Meal Prepping: Giving it a go!
We are in the third week of school with crazy schedules, lots of activities, a 7 month in tow, and projects underway. Quickly am I learning that I have little time to spend in the kitchen cooking healthy meals these days.
I have always been in awe of those who meal plan. I feel my brain cannot wrap around preparing more than a meal or two at a time. But, hey, you gotta start somewhere, right?
Before the school year started, I talked to my husband about meal prepping. I thoroughly enjoy looking at instagram pictures of people’s food spread for the week. All nicely arranged in black plastic containers (or bento boxes). Albeit the variety sometimes seem lackluster: chicken breast, brown rice, and steamed broccoli for days in and days out. Nevertheless, the dirty work of cooking was complete and the fruit of the labor could be reaped throughout the week.
Ah, to grab and go!
So, I decided I wanted to give this meal prepping idea a go for me and my husband. My initial goal: 1 month. This is new territory for me so I wanted to set a SMART goal to begin this experience. I ordered a set of 20 bento boxes (similar to chinese take-home trays) from Amazon. With prime, they arrived the week before Z started school. This gave me a few days to figure out a plan of attack once school began.
The Plan (Week 1):
Week of August 28, 2017
To start, I wanted to do something simple enough where I am not cooking all day long. Ha! I think I did the most but at least I created 3 different meals that I did enjoy.
What I cooked (yield of 16 meals/trays)
- 7 lbs of chicken breast
- I divided in 3 parts (1 part cooked in asian sauce with veggies (pictured below), 1 part cooked in sweet chili sauce (pictured below), and 1 part boiled, shredded, and cooked in bbq sauce (not pictured)).
- 3 cups of white rice
- I know, I know. It is white rice so it processes quicker in the blood than brown rice. BUT we have a 20 pound bag of it and I am not buying any more rice any time soon. At least it is non-GMO. That counts, right? Regardless, we rarely eat a full serving of it anyway.
- I divided cooked portion of rice in 16 small servings.
- Sweet potatoes
- This is a staple for me. I love sweet potatoes and can eat them baked with no topping every week.
- I cut the large ones in half so I would not go into super carb overload.
- I used anything I had in the fridge/freezer to help bulk the trays: cabbage, frozen peas, frozen and raw broccoli, zucchini, and squash.
- I have determined that meal prepping is a great way to utilize most of your veggies without worrying about spoilage. Pretty much, I buy the veggies, prep them, and eat them. You just don’t know how many times I let veggies go bad because I forgot them in the back of the fridge.
What I learned in the process:
- I got burnt out halfway through the process. It felt like I had too much going on at one time. I am thankful hubby was home at the time because I felt like I neglected the kids half the day while cooking.
- My train of thought was variety. I figure the process will eventually get easier with more experience. However, the thought of eating plain chicken breast, rice, and broccoli 5 days in a row sounded very appealing after I got started cooking. Next time I will go with a simpler recipe.
- Cutting a lot of chicken breast is gross, messy, and time consuming. By the time I was finished cutting, I felt like I contaminated everything. Ok, yes, I am being a little overdramatic but my hands felt super icky. I do not like handling raw meat.
- Despite the length of time it took to prep, it felt absolutely great to just grab and pop a meal in the microwave. This saved me so much time during the week to not have to figure out lunch and dinner.
Main tips for next time:
- Ask butcher to cut meat for you. I discovered this service is FREE at my local store. The second time around, I requested my chicken to be cut into strips. The butcher sliced 4 pounds of chicken much quicker than I could ever do. Plus he trimmed away excess fat!
- Cook chicken all one way until I get a better grip on kitchen/cooking time management. If needed, I have variety of sauces to dip chicken into for different flavors.
- Bake sweet potatoes at the beginning of the prep process so by time I am done cooking, the potatoes will be done also.
Final thoughts about Week 1 Meal Prepping
I am so proud of myself for sticking the cooking process through. That was the most challenging part of meal prepping but the gratification of sectioning food into sensible and ready made portion far outweighed the initial struggle. Knowing that prepping in advance will help me make better food and portion choices definitely is a huge motivator to push though another week of this process.
Follow my meal prepping journey here.