Trying to get healthy can be a real drag, in fact pretty much everything can be a drag when it comes to health, especially when you just don’t want to cook after work, and the kids are screaming, and you haven’t defrosted the bloody meat! Get’s me every time.
I stay at home with my son, and by the end of the day, even I’m burnt out – kudos to the working mums who have multiple children and still manage to get healthy meals out on the table – you are rock stars!
It can be really easy to turn to take out, trust me, I’ve been there, done that 10kg later.
Mister B gets contracted for large projects all over Australia, with his job. He can be away for a long stretch of time. At one point, he was away for 3 months straight – that was super tough. When he’s away, the last thing I want to do is think of making healthy dinners, or anything after 4pm.
But I tell you what, it is super nice having him home when he is. Next month though, he’s off again, so I’m turning back to the strategies I was implementing to make things ten times easier.
One of those is meal prepping especially now that I’m adding studying into the mix.
Honestly, I don’t know why I’m not still meal prepping each week – why am I being so cruel to myself? Luckily, I love to cook, when I have the time…. and the energy. But I know a lot of you are struggling just the same – you sure don’t have or want to spend an hour or sometimes more every night cooking, so I’m sharing my meal prepping tips!
Let’s whisk to it! Get your apron out and get cooking!
Make sure you have enough utensils e.g. pots, pans, wooden spoons, ingredients, storage containers including zip-lock bags, and FREEZER SPACE.
Read your recipes ahead of time, as sometimes they can be sneaky and all of a sudden, you need to marinate, slow cook, or put in the fridge to “rise” for an hour or a good couple of hours.
And, plan to prep. Pick one of your free days to meal prep for the coming week/fortnight ahead, preferably the next day after groceries so your fruits/veggies are still fresh, and you don’t have to freeze some of your meat.
If your cheeky like me, you can always do your online groceries, pick them up from the grocer (saving $15 on delivery), and then do your meal prep on the same day.
I cannot emphasise how crucial this step is!! Sit down and meal plan your week.
I’ve included some meal prepping ideas down below, so check these out before completing your meal list!
Guidelines for singletons and couples
4 dinners + sides – to prep in advance, freeze and switch up each night;
2-4 options for lunches – maybe two hot, two cold lunch options (to alternate);
2 carb/fat snacks made in bulk (e.g. Snack bars, protein balls, healthy biscuits, pancakes).
Smoothie options/2 hot breakfasts
Guidelines for families with children (based off 4 people)
7 dinners +sides- to prep in advance, freeze and switch up each night;
4 options for lunches – maybe two hot, two cold lunch options (to alternate), leftover dinners;
2 carb/fat snacks made in bulk (e.g. Snack bars, protein balls, healthy biscuits, pancakes);
Smoothie options, 2 hot breakfasts, 4 cold – this depends on your morning routines with kids – make sure these are easy for all family members.
Sit down and meal plan according to the guidelines. Make sure that your recipes are easy, serving suitable, and fit to your budget. Then, its off to do your groceries, and get to meal prepping!
Put on the fan, turn on the music, get out your list and chill out cooking.
Seriously.. It’s going to get messy and busy, so set the tone to be fun and enjoyable.
Put on a movie for the kids to watch.
Prepping your Groceries
Cut up and freeze some fresh fruits and vegetables so they stay fresh and last longer for you. Also opt for frozen vegies as they can be cheaper (always fresh), easier and don’t diminish in nutritional quality in the fridge.
One of the keys to meal prepping is bulk cooking side options to chuck in with your main meals.
Prepare brown rice, quinoa, and pastas in large quantities and when cool, put single servings in zip-lock bags and freeze, or family sizes (but these take longer to defrost FYI).
Brown rice can take a long time to cook so doing this will save time. Can do the same with veggies, so all you need to prepare is meat for dinners.
Not many recipes state how to cook quinoa PROPERLY, so I’ve added this below. Rinsing removes quinoa’s outer layer (saponin), which tastes bitter, has a not-so-lovely texture, and is quite dirty too.
