I used to spend hours in the kitchen EVERY Sunday.
I would make myself all this fancy shit: stir fry, mini egg muffins with sauteed vegetables inside, things with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables that require lots of chopping and washing… ugh. My meals were always delicious, but I just knew there had to be a better way.
My meal prepping process is finally perfected.
My top meal 10 prep secrets:
1. Go for SIMPLE.
Yes, food is more fun to eat when you have super creative meals like salads with a billion ingredients or Cajun chicken hummus wraps. But if the chore of meal prepping is what is holding you back, start small. Every week my meals contain the same ingredients for the most part, but I change it up with the seasonings I use and swapping out a few types of vegetables. Instead of making fun recipes you find on Pinterest, try keeping it simple with steamed or roasted veggies, quinoa or sweet potatoes, and chicken(or a vegetarian protein option). You’d be surprised how flavorful and fun your meals can be when you use colorful vegetables the right seasonings.
Okay, it took me awhile to get the multitasking thing down without burning all of my food, but here’s the steps typically follow:
- Preheat oven to 400-450F to roast my vegetables, depending on what kind I’m using.
- Start the quinoa. Once the quinoa and water start boiling and I pop a lid on, it simmers for about 15 minutes. Plenty of time for the next task.
- Prep my veggies. Wash, chop, and put on a baking sheet with some olive oil and salt-free seasoning. By this time, my oven is usually preheated and I can pop them in.
- Get out all of my containers and start portioning out the quinoa(or whatever carb you chose – sweet potatoes, brown rice, etc).
- Clean up the mess I’ve made so far. Load the dishwasher and wipe down the counters.
- Get the chicken ready. I usually bake an entire 40oz bag of frozen chicken breasts, this gives me enough chicken for lunches for the week with some leftover for dinners. I always bake them from frozen, I’m too impatient to deal with thawing chicken. Put them on a pan lined with tin foil (I line EVERYTHING with tin foil – it’s cheap enough to make it worth the time it saves cleaning up) and sprinkle some seasonings on top.
- When my veggies are done, usually 20-30 minutes, take them out, turn the oven down to 375F or whatever the bag says for the chicken I am making, and put the chicken in.
- Portion out my veggies and clean up again.
- Sit back and relax until my chicken is done – this usually takes about 45 minutes to an hour. Plenty of time to be productive, clean, have a glass of wine, just don’t forget about the chicken 🙂
- When the chicken is done I cut it all up so I don’t have to deal with that later, and portion it out. Clean up the rest of the baking pans once they’re cooled and BOOM! I’m done.
3. Save time by steaming or baking vegetables.
I used to saute and fry everything in a pan. But this is so messy and requires way more constant attention. It was also a lot easier for me to overcook my vegetables and lose precious nutrients, not to mention dousing them with more oil.
Steaming vegetables is amazing. I buy a few bags of frozen steam-able broccoli, and steam all of them in the microwave while I’m doing other stuff. A lot of people think steamed vegetables are way too bland, but I disagree and find that steamed vegetables have way more natural flavor. I love Target’s Simply Balanced organic brand of frozen steam-able broccoli florets.
Baking and roasting vegetables is such a treat for me, I LOVE the flavor of roasted vegetables. It’s so easy to throw some veges on a pan, (lined with tin foil of course, I hate doing dishes remember) drizzle them with some olive oil and salt-free seasonings, pop them in the oven, and forget about them for 20 minutes until the timer goes off.
4. Bake your chicken.
Baking chicken is SO easy and makes my meal prep routine so much quicker. Throw some frozen chicken breasts in the oven and leave them there until they’re done. Sometimes I take them out half way to flip them and add more seasoning. But usually I don’t. I just let them sit and reminisce on the days where I pan-fried all of my chicken. Just kidding. I don’t miss those days at all, so time consuming.
5. Clean as you go.
I. Hate. Dishes. Thankfully I have had a dishwasher in every place I’ve lived, but I still hate dealing with a sink piled full of dishes. I’m also super OCD and if my counters aren’t clean I can’t deal with it. In meal prep secret #1 I gave a step by step of my typical routine. I always clean as I go, in between almost every step, and it makes things so much easier. Usually, I make sure I’m able to start meal prepping with an empty dishwasher so I can load everything as I go. Finishing your meal prep with a clean kitchen is SO rewarding. The last thing I want to do after cooking food for an entire week is spend another 30 minutes cleaning the kitchen.
