Sunday, February 22, 2015

Meal Prep!

                I love meal prep.  I talk about it all the time in my day to day life.  Outside of going to church, tithing and talking to my mom, meal prep the single act that makes the biggest difference in how my week goes.  Today after going to church, I went to the grocery store.  Well, I was on my way to the grocery store and I looked in my mirror and realized how TERRIBLE my eyebrows looked.  So first I stopped to get my eyebrows done.  While chatting with the girl at the brow bar, it came up that I was headed to Kroger to get groceries to meal prep.  She said “I’ve been wanting to learn how to meal prep so bad!” So Claire at Ulta, this post is for you!

                 I will be the first to say that I am still a novice meal prepper.  Back in September I participated in [the amazing, lovely and talented] Robin Long’s PilatesBalance Program .  Through her program, I spent 6 weeks meal prepping healthy meals and completing 4 pilates work outs a week.  I lost 10 pounds in 6 weeks!  And while my improved shape came from the pilates workouts, I can assure  you that the pounds that melted off came from the amazing lessons I learned in meal prep and eating healthy. 

             Let me start out by saying that I do not usually meal prep by myself.  Typically Derek helps me and we either pick a Saturday, Sunday or Monday that we both have a few free hours.  This week I did the shopping today (Sunday) and we will do the actual cooking tomorrow.  Like I said, I talk about meal prep a lot, so a couple of weeks ago one of our good friends asked if he could see how it was done.  Considering we all live by ourselves in our own individual apartments, it just makes sense to do things like this together.  Living in community, you know?  By prepping for 3 people it cuts down on overall costs, time and makes it a lot more enjoyable!  

            Here is a super brief overview of what a meal prep session looks like.  (I’ll break it down and show you this week’s prep in a moment)  I usually do the meal plan, run it by the guys and make the grocery list. Then I go shopping.  It works best when the guys meet me at my apartment after grocery shopping (let’s face it, I actually can shop a lot faster without them…)and I have them carry the groceries up to my third floor apartment (total win!).  Then we chop, cook and store food for the week.

            Now for the detailed portion:  This week I have prepared a rather extensive menu because wanted to have almost 2 weeks worth of meals prepped (part of them frozen).    The guys each take a prepared meal for lunch at work, and eat one for supper Monday-Friday.  I usually don’t have access to a microwave or refrigerator for lunch, so I typically just prep supper and do salads (prepped) or green smoothies or the like for a lunch on the go.  
       The first thing I do is think of how many individual meals or servings I want/need to make.   A typical week looks like this:
Derek:  6 lunches, 6 suppers
Bo:  6 lunches, 6 suppers
Me:  6 suppers
Total:  30 servings

Then, I go through my pinterst  recipe boards to figure out what sounds good for the week.  The second step is simply considered meal PLANNING.  I mainly make gluten free, low dairy, refined-sugar-free organic meals. I usually do this at the END of the week - Thursday/Friday/Saturday so I am ready to shop on Sunday and prep the beginning of the following week.   So this week’s menu includes:

BBQ chicken stuffed sweet potatoes (12  servings - I make my own paleo bbq sauce)
Orange Chicken and broccoli served over quinoa (8 servings)
Bison/ground beef (half and half) lettuce tacos with goat cheese (8 servings)
Black Bean Burgers in lettuce wraps (10 servings)
Creamy Vegetable Chowder * (8 servings )
*note: the veggie chowder is kind of my rule breaker containing quite a bit of dairy, but considering the recent snow storm, I am really craving some warm comfort creamy soup!

[my sweet Lillian demonstrating the need for cozy soup)]

Once our menu is selected, I go through each recipe and make a grocery list. This step is extremely important.  I write down everything for each recipe, then combine it into a master list divided by section (i.e. produce, meats, dairy, canned goods, spices…) I always like to go through my cabinets to see what I already have (almond flour, a few left over sweet potatoes and 1 pound of grass-fed organic ground beef that was in my freezer...) and what I might be running low on (cayenne pepper) so I have everything I need when it’s time to cook.   

This sounds time consuming but I did step 1-3 it in about 10 minutes one evening this week while watching TV.  (I was originally planning bbq pork, but opted for chicken when the chicken we like was on sale today!)

  This week I was able to get everything on my list for just over $100.  That equals $35 each for almost 2 weeks worth of easy and healthy meals!  Pffft… And people say eating healthy and organic is expensive!  $35 is less expensive than 4 days worth of fast food lunches alone!  It takes a little planning and thought, but the results are super easy and doable.  With my list in hand, I can usually complete an entire grocery run (step 4 if you are counting)  in less than a half hour. 

[This next part is what we will do tomorrow.  I can tell you exactly how it goes because no matter what the meals are, meal prep always looks pretty much the same. ]

After a trip to the grocery store, step 5 means it's time to cook!  We turn on Netflix (the three of us have developed a New Girl obsession) and start chopping.  The boys usually chop the onions (my eyes are super sensitive and if I chop the onions I have to wear my ski goggles!), peppers and veggies while I start the sauces and meats.  I like to go ahead and bake the chicken and brown the ground beef/bison up front.  I also start putting my pot of soup together.  I usually save the black bean burgers for the end because they whip up so quickly and have everything else going at the same time.  With 3 people I can easily delegate tasks.   For instance, one person shreds the chicken for the bbq, one person stirs the sauce for the orange chicken (you’ve got to watch that stuff!) and another person watches the soup.  All in all it usually takes 2-3 hours.  Mainly because we are laughing and taking turns playing with Lillian Pup, and taking breaks.  

We store almost everything in pint sized wide mouth mason jars and/or freezer bags in individual servings.  Whatever won’t be eaten in the first 4-5 days typically goes in the freezer.  Then meals are as easy as pulling out a jar, heating it up and enjoying!  

Our meal prep last time included:
Quinoa chicken chili 
Quinoa stuffed peppers 
Chicken fajitas (cooked chicken and already sliced peopers and onions ready to be thrown ito a skillet and served in lettuce cups) 
Black bean burgers