It's Sunday. The weekend's activities are winding down and the inevitable sigh of discontent slowly escapes your lips. The case of the Mondays is already starting to weigh heavily on your mind when the dreaded thought pops into mind:
What the hell am I going to do about meal prep?
Sure, it can be laborious, it can be tedious, it can be time consuming, it can be messy, and frankly - downright boring. Making the same pieces of lean protein by the bulk, steaming the same old broccoli and asparagus, pairing with heaps of brown rice. Amirite?!
Yes AND No. I challenge you to change your mindset before you even start the process. Find that nagging, negative, complacent switch in your brain telling you that the following won't be fun and you don't want to do it...and simply SHUT IT OFF! Easier said than done? Of course. But here's how you do it.
STEP 1: Tools!
Before you try your hat at being the next Guy Fieri or Rachel Ray - you need to arm yourself with the right kitchen tools to help you with the process.
The basics -
Varying size pans (3 sizes at least, including one large rimmed pan)
Metal, ceramic and glass baking dishes (remember you are cooking large quantities so bigger is always better)
Pots - again, lots of sizing options, I would suggest investing in a Large stainless steel pot with a colander or strainer to help with boiling your sweet potatoes in bulk
Wax paper, Aluminum Foil, Plastic Wrap
Tupperware (oh lordy, you will need your fair share)
The add-ons -
Spiralizer - this makes salads and items like sweet potato fries that much simpler. You can invest in a simple one from Walmart for $30-$40 and it has different size slicers for all your needs. My favourite use: cucumber salad!
Knife set - you want to invest in some higher quality knives as you will be using them quite frequently and the sharper, the easier meal prep will be
There are lots of other fun kitchen tools, but these are some of the necessities I would recommend!
STEP 2: Meal Planning
This seems like it's a given but many people jump right to #4 (Groceries) with a vague idea of what types of protein, carbs and fats they want to buy but no concept of how it will all piece together. People, I'm telling you, take the extra ten minutes and plot out your week in advance and you will thank yourself later.
If you are meal prepping for a competition, you are likely to be consuming 5-7 small meals per day. Could you imagine eating chicken, broccoli and rice for every single meal - day in and day out? That is between 25 and 35 of the same ol' food. Oh, you do that now? Say no more.
Before you move to step #3 (Creativity), list out all the protein, fats and carbs that you want to/are able to consume during this period. Your list may vary but it could look something like this:
Extra lean turkey - minced and whole
Whey Protein Isolate
COMPLEX CARB OPTIONS:
Plain rice cakes
Leafy greens: Spinach, Chard, Arugula, Leafy lettuce, Kale
Grapeseed oil (to cook)
Franks Red Hot Original
Spices are UBER important to remember because they will be the source of your flavor (and happiness). I will do a separate blog about FlavorGod altogether but I highly recommend you look into them for natural, gluten free, zero calorie seasonings for all meals and tastes. Their combo pack includes Everything, Everything Spicy, Garlic Lovers and Lemon & Garlic. Trust me - life savers right there!
Okay - now that you have your list, you are almost ready to move to step 3! Deduce how many of the meals per week are your Whey protein shakes (typically 1 per day, some have more) and add up the remaining amount of meals left to plan.
With that number in mind, you are ready to move to Step #3!
STEP 3: Creativity
As a personal rule of thumb, I try to have 3 different types of protein PER DAY. The shake up in my meal options and order of protein, even when paired with the same veggies and/or carbs, allows me to never get bored of my meals.
You do NOT have to be an amazing cook to figure out some crafty combinations. Prior to meal prep for the competition, I had only a general idea of what goes with what but after trial and error, I began to figure out the wonderful world of flavor combination!
Pinterest and Instagram are your friends - If you don't have Pinterest or Instagram, I recommend opening an account even if for the sole purpose of finding recipe combinations. You can have the apps on your phone, add your favourites and follow people (like me - @gen.fit) who share healthy, simple recipes with only a handful of ingredients!