6. Prep breakfasts and snacks, too!
This one is where I really hit the ball out of the park. Figuring out that I need to prep my breakfasts and snacks (and sometimes even dinners) saved me from SO many impulsive eating decisions. No more trips to the vending machines. It also became much easier to say no to things like donuts or bagels that were brought into the office, because I had a perfectly healthy, filling, and satisfying breakfast. (Ok, I still said yes to donuts sometimes)
Grab a muffin tin and bake your eggs. (I like the silicone ones best for eggs, or glass if you can find one) You can hard boil eggs in the oven, or just crack the eggs directly into the muffin tin, top with some seasonings, and bake for 15 minutes at 350F. I used to saute onions and mushrooms and tomatoes and sausage and the like to mix in, but that just became too time consuming. I learned to just like plain eggs with some good seasonings.
Another thing you can do is put some frozen fruit in a container with greek yogurt, and maybe some agave nectar to sweeten it up. By the time you get to work, the fruit will have thawed enough to eat, while still keeping your yogurt cold.
For snacks – I buy a bunch of raw almonds or raw mixed nuts, and portion out 1/4 cup into ziploc bags or tiny containers (like these that are the perfect 1/4 cup size) for the entire week. So easy to just grab one on my way out the door for my mid-morning or afternoon snack.
7. Use lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, and salt-free seasonings!
Cutting sodium and processed dressings/cooking sauces makes a difference! You’d be surprised by how flavorful you can make your food with natural seasonings. I use lemon juice for vegetables, chicken, quinoa, okay basically everything. If I’m roasting vegetables, sometimes I drizzle some balsamic vinegar on them. So good.
Two words: Mrs. Dash. This chick is my hero, if she exists. I use Mrs. Dash salt-free seasonings on EVERYTHING. My favorite flavor is extra spicy, which you can find here. Close winner is the Onion & Herb blend. You can find Mrs. Dash seasonings at most grocery stores or on Amazon.
8. Get help (husband, boyfriend, kids, roommate)
If you live alone this isn’t really an option, although during the 3 years I lived alone my cat did make good company and provide some entertainment while I meal prepped. Now, my boyfriend and I meal prep together a lot, and it’s fun! We just make twice as much of everything, so we both have food for the entire week. We split up all the tasks and tackle them. It’s a good opportunity for us to feel like we’re accomplishing something together, and we can chat or dance and listen to music while we cook! It’s an awesome way to spend time together. If you have a roommate, make a deal to buy and cook everything together to save time!
If you have kids that are old enough to start learning how to cook, use this to your advantage! They can help you meal prep if you make it fun for them. Give them small easy tasks to do and make it a fun experience. When I was younger, my mom and I pretended we were on a cooking show every time I helped her cook. We would speak in British accents, and explain everything we were doing like we were talking to a camera. Not sure why we used British accents, but it was so much fun and I have awesome memories with my mom that I will always remember, even though it was something so simple.
9. Use your crock-pot.
This is the ultimate lazy girl meal prep hack. Crock-pot food is SOOO good. Throw everything in the crock-pot before you go to sleep on Sunday night. Wake up 10 minutes early on Monday morning to portion everything out. My crock-pot isn’t big enough for chicken AND vegetables, so when I use it, I still prep my veggies separately. But even cooking my chicken in the crock-pot overnight saves so much time, not to mention it will taste amazing. I throw in a full bag of frozen chicken breasts, a few tablespoons or more of balsamic vinegar, (trust me) maybe some garlic or honey, and let it cook on low for 8 hours. The result is juicy, flavorful, shredded chicken that you can use with pretty much everything.
10. Blast some music that pumps you up.
Last but not least, make meal prepping FUN!! Blast some of your favorite music, sing, dance, etc. Turn mundane, ordinary tasks into a party. Because shouldn’t every day be a party? Yes, every day should be a freaking party. That includes meal prep day.
And there you go! My top 10 secrets to help you CRUSH meal prep day. What are your favorite meal prep secrets? Share them in the comments below!
Happy meal prepping!