How to Cook Quinoa – 1 cup can make almost 4 cups
Measure and put in saucepan, fill with water and swish around with hands to break away dirt (water will get murky). Tip out water carefully, add with a decent amount of water (or chicken stock with herbs for an amazing flavoured rice option) and put on medium-high heat. Stir and check water level regularly. Quinoa is cooked when the white ‘rings’ have separated from quinoa grains. Fluff with a fork.
Bulk prep (double or triple recipe) and freeze half or most of your snacks so they stay fresh and you can pull out single servings to defrost for the day ahead.
Don’t freeze some protein balls as the consistency can change when defrosting – best to keep in the fridge, and make as you need for these.
HOT TIP: Freezing is great for snacks made with almond meal, as they hold their form and last longer. Storing almond meal based foods in the fridge or pantry leaves them turning soft after a day or two.
I like to make up a batch of soup for each week, as a lunch alternative, or easy dinner. These will keep for a good 3-4 days depending on recipe and meat used.
HOT TIP: If you are going to freeze your soups, don’t fill to the top as they expand when frozen. Also, make sure that you put the soups into containers, instead of plastic ziplock bags as it makes it a lot easier to defrost/heat without spillage or fiddling with freezing cold soup ice!
Your Frozen Smoothies
This saves time in the mornings!
Write the name of chosen smoothie, and liquids to add onto your zip-lock, and just add required chopped fruits and powders. Freeze. When ready to use, either pull out night before to slowly defrost or blend as is with nut milk/choice of milk, until right consistency and you’re done!
HOT TIP: Definitely don’t freeze with liquids, as they will expand and start to reduce the freshness of your other ingredients!
Your Slow Cooker
Seriously, the best invention ever. Slow cookers can make soups, dinners, puddings, fudge, EVERYTHING.
Chuck in some meat with stock and herbs, and within 8 hours, you have pulled meat for burritos, sandwiches, main meals. Great for later nights, or even busy days, or whenever you just don’t feel like cooking, but must plan ahead to defrost meats!
HOT TIP: Plan a slow cooker dinner for your meal prep days because I doubt you will be wanting to make dinner after a full day of cooking!
Your Pulled Chicken
Buy a hot roast chicken from the deli with your groceries, or poach some chicken breast. You can either use these as a meal (chop breasts in half, and add vegies), or shred and freeze for sandwiches , wraps, meals, burritos, crackers, baby purees etc.
HOT TIP: Wash your saucepan as soon as your chicken is finished cooking, as the residue gets hard on the sides very quickly and is a pain to try and scrub off! #popeyearms
How to Poach Chicken
Throw 2 breasts into a saucepan and fill with water until it covers the chicken. Add half a lemon of juice, and some mixed herbs. Bring to the boil, then simmer covered for 10-15 minutes (depending on the size of breast) until cooked.
Your Overnight Oats
If you have mason jars, or small Tupperware containers, make a batch of overnight oats for in the fridge to quickly grab each morning, or to have as a snack. There are heaps of different flavours and recipes to choose from on Pinterest, and some can last a few days in the fridge.
HOT TIP: This option can also be used as a snack alternative for your kids lunches! Just add fresh or frozen fruit each day.
Your Stored Meals
Once all your meals are cooked, you are ready to store them into containers and freeze. A deep freezer is the best option for storing, as you can store a month or two’s worth of food! Great for when a new baby is coming home!
HOT TIP: Make sure that your foods are room temperature before storing, as this reduces a chance for bad bacteria to grow and harm you or your family.
The positives of meal planning and prepping….
You choose easy healthy recipes you will actually eat.
No spontaneous meals, which make you feel gross, and guzzle your money.
No excuses for eating unhealthy foods!
No cooking if you’re buggered!
Fresher foods = more nutrients.
More time for exercising (YAYYYY!?)
Once you’ve done your meal prep and it’s all stored, you can sit down, relax, and enjoy your slow cooker meal (you didn’t forget did you?). You’re successfully adulting, and now you’ve got so much time on your hands you won’t know what to do!
Next week’s blog I’m going one step further with meal prepping and sharing with you some Slow Cooker Freezer Meals! When I came across this little trick, I was blown away at some of the meals people were putting in their freezers just to literally throw into their slow cooker and walk away. How amazing right???
I hope these tips and strategies helped you out with meal prepping for your household. Let me know any of your special meal prepping tips, and any great recipes you would like to share!