Why Food Prep? Exactly How to Do It (Without Breaking the Bank)

Nutrition Features

I have noticed that most people tend to fall in one of three camps when it comes to dinners.

  1. Eat out often, eat the leftovers for other meals, and repeat the cycle all over again
  2. Stop by a local supermarket most days in a week, picking up what you need on your way home from work (either ready made, or ingredients to make at home)
  3. One shop at the supermarket per week, buying almost everything you need for meals for the week. May require a quick trip to the local store for a few things towards the end of the week.

My family always fit into the third category, as did Steve’s, and I grew up thinking that this was the only way people did it. The supermarket was ALWAYS packed on a Sunday morning when my dad would grocery shop, and we would get there early to avoid the crowds.

But in college, I realized there are other ways people get their food, but everyone has their own system works for them.

The people in the second category love to be able to make what they feel like on that day, which is definitely an advantage, and the people in the first category….well, who doesn’t love eating out 😉

The third category requires a little more planning, and a little more creativity as you likely have a hodge podge (is that even a thing?!) of a meal towards the end of the week, as you throw together the remaining ingredients.

But I LOVE it.

I LOVE going to the grocery store and loading my cart up to the top with fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and fish. I love looking at the new products available, and letting my imagination run wild with what I can make for us this week.

I usually have some meals for the week that Steve and I have discussed of what we want, but the others are usually just picking up what I see (or what is on sale), and being creative with it when I get home.

Anyway, I described how I grocery shop in the past, that is not what today is about.

I want to help others with food prep.

For those who have never done it before, it is a lifesaver, and if you are trying to be healthy, this is going to save you time (yes, it really will), money, and health.

It will be easy to reach for the healthy food to keep your eating on track during one of those moments you would usually reach for the sugary, salty, bad for you, foods.

It is a HUGGGEEE part, if not the most important part, of fueling my body better.

Reaching for whole foods, rather than processed foods, and making good choices as they are right there in front of me.

So here we go.

Grocery shop around the edge

You have heard this before right?

All the junk is in the middle aisles, so stay to the outside as best you can.

Load up your cart with lots of vegetables.

Yes, this means doing the once a week shop, and I would recommend doing it on a Sunday morning, or a Saturday morning if you have time that afternoon. Either way, it should really be the same day you are going to food prep.

So what vegetables and fruits are we talking?

On my last grocery store trip, I bought:

  • 2 x 1lb Organic strawberries
  • 1 3.5lb butternut squash
  • 1 large tub Organic Girl Super Greens
  • 1 5lb bag Organic celery
  • 3 zucchini
  • 5 avocados
  • 1 head Organic broccoli
  • 1 bok choy
  • 1 red onion
  • 7lbs (yes, you read that correctly) Organic sweet potatoes
  • 1lb Organic white potatoes
  • 4lbs parsnips
  • 5lbs Organic carrots
  • 2 red grapefruits
  • 1 seedless watermelon
  • 5 bananas
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 lime

On the way home, we stopped by the Farmers Market and bought

  • 5 large heirloom tomatoes
  • handful of green beans
  • 3 bell peppers
  • 2 dozen eggs

Now, many of my products were organic, and I understand that many of you do not want to buy organic, I buy it whenever possible, but that is your choice… we can still be friends 🙂

Seems like a lot, right?

But actually, that won’t be that expensive, especially if you do not buy organic.

I also make sure I have a handful of pantry items that you will need, these include:

  • A variety of seasonings and spices (although these can be changed out, you do not HAVE to buy the spice where a recipe calls for 1 tsp!!)
  • Cans of Tuna/Salmon
    • I like to buy Wild Salmon and Wild Tuna in Bulk from Costco
  • Nuts (raw if possible)
    • Almonds
    • Brazil nuts
    • cashews
    • pistachios
    • pecans
  • Oil (Avocado, Coconut, and Olive)
    • Again, I like to buy mine from Costco

Speaking of nuts, a few weeks ago I bulk bought mine, spending $80 (yep….I did say that) on nuts, but that should keep us going for a looooonnngg time!!!

So whats next?

Wash it all

When I get home, I immediately take all the fruit and vegetables, and put them on the counter to be washed.

Obviously some of them do not need washing; bananas, avocados ect

I fill my sink with this veggie wash. Dump them all in there, and rinse them after, leaving them to dry for a little while I unpack the rest of the food.

Chop and prepare the raw

Take your carrots, celery, peppers, broccoli, green beans, brussel sprouts.

Remove the stems/ends and cut them into bite sized chunks.

Place in tupperware, ready for use in recipes or….

Peel your roots and chop

While your oven is heating up to 360 degrees F.

I no longer peel my carrots, but I do peel the parsnips, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash.

After they are peeled, and the black bits are removed, chop them into bite sized chunks and place them (separated) into large bowls, preferably with a lid.

Season and oil

I like the sweet potatoes with just oil, but the parsnips, butternut squash, carrots and brussel sprouts (yes, the ones you chopped earlier join the party), I add some kind of seasoning to the bowl.

Just eyeball it, and use whatever you like. I usually go for italian seasoning, salt & pepper with the carrots and parsnips (put them together), and sage or rosemary for the butternut squash.

Add oil to the bowls, put the lid on, and shake very well to stir the oil and seasoning around. If you do not have lids for your bowls, you will just have to stir with a spoon. Make sure you have enough to coat the vegetables, but not so much that they are drowning.

