So! You keep hearing about this “food prep” everyone’s doing – its helping them lose weight, the Instagram posts look amazing and everybody is just so damn healthy. But let’s be real – is it for you? It’s easy to start thinking it’s just freakishly clean, 3-day old food you never wanted to eat in the first place and that food prep is just for like, fitness models and the overachievers right?
Roast pork, mini quches, roast veg, steamed brocolli, potato salad, rice, corn, curried eggs, sausages and chicken kebabs
Nooooo! You’re, here, you’re curious! Food prep can be easy, super convenient and a sure-fire way to get some consistency in your healthy eating. The trick is finding the style and flavours that work for you.
There is such a wide variety in what you can food prep and also in why people food prep. Some are food prepping to stay on track with strict diet plans, others are food prepping because they just CAN, NOT, DEAL. with making stupid dinner when they get home from stupid work or maybe they’re just trying to avoid the five-day-straight Chicko roll purchase from the lunch bar Monday to Friday.
So, lets break it down – we’ll start with the most basic, easy kind of food prep and we will go on to fancier options, for our more skilled foodies.
There are a few things you need to know about yourself to know what style of food prep and how much food prep will work for you. You will learn this as you go but I’m talking things like; will you eat frozen meals? Will you eat food that’s been in the fridge for 3 days? Will you be bored of the same meals a few days in a row or will you “get over” food that has been in your fridge a few days even if you haven’t eaten it yet? There are ways around these challenges, but its finding the ways that work for you. So here are some options:
BASIC + SEPARATE
Good for: People who suck at cooking, people who CBF, people who get bored of the same foods easily, people who are trying out food prep, people short on time even on food prep day.
Because I come from a health and fitness background, I think if you’re going to food prep you might as well make it healthy, so I opt to build my basic food prep plans around protein, carbs and veggies. This makes it super easy to cook up and creates variety for your meals. If you’re following a particular diet or don’t always need the carbs, just adjust as necessary – more veg, more fats and less carbs if that’s your thing!
So first you need to make a plan. Let’s say were prepping to get us from Sunday to Wednesday. If you’re like me I like fresh food in my life (even if its 3 days old) and I struggle with frozen food so a 4 day stint might be my best option. So, we need to think of 2-4 types of protein, 2-4 types of carbs, 2-4 types of veggies, depending on how bored you’re going to get and how many you’re cooking for.
Now you have two options; enjoy your leisurely, long food prep day, OR, my preferred method; smash it out in under 2 hours. Here goes an example for my partner and I:
Protein: Sausages, A Roast, Chicken Kebabs all cooking in the oven/on the stove at once
Carbs: Rice in the rice cooker, Sweet Potato and Carrots roasting in the oven with the meats
Veg: Prepacked Kale Slaw from food prep geniuses; (Coles), Broccoli and Beans in the steamer while I wait for everything else.
If you’re opting to “smash it out” you need to prioritise, get the longest stuff cooking first, while it cooks you can cut up veggies and organise the other bits and pieces.
Packaging it up: This is the best part about this kind of food prep. Put everything in its own container and then throughout the week you can decide what you will have, with what.
I could have chicken kebabs, roasted sweet potato with beans and broccoli. Or I could have chicken kebabs with rice and beans. Or I could have Roast meat and salad. SO MANY OPTIONS.
It still offers you “choice” to some extent which is great for people unfamiliar with food prep. You won’t get stuck with any meals you HAVE to eat, you can pick and choose what you want on the day.
Remember you can literally prep anything! Marinate your meats, or make sauces to add variety, you can simplify with frozen veggies and just microwave when you need them, have roasted/steamed/fried/mashed veggies. Cook things you like and you will look forward to eating them, without the work, later.
Good for: Time poor culinary geniuses, people who can sort of cook, people who don’t get bored of the same food, people who get bored of simple food, people who don’t mind frozen meals, people who have to cook for more than one.
Here is where you can make literally whatever you want. I often opt for a mix of a lazy BBQ cook-up of meat and veg from the above category and make a couple fancy-prep meals to keep things interesting.
The trouble here, if you’re just one person, is either you’re going to eat the same meal quite a few times in one week OR you will need to freeze meals. Freezing meals can be great, because maybe you will only have to cook 2 meals this weekend and if you cooked 2 last weekend, you can have a few containers of each to mix it up.
Once cooked, this is easy stuff – pack full meals into individual containers and freeze or refrigerate until needed. Having warm chilli and rice for lunch is the bomb! Heaps better than whatever boring food the deli might have offered.
Meal Suggestions: Curries, pasta dishes, chilli, salads, fancy rice dishes, roasts, chilli, stir-fry, soup etc
LIVING FOR LEFTOVERS
Good for: families, people who can’t stand old food, people who have time to make dinner but not lunch or vice versa, people who think food prep is gross
This idea is simple, always cook more than you need and if you know you won’t eat it tomorrow, freeze it for a more desperate time. If you can eat it tomorrow, pack it for lunch and I promise it will be better than the Chicko Roll.
If you’re like me and work funky hours, I’m a “cook dinner at lunch time” weirdo and I reheat it at night. Still fresh, I haven’t been staring at it in the fridge for 3 days, it means I’ll eat a healthy lunch and matching dinner and I won’t have to get home late and rush around making dinner or worse – stop in somewhere risky on the way home.
Snacks are hard! Do consider prepping some, they’ll add some health and convenience to your life for sure.
Suggestions: healthy muffins, mini quiches, boiled or curried eggs, fruit salad (for some reason always way better than fruit), overnight oats, chia puddings, home-made muesli bars.
Easy right! Give food prep a go this weekend or on your next day off. My best advice is to have a plan, make food you like, not just crazy clean food you hate – you won’t eat it, and just start with 2 or 3 days at a time.
We were all spoilt by these awesome stay-at-home mums that cooked us dinner every night, but let’s be real! Food is fuel, things don’t need to be perfect and fresh and varied all the time. Sometimes we just need convenient.
Good luck on your food prep adventures!
Owner/Head Coach at CrossFit Long Haul
6 Years a Personal Trainer
***Not all foods have the same fridge life, I generally prep Sunday-Thursday and don’t have any problems with the foods I cook. But be smart, if something looks funky, maybe it’s done for the week. Find your own balance, know your own foods J