Why reinvent the wheel when there are virtually THOUSANDS of recipes already out there? Find a concept, adapt it to meet your nutritional needs, try it and modify, and voila!
I will be posting up my personal recipe ideas on this blog so stay tuned, but feel free to find your own and add it to your weekly meal cycle.
Once you have found 4-5+ recipes of your liking, determine how many meals/servings you would like for the week, then write out the quantities of each ingredient you will need for the week.
Example: BREADLESS BISON BALLS X 5 meals
Extra lean ground bison X 2 packages (560grams total)
Green pepper X 2
Large yellow onion X 1
Omega 3 Egg X 2
After I have all my ingredients sorted out for the week, I put them in order of section at the grocery store to not forget anything.
EXAMPLE: Grocery list
Meats: Bison X 2 packages, Chicken X 12 breasts, Pork Tenderloin X 2...
Fruits & Veggies: Green pepper X 4, Large onion X 3, Cucumber X 4, Avocado X 5...
STEP 4: Shopping
Now that you have simplified your list and know exactly what to get, you are all set to shop!
Your best bet to stay away from deviations in the meal plans is to work the outside aisles, in. All of your essentials - meat, veggies, eggs, fruit - all tend to be on the outside rims of the grocery store. The processed foods find themselves in the middle aisles. In my opinion - the only time you should really be going into the middle aisles is for rice, herbs, and water!
STEP 5: Cooking
Woohoo, look at you? You have all the ingredients and now you are back dreading that Sunday dilemma of actually cooking all that food.
Don't despair - you have all the legwork done, and you are only going to have to cook HALF of it tonight. I highly recommend that you split your cooking over 2 or 3 nights throughout the week to:
1) Alleviate the burden - it's a ton of food and that equates to a ton of dishes. Spread it evenly over the week (Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday) and you can spend less time cooking, more time eating, which leads to smiling :)
2) Food Freshness - Chicken and other meats only stay good once cooked for about 3-4 days (recommended). If you are cooking ALL of your protein on Sunday, by Thursday you will need to get rid of most of it or face potentially having food poisoning. Save the sickness, be safe.
3) TIME - it takes time to cook and not all foods heat up at the same temperatures. Some will require the same dishes, pots, and pans that you are using for another food type at the moment and you do not want to spend 6 hours prepping and cooking.
Prep all of your veggies first - dice, mince, cut, whatever you need to do prior to steaming, slicing, roasting, frying.
Season all your meats - remove the portions to cook from their packaging and prep them with the seasonings all in one shot. If I'm cooking chicken, I like to use all four of my FlavorGod spices - each breast a different flavor! It helps to break up the monotony.
Determine if any of the foods can be baked at the same temperature and make them together. It's not uncommon for me to be cooking salmon and chicken and roasted brussel sprouts in separate dishes at the same time in the oven!
MULTITASK - kill two birds with one stone by putting all your meats in the oven, or on the pan, boiling your sweet potatoes and rice, steaming your broccoli, asparagus and green beans, and making a salad while you wait. It all needs to be done so figure out what will take the longest to cook and put it in first while you do the rest.
Put the recipes together - some times you will need to cook all the ingredients together in order to make a recipe and other times you can cook the meat separate and piece it all together at the end. Whichever way you decide, now is the time to combine all your ingredients for the meals for the next 3-4 days and finally...
Store it properly - make your life easier by dividing the premade recipes into your dishes for the week instead of waiting in the morning to put them together. More often than not, something will be left over or avoided and you won't have the complete meal you decided upon during your planning stage. Get it done right the first time, and you won't have to do it daily.
STEP 6: Eating!
Alright superstar - you finally did all that hard work. Time to enjoy your meals! Remember the keys to success are variety, planning, organization and to love the journey. After all - the journey leads to you eating!!!
STAY TUNED FOR RECIPES IN UPCOMING BLOGS. FEEL FREE TO SHARE YOUR RECIPES AS WELL