burgers FINISH
They should be doe by now depending on how flat you made them. Serve accordingly.
Step 7: What's That Smell?
It's the rice! You didn't hear the rice cooker over your loud dancing and obnoxious music?
Start serving the rice one portion for each lunch container and two for the dinner.
Guess what? Edamames are done too! Drain and start serving.
Honey Sesame and Teriyaki ALMOST THERE
Now both chickens should be fully cooked
- Divide them in two pans, around 2.5 lbs per pan one for the honey sesame and another for the teriyaki.
- The Teriyaki has more liquid, so poor it in your deepest pan, as you can see by the pics I messed this up...
- Pour sauce on both pans.
- Set both to low heat for ~7minutes or until the sauce thickens
Step 8: No... Really... What IS That Smell?
Ohhh the tenderloin! (you did set a timer right?)
All right, now take out the tenderloin, if you don't have a meat thermometer, cut right into it. The meat should look white. If there's a little bit of pink in the center, cut into pieces and place them back in the oven for a few minutes at 350F checking periodically.
Notice the "high-grade of caramelization" on the right? That's mostly burnt fat so no worries. Serve it in the containers, you can also mop up some of the not-burnt fat for extra flavor.
Honey Sesame Chicken FINISH
While you where mopping up the fatness of the pork tenderloin, the honey sesame chicken is already done. Serve accordingly and if you have "time to spare" add some garnish.
Chicken Teriyaki FINISH
Stop decorating, the Teriyaki is ready to serve!
Step 9: Are We Missing Something?
Sweet Potatoes ALMOST THERE
Now that you have space in your stove, you can start cooking the sweet potatoes. Always make sure you have space otherwise you end up leaving an easy one for the end.
- Fill a large pot with water until covering the sweet potatoes.
- Add a pinch off salt,
- Boil at high heat.
Chicken Tacos al Pastor ALMOST THERE*
- 2 lbs of ground meat
- Tacos al Pastor seasoning
- 1/2 cup lime juice
- 1 cup of pineapple
- Add meat and ingredients and cook until all liquid evaporates
*While meal prepping always taste test new recipes while cooking, it's frustrating to bring food to work from home only to find out you really don't like it and have nowhere else to eat. I say this as we had to improvise because we didn't have all ingredients with this recipe.
Step 10: Yes, the Dishes!
You think you where going to just sit around and wait? Nuh-uh, clean the counter and tart doing those dishes! If you have a dishwasher, hooray for you! If you don't, you can do the dishes between each wait period, which aren't much.
Step 11: Are We There Yet? Yes!
Chicken Tacos al Pastor FINISH
Serve, cover and fridge.
Sweet Potatoes FINISH
Use a fork to test the softness of the sweet potatoes. When they are the desired softness, drain and serve.
Step 12: Finally Done! a Few Tips
- Try to do more than 3 recipes, do less and you might be tired of eating the same thing again and again...
- If there's only one of you try to not do more than 5 recipes, but if you can, more power to you.
- Mix & match sides with lunch and dinner, that way you’re not repeating the exact meal.
- Have someone help, you'll work quicker and probably they will add their own recipes to the mix.
- Avoid doing chicken with no sauce. Reheating it in the microwave, gives it a particularly bad taste after. This bad taste can be minimized by using sauces or covering it with a damp paper towel before microwaving it.
- When reheating at home use the oven if possible, it won't give the chicken that particular bad taste.
- Start the meal prep the day before you start the week; our food has lasted in the fridge for up to 6 days and tastes fresh.
- Depending on what the recipe has it can last longer or way less (like anything with milk). Plan to eat these meals at the beginning of the week.
- Always fill out the lunch container for each recipe, that way if you made less than expected for both lunch and dinner, you can go decide to eat out for dinner one day of the wee. If you fill dinner containers first, you might end up heading out to lunch, spending $ and losing parking space...
- Don't do as I did in the picture always cover and place directly in the fridge.
When the meal is done, quickly place it in the container, put the lid and immediately place it in the fridge.This reduces the contact the food has with air, preventing early spoilage, maintaining flavor, and once it cools it will make a little “vaccum” inside the container do to pressure differences. This "vaccum" maintains food fresh for longer.
Second Prize in the
Meal Prep Challenge