Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How I food prep

An example of my weekly prep:

My life is so busy right now, and I’m trying to lose weight, so my success heavily hinges on my weekend prep.  I spent some time on the internet looking for examples, recommendations, tips and tricks to help.  I didn’t find much.

So instead, I decided to write down what I do and see where I can make improvements.

Step 1:  Figure out what you like to eat.  This is the biggest thing. 
-          Find things that you like to eat ALL THE TIME – these will be staples
-          Find things that are easy to make

Step 2: Figure out your schedule
-          When are you eating breakfast, lunch, dinner? Snacks?
-          Are you eating at home, at work, at a soccer game?
-          Are there certain nights that you work late and are tired?

Step 3: Any special goals?
-          Do you prefer to eat organic? Local?
-          Are you trying to lose weight?  Save money?
-          Do you have special dietary needs?

Step 4: The meal plan
-          Do you want to plan daily, weekly, monthly?
-          Do you want to incorporate leftovers?
-          Do you have time to shop more than once/ week?
-          What can you prepare ahead of time?
-          What will go bad first? (What produce lives longer vs. not)

Step 5: Make a list of “best”, “better”, “okay”, “rather not”
-          Best: cook from scratch with local ingredients
-          Better: cook from scratch with grocery store ingredients
-          Okay: prepared foods from the fridge or freezer section of the store: Costco chicken, frozen pizza, frozen chicken tenders, pre-prepared meatballs, pre-sliced deli turkey
-          Rather not: eat takeout food
-          (Your list may be different!)

For my family, it would look like this:
1.        We eat just about everything.
2.       “Easy to make” for us means Trader Joe’s frozen breaded chicken tenders, microwaved vegetables, frozen pizza, one-pot spaghetti, crockpot meals, soup.
3.       Breakfast at home, snacks and lunch at work (microwave available for the adults, not the kiddo), Dinner at home.  Always tired but especially Friday.
4.       Special goals: weight loss (meaning: extra time chopping veggies and counting calories, so try to keep meals simple – more whole foods or proportioned packaged foods, fewer homemade casseroles).  Salads, steamed veggies, hard boiled eggs, deli turkey, fruit, almonds, cottage cheese.  Most of what I eat is a single-ingredient.

5.       Meal plan – I plan weekly, or every couple of days.  I usually make something on the weekend, then fill in during the week with our “easy” meals.  “Make ahead” meals are things like vegetable soups, bean burritos, pasta.
6.       Vegetables that go bad first tend to be the leafies or the things like peppers.  Carrots last longer.
7.       Shopping – strictly once per week for me.

Here’s an example of a weekend prep.  I spread it out over a couple of days.

Breakfast:  (What do you like to eat?  What about the family?)
1.       Make sure you don’t run out of cereal and milk (easy, husband’s fave)
2.       Or oatmeal (cheap)
3.       Or bananas (I have a smoothie every day)
4.       Bagels and cream cheese (kids)
5.       Toast (last resort)

1.       Veggies and hummus or dip.
-          Wash and make veggie sticks: carrots, celery, snap peas, peppers, cucumber.  Package up in five small Ziploc bags for each day of the week.  Prep time: about 20 minutes, dependent entirely on how small the carrots are from the CSA (so much peeling!)
-          Buy hummus or Goddess dressing for dipping.  Measure out.
2.       Cottage cheese or nuts and fruit
-          Buy apples.  Buy pre-bagged almonds.  Buy cottage cheese and scoop out each day.
3.       Ham and cheese (or turkey and cheese) rollups
-          Buy deli meat and sliced or string cheese.  Pack up each day.

I pretty much eat salad every day for lunch.
-          Wash a head of lettuce.  Depending on the size of the head, this is 2-3 salads.  This is about 10 minutes per head. I store the rest of the washed lettuce in a Ziploc baggie (large) with a paper towel.
-          Hard boil a dozen eggs (my children sometimes snack on my eggs, so I need to cook up a bunch): 20 minutes total.
-          Keep small pouches of tuna or salmon on hand for when you run out of eggs.  Or canned beans.
-          Mix up a bottle of vinaigrette dressing, or buy Trader Joe’s bruschetta and use that for dressing, with a little added vinegar.
-          Each day: put dressing in the bottom of the Tupperware container.  Add chopped veggies (I usually take a few out of my snack baggies).  Peel and chop two eggs to put on top.  Finish with the lettuce.  (Essentially, wet on the bottom, dry on the top.)  Shake up at work before lunch and eat – bonus – only one dish to wash!  Time: about 10 minutes.

1.       Make one big meal on the weekend, two if I’m being ambitious.  This could be:
-          One pot pasta
-          Refried beans in slow cooker, made into burritos
-          Soup
-          Fried rice
-          Pork shoulder in the crockpot
2.       Eat this for dinner until you run out.  I aim for it to be 2-3 meals, no more.  If it’s soup, I make a double batch and immediately freeze half for later.

3.       When you run out of this for dinner, move on to plan B:
-          Soup from the freezer
-          Grilled cheese sandwiches
-          Microwaved vegetables with some sort of thing from Trader Joe’s or Costco like pizza or chicken
-          Costco chicken
-          Crockpot
-          Cheater stir fry (chopped veggies, frozen meatballs, Trader Joe’s island soyaki sauce)
-          Pancakes or cereal

4.       Don’t forget Saturday!  If you have energy, you can cook a special meal on Saturday.  But I find that by the time I get to Saturday, I’m kind of over the whole cooking thing and I forgot to plan for it.

What happens if you are the last one home, the spouse doesn’t feel like cooking?  How can you “help” avoid the takeout trap, or the processed food trap (as you can see, I am not avoiding the processed food trap)?

-          Start small.  Simply cooking one big pot of one-pot pasta on Sunday night – that will last you for 3 meals, depending on the size of your family.  Ingredients are: whatever veggies you have, a jar of marinara, 13 oz of whole wheat pasta, and some meatballs if you’ve got them.

-          Keep emergency food in the freezer for when you don’t even feel like doing that.  Pre-made lasagna, enchiladas.  What are options on the way home from work?  Costco chicken is cheaper than takeout.  Or “just heat and serve” meals from most grocery stores, like mac and cheese.  Deli salads are also an option. People are so busy and cook so little these days that there are TONS of options of ready made food at the store, depending on your budget.


Biz said...

I love these tips! Meal planning would be so easy if it was just me - my husband is just so picky about what he eats lately. :(

I could literally have soup for dinner every night and be fine with that!

Marcia said...

I know! I eat so many veggies and so much salad. I always said I'm not a short order cook - but it seems like I often cook something for the family and something for me - kids and hubby can't take spicy either.

Joanne said...

These are GREAT tips!!