I feel like I have talked endlessly on this blog, on social media, in videos and with clients about the power of food prep.
In fact my own personal health and the foundations of this business are centred around it.
According to the internet, food prep is boring and all things chicken and broccoli (snore). Or that it’s scary and requires hours upon hours of your time.
So yes it can be these things. My food prep isn’t.
And this post will share with you the ins and outs of my food prep. How to make it easier. How to make it healthier. How to enjoy it.
When it comes to food prep, it comes down to prevention vs reactivity. Realising the pure joy of coming home after a long day and knowing that dinner is done.
A better option right than coming home ravenous and over it to an empty fridge, lacking inspiration and let’s be honest wanting virtually anything that doesn’t require effort.
So imagine then knowing that a healthy dinner is ready. That you literally need to do little else than unwind and enjoy. Dinner doesn’t trouble you? Then imagine waking up and having a healthy, delicious breakfast ready to go? Or experiencing weekday lunches that are prepared ahead of time and having a 3pm sweet treat to grab that’s still healthy!
This is possible. It can be enjoyable. And I urge you to give it a go.
Whether you’re trying to eat better, lose weight, gain muscle mass or just feel better and eat a balanced diet; the key skill and habit you need to adopt in order to succeed is food preparation.
Recently, I visited my GP and she asked me if it was hard eating as I do. My answer was no. Though I also shared with her that such ease didn’t come about in one week and at the same time it was quicker than you’d think.
My food and nutrition philosophy is very much centred around how you want to feel. As I shared recently on social media, for me that means I want to feel three things – energized, satisfied and unstressed. Which means prepping food that I love and that serves me well. So although sometimes my life does look like takeaway sandwiches, limp AF salads and Uber Eats delivery (yes I am human) and that’s inevitable for us all, food prep changes everything for the better.
It’s a really positive cycle that continues to make everything in your life better.
You’re more energised from eating well > you feel better > you actually turn up to your gym session > you enjoy the food you’re eating > you’re motivated to continue doing so > it becomes easier and so on and so forth.
So in short, it’s worth it. Now let’s simplify.
HOW I FOOD PREP
1. Consider what my upcoming week looks like
Do I have late nights that require more of a dinner prep focus? Or early mornings that for me render on-the-spot brekkie-prep impossible? Perhaps I’m pre-menstrual and need more sweet things? Training more/less? Going out to eat? Perhaps the seasons are changing and I’m done with smoothies? Do I need more snacks?
Getting real about what I need most is where foolproof food prep starts.
2. Get breakfast sorted
To make it as easy as possible for myself I choose a maximum of two breakfasts to eat throughout the week. This is frequently overnight oats/bircher muesli, easily switched up with different nut and seed combos or simply by adding different fruit. I also love having bread (that isn’t bread) on hand like this to simply toast and eat with avocado and eggs or peanut butter and banana.
The first opportunity to nourish myself for the day and also the first opportunity to benefit from food prep.
3. Decide which meals I’d like to eat for the week
Using step 1, I jot down which meals, other than brekkie, I plan to eat for the week. Starting big and working backwards is what speeds the next steps up so if I decide on spaghetti bolognaise or burrito bowls for midweek dinners, I know that these recipes will last 3 days in our house. This now means a) less prepping and b) a shorter shopping list. If I decide I want roast vegetables to easily add to salads and other meals that are made-to-serve, I’ll roast an entire tray and store in airtight containers in the fridge. Snacks are no different.
So whilst some food prep is whole recipes and meals including snacks, others are elements like roast vegetables or hard boiled eggs which I can easily add fresh components to.
4. Write the shopping list
Key to success is actually writing the shopping list. I use notes on my phone or Excel if I’m on my computer. And making it even easier (and less wasteful!) starts by assessing what I already have vs what I need to stock up on. I take my meal list and list which ingredients I don’t already have at home. I do my food shopping in a variety of stores and so will break up the shopping list accordingly. Produce, butcher and deli lists for instance. I also group ingredients together for ease – all the fruit and vegetables grouped together, dairy foods, meats etc.
5-10 minutes of list making = stress-free shopping and not forgetting what I need!
I don’t have a set day to shop though instead I shop when motivation is high and hunger is low. Shopping when hungry = disastrous. I take my list, my bags and/or jars and preferentially shop when stores are quieter and produce is more abundant. Shopping day(s) also fall when the fridge is bare and there’s space to fill it once more which is of particular importance in my small kitchen with my tiny fridge! I also choose to shop pantry essentials such as brown rice, olive oil and nuts at a bulk store where I take my jars or bottles and refill them.
Shopping close to home also means a faster turnaround time and for me an opportunity to walk outside!
6. Initial Prep
Arriving home with shopping means getting sorted. To make things as quick and easy as possible during the week, I wash and store the fruit and vegetables that I can straight away. For instance, I peel and freeze bananas for smoothies, wash and dry bunches of herbs and baby spinach leaves to store in airtight containers (they don’t wilt or get wasted this way!) and cut broccoli into florets to store easily in one container in the fridge. I also put things in their home such as pantry items (already in jars) away in the pantry. I store fridge items according to category to keep them fresher and more nutritious for longer, for instance meat and dairy higher in the fridge and fruits and vegetables lower down in the crisper. This also means the shelves in the middle are then free for the food I’m going to prep.
This initial prep means I have an organised kitchen and already have a lot done before I’ve even cooked!
7. Prep in priority and with Netflix
There’s no best order to food prep in. The way that works is the best way. However grouping jobs together and doing longer jobs first, makes the best use of time. So if I’m doing a batch of roast vegetables, I’ll turn the oven on ASAP to preheat whilst I’m chopping. I’ll also see if there’s anything else that needs the oven, like the loaf I eat for brekkie, this banana bread I like for a midweek snack or the baked chicken I add to easy lunches and raw nuts that I toast myself in bulk every month. This same theory goes for the food processor and any jobs its needed for. I’ll make raw cacao protein balls followed by hummus and enough quantity that those foods are prepped for at least a week if not two!
I don’t always food prep once per week. And sometimes I do. It’s always reflective of what’s achievable for me and what I’d suggest to anyone else. Inevitably however, a food prep will see me prep 1-2 wholegrains i.e. brown rice and quinoa which covers meals for an entire week and that I can easily add to lunches/dinners as I go, in addition to a dozen hard boiled eggs which might be eaten at breakfast with toast and avocado, in a delicious lunch as my protein source or as a snack with salt and pepper when I really couldn’t be bothered.
This part of my food prep is the most essential in my life because it helps me to easily make healthy food choices with limited time. Whereas, if I’m making an entire recipe in bulk, like the mix from my burrito bowls, I may be doing this in isolation from the above food prep so I’m not spending an entire weekend in the kitchen. And sometimes the above food prep is all that I do. Keeping things simple when my schedule gets especially hectic.
Regardless, I’ve got my laptop and Spotify or Netflix accompanying me to make the whole experience a lot more fun! I catch up on documentaries, dance around to faves or simply watch terrible TV whilst prepping my food.
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And if you want more easy, healthy eating inspiration head on over and check out the Wholefood Society Online.