Cook

Your oven should now be warm enough, so spread the vegetables onto baking pans, and give them enough room. I usually keep one pan per veggie (although as I mentioned, parsnips and carrots are together).

Cook for about 20 minutes, remove from the oven, flip them over (the bottoms will probably be browned). Return to the oven.

Depending on your oven, and how many you do, it will determine the time it takes, but roughly: sweet potatoes and butternut squash take about 30 mins, parsnips and carrots take about 40 minutes.

Remove from the oven, and move to bowls.

Make egg cups and tuna balls

I prepare these while the root vegetables are cooking.

These are what Steve and I make most often, but you can use other on the go protein snacks if you like.

Let’s start with the eggs:

Crack 8 eggs into a bowl, whisk well. I use one of the bowls I used for the vegetables above, yes, there is still some oil in it, but that won’t do any harm!

Add seasonings of your choice (I usually use parsley, salt & pepper). Ladel into a muffin pan with reusable silicone cases, filling about 2/3 of the way. If you are going to put them straight into the muffin pan, grease it VERY WELL.

In each egg cup, I like to put in a few pieces of diced onion, diced tomato, and a leaf of spinach. Just push them in there. The liquid should be close to the top of the case, but NOT all the way.

egg cups tina

Put in the fridge while you prepare the rest.

Tuna Balls

This is a recipe from Matt Kadeys cookbook; Rocket Fuel. Make sure you listen to the podcast episode I did with him.

Steve loves these as they are easy to enjoy on his drive to work, and are just the right size. Although Matt says it should make 8….we make them into monster ones and only make 5-6.

Follow Matt’s directions on this article, although I really would recommend you buy Rocket Fuel, as it has lots of fantastic recipes.

I skip the golden raisins, scallions and fresh parsley, and instead add some more chopped onion, and 1 tbsp dried parsley.

Once the root vegetables are cooked, put these in.

The egg cups will take about 20 minutes, and the tuna balls about 40 minutes.

tuna balls

Remove, allow to cool a little, before moving to bowls.

A few notes

Obviously the food I mentioned is a LOT, and I do not do all of this in one go. Sometimes the butternut squash will sit on my counter for up to a month. Or I will only cut up 1lb of the 5lb of carrots. They are fine to sit in your fridge for a while.

I bought this veggie saving bag to keep my vegetables fresher for longer, and it is really helpful.

Bored of the vegetables I mentioned?

I also like to do green beans, jimica, sugar snap peas, broccoli, beets or acorn squash.

I also sometimes cook the butternut squash as a whole, and then scoop out the insides for use in my recovery bowl, or other recipes.

And there you have it. I know it seems like a lot of work, but I promise you will get more efficient every time, and it won’t take more than 2-3 hours (of which a lot of it is dead time). If you put in the time here to prepare everything, then you save so much time during the week when you are tired and fed up.

Of course I have already mentioned the healthy aspect too. You won’t want to waste all this food if you have it in their waiting for you, so you won’t reach for the pringles (as often :p).

You have all the vegetables and fruit ready to be enjoyed, or made into another recipe. You know that stir fry you were going to do? Well, half of the work is done for you, as the veggies are already washed, and the difficult ones are already prepared.

The vegetables I didn’t talk about in the food prep part, well, there is your challenge, go find a way to use them in your recipe.

Trust me, it is worth it, and actually kinda fun!

It will take some practice, it does take some planning, but the benefits are so great, that I am sure once you get in the routine of doing it, you won’t be able to imagine life without it.

Which type of shopper are you?

 

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7 Comments. Leave new

  • I need to —as NUTS AS IT SOUNDS–read this with my almost 11 year old.
    She’s so focused on gymnastics and getting stronger THIS could help spark her to wanna help me with sunday prep <3

  • I usually make enough for the family to last until about Wednesday…then we eat leftovers or eat out until Sunday again! This is such a great and extensive plan…although I look forward to seeing what happens when you have kids 🙂

  • This is fantastic! I have all the ingredients for the tuna balls already so I’m excited to try those out. Thank you for sharing!

  • I plan to do meal preparation when my parents leave. now I do prepare my husnband’s lunches and breakfasts for me on weekend. it’s life safer! 🙂

  • That looks awesome!!!!!! Every time I try to prep it gets derailed by a child screaming at my feet to be held. We don’t have a dishwasher so by the time the dishes are clean and ready for me to make another mess in the kitchen to prep food that it ends up a disaster. So far I just make lunch and dinner a little bigger than normal for leftovers for the next day or two. So far that has been the easiest between getting work hours done. Breakfast is always something quick that usually just needs toasting.

  • Calesse Cardosi
    November 19, 2016 9:00 pm

    I actually follow almost the same process every weekend. You invest a few hours on a Sunday and reap the benefits throughout the week. I also try to cook about 2-3 dishes to eat during the week, in addition to easy things like individually packaged salmon or chicken fillets you can just pop in the oven. I usually go with 1-2 tried and true recipes, and maybe 1 new one, depending on my motivation and how much time I have to cook. Then I use lots of Tupperware containers and divide each meal into containers, putting half in the fridge and half in the freezer. Then the next weekend, I take out some of the stuff from the freezer for the upcoming week, and add it to anything new I’ve made that weekend. I also do the same thing with my own granola bars (got some good recipes from friends, as well as Rocket Fuel and Run Fast East Slow – two must haves for any endurance athlete). From the second recipe book, I love the High Altitude meatballs and marinera sauce, the salmon sweet potato burgers (I add black beans as well) as well as the Teff Pancakes.

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