Let’s talk meal prep.
Not nutrition….meal prep.
Not just for your Cleanse….or for your 24-Day Challenge…
...for life….everyday life.
This is something that I have become very skilled at over the last year or so...out of necessity...well, it was more like survival mode actually.
When I first started coaching at 330 a couple years ago, I had no idea how to prepare my family for the whirlwind week ahead. I was teaching full-time, running the girls to dance lessons & school functions, working-out as much as possible…& lived 35 miles away. In the past, I had always had at least an hour at home each weeknight to throw a meal together for the family...but this was no longer the case. We were gone nearly every night...after school til bedtime. Home-cooked meals were a thing of the past. Fast food (though ‘healthier’ fast food choices) was the norm.
...I had to learn a new way to manage & meet the needs of my family.
Hot Head Burritos, Pita Pit & Market District would be sad to lose our daily business, for sure…
I’ve got to admit...I had no idea how to approach prepping meals for myself and my family ahead of time. It’s one thing to prep for myself on the cleanse or during a 24-Day Challenge...but this was a completely different beast. The whole idea was overwhelming. I mean, I could cook and was well-versed in nutrition and balanced meals, but had never attempted mass-producing food for the week ahead...for everyone!
Enter Liz. (I warned her that she was getting a huge shout-out in this blog….she wasn’t aware that she is responsible for teaching me to meal prep!)
Liz organized the first ‘meal prep’ gathering for a small group of us from the gym. You would have thought we were planning a wedding with all the texts, lists and thought that went into that first night. Our group chat was buzzing with ideas of what we wanted to make...some main courses, some sides and even a protein/energy ball. We made triple or quadruple batches of everything, split it evenly and took home tons of healthy, clean eats for our families for around $40 each.
We learned a lot those first nights...most importantly not to start AFTER the Friday 5:45 class!
...we didn’t finish prepping until after midnight…
[Jan 28, 2017, our 2nd night prepping together]
We continued to gather for a day or night of meal prep...about every 4-6 weeks. We had ‘family favorites’ that we made every meeting and often adjusted to individual nutritional or dietary needs of our group. Example: I am allergic to pork, so we altered any recipe with a turkey/chicken substitute to keep the hives away from me. (Thanks, gals!)
It was fun...we all got better and better at the planning and process involved...until sadly, we could just do it on our own. Not at all a BAD thing...but now, a over year later we can gather just make our husbands dress in aprons and fill thumbprint cookies with ‘pinky-out’ precision. (John Jasko still looks quite manly in a frilly apron!)
Now...in the Dentler household...Sundays are for meal prep. Otherwise, we don’t eat.
A few planning considerations:
1) How many ‘work/school days’ are in the week ahead?
2) How many grab & go dinner evenings will we have this week?
3) Will we be able to ‘heat-up’ a meal on-the-go?
4) Any nutritional considerations for the family?
--->For example: I am following a specific plan with One/80, Don wants high protein/low carb/moderate fats, Madison is a teen who needs tricked into eating vegetables and Katie needs soft foods because she just had her braces put on…
Next...gather your recipes! Search pinterest, call grandma, ask your gym buddies & coaches for ideas...tap into all your resources and explore your options! Check out the 330 Recipe Share page & our InstantPot pages on FaceBook for ideas, too…
Keep your list modest at first...don’t over-prep...you don’t want things to go bad before they can be eaten. You’ll learn the right balance for your family...
Next, make your shopping list & don’t be afraid to shop around….eating clean can be expensive if you don’t put some thought and effort into the shopping. If you want convenience, you’re probably going to pay for it! (i.e., pre-cut vegetables & prepared proteins…) Take the tour...Aldis/EarthFare/Sam’s Club...do what you gotta do!
Tell Alexa to crank up the Bruno Mars and just get COOKIN’!
Go ahead, dance around the kitchen, sing into that spatula!
You’ll find shortcuts.
You’ll figure out how to plan a mix of dish preparations so that you can do several things at once to save some time...something going on the stovetop while things are pressure-cooking in the InstantPot and baking in the oven all at the same time….meanwhile you can wash and cut your fresh vegetables, portion them and bag ‘em up. I’ve managed to cut what used to take me 7+ hours down to about 2.5-3 hours...depending on what’s on the menu for the week….it just takes practice!
Once everything is prepared, you can choose to portion & ‘plate’ individual meals in to-go containers for easy grab/go/microwaving (like these: https://goo.gl/pyLqrN) and/or just store your meals in the fridge for mix & match plating of proteins/carbs/veggies each day! In our home, we go back & forth between these 2 methods.
*Important to note:
Fresh veggies tend to ‘sit’ in the fridge unless I have them ready-to-eat: grab & go veggies disappear when in individual snack baggies, but will sit for days and days even when clean & ready-to-eat in gallon-sized bags! Likewise, salads in single-serving Tupperware are eaten quickly while mixed salads sitting in bags will rot untouched...
Encourage your family to give you feedback...what they like, what they didn’t like, what they’d like to have again, etc…
Meal prep takes planning.
It’s more fun with friends (& Bruno Mars).
You will learn how to do it well, it just takes practice.
It’ll save you money.
It’s better for your health.
It’s a skill worth perfecting.
Be fearless & happy prepping!
[not gonna lie...dishes are the WORST part of the process...but, you‘ll survive]