Food Prep: Let’s Get It On!
Surely, you’ve heard the advice; “Get a jump start on your week by batch cooking on the weekends!” If the thought of spending your precious weekend hours in the kitchen is a turn off, don’t despair. An entire day does not need to be devoted to this practice; just a couple of hours can do the trick. With a little planning, you can have time to work, fit in your Ascend classes, create healthier and speedier meals at home, and still have time to catch up with friends (or Netflix).
Meal prepping makes food shopping more efficient and ensures you’ll eat more meals at home, both of which are better on the bank. It also means you will stick to healthier choices since you are in control of what goes in your food, and you’ll be less likely to reach for the quickest and most tempting options—usually processed food—when you come home ravenous after a long day (we’ve all been there, friends). The key to successful food prep is to do what works for you and keep it SIMPLE. Preparing an entire week’s worth of food may work for some folks, but even a small amount of planning can make a big difference in how well you eat while saving time.
To start, we’ve compiled our key recommendations to food prep like a pro:
1. Get Organized & Plan. First, take a look at your routine and determine what you want to change. For many, the dinner meal is most time consuming so the convenience of having food ready to heat and eat is key. Start small and build up—you can always add on more as you get the hang of the food prep game. Plan for the majority of your weekdays, but leave some wiggle room for spontaneity and fun…dinner with friends, a date night, or even just your favorite take-out. As you plan your meals, keep in mind that it is more cost-effective and less time consuming to prep meals with similar ingredients. Save those complicated Pinterest recipes for a weekend night when you have more time.
2. Stock your essentials. Take inventory of what you have in your pantry. Make a list of some basic ingredients commonly found in your recipes. By having these ingredients on hand, you’ll reduce your shopping list to mostly perishable items. Basic ingredients can include whole grains (oats, rice, quinoa, pasta) oils or sauces (coconut oil, olive oil, tahini, tamari), spices, etc. Proper storage containers in various sizes are also important to have readily available. Mason jars or airtight glass containers work well.
3. Make a list and stick to it. Once you know the meals you plan to cook, make a list of what you need and hit up the grocery store. Decide when you want to shop (save your sanity and avoid Sunday afternoon) and what day you want to prep. They can be the same day, but splitting up over the weekend can make it seem less daunting.
4. Work It. Multitasking here is key to making the actual process of prepping quick and efficient. Start with what takes the longest to prepare (usually roasting veggies or baking/grilling meats) then simultaneously cook up your grains on the stovetop. Wash and prep fruits and veggies, make any sauces or dips, and get your storage containers within reach. Doubling up recipes and freezing a portion can be a huge timesaver for another week (this works great with soups or stews!).
5. Embrace the mess and have some fun. Your kitchen may look like a hot mess when you’re in the midst of prepping, but let it go. Turn on some tunes or a podcast and know that this time is set aside for this specific reason. With practice, the process will become more streamlined and enjoyable.
Ready to go but need a few ideas?
· Get a jumpstart on breakfast by preparing overnight oats, chia pudding, smoothie ingredients (pre-portioned for speedy blending in the am), hard-boiled eggs, yogurt with berries and pre-made granola.
· Pimp those power bowls! Power bowls, nourish bowls, buddha bowls—whatever you want to call them—are wonderfully easy and nourishing for lunch or dinner. Toss together some greens, a grain, protein (pre-cooked chicken, tofu, or hard boiled egg), raw and/or roasted veggies, nuts or seeds, beans, a big dollop of hummus or another dip. Sprinkle with olive oil and lemon or a salad dressing just before eating. You can’t go wrong here.
· Tacos and stir-fry are great ways to use similar ingredients in different meals. You can use the same proteins and veggies and just change up the toppings and sauces. Build your taco with rice or quinoa, beans, roasted veggies; use rice or soba noodles for your stir-fry. Pre-washed veggies and pre-cooked proteins make this snappy.
· Energy balls, hard-boiled eggs, pre-cut veggies and hummus, and pre-portioned trail mix or nuts make great snacks.
The time you take to prepare food on the weekend will come back to you during the week. Yes, you will eat up a small amount of your weekend hours, but it will result in more time throughout the week to do things you love—Ascend classes with friends, longer walks with the dog, reading or more time with family. Not to mention, you’ll be eating more nourishing foods that give you energy and make you feel amazing.
Prep to it!
-Post written by Ascend Content Expert, Ashley Hart