Welcome back to the second and final part of our meal prep blog series! In our first meal prep blog, we discuss what to consider even before you start physically prepping your meals, such as planning nutritionally balanced recipes, writing down your meal schedule and how to shop smart at the grocery store. If you haven’t yet read our first meal prep blog, check it out here: https://dining.carleton.ca/2018/three-tips-to-boost-your-meal-prep-part-1/

We can break down meal prepping into two different techniques: full meal prep and mix & match meal prep.

Full Meal Prep

Full meal prep is when you prepare the meal in its entirety during your meal prep session. This is ideal for meals that can be made in large batches such as soups, chili, stews and casseroles. Once the batch of food is finished, it can be divided up into individual storage containers and stored in the freezer or refrigerator. While full meal prepping can take a few hours to complete on your meal prep day, it can definitely be worth it. On nights when cooking is the last thing on your mind, full meal prepping can be a life-saver! You can simply pull out a portion of your frozen meal and pop it in the microwave or the oven with no additional preparation needed. After a few minutes, your meal is good to go!

Mix and Match Meal Prep

Mix and match meal prep consists of preparing ingredients during your meal prep session that can be used for several different meals. For example, let’s say that you have the following weeknight meals planned out:

Monday Dinner: Cajun chicken breast, side of brown rice, spinach and carrot salad

Tuesday Dinner: Lentil, spinach and quinoa salad with a garlic lemon dressing

Wednesday Dinner: Chicken fajitas with brown rice, sautéed peppers and salsa

Notice that each meal contains a protein, grain and vegetable/fruit like we suggested in our first meal prep blog. During your meal prepping session on Sunday, you can prep like this:

Protein

  • Cook 3 chicken breasts and store in a clear container
  • Cook and season 2 cups of dry lentils and store in a clear container

Starch

  • Cook 2 cups of quinoa and refrigerate in a clear container
  • Cook 2 cups of brown rice and refrigerate in a clear container

Vegetable

  • Chop 1 cup spinach, ½ cup carrot, and 1 cup bell peppers and store each ingredient in a separate clear container

Now that you’ve meal prepped, each night’s meal got a whole lot easier to put together! Let’s take a look at what you now have to do during the night of each meal.

Monday Dinner: Assemble your pre-chopped carrot and spinach into a salad and add dressing. Add Cajun seasoning to your pre-cooked chicken. Your rice is all ready to go. Voila! This meal got a whole lot easier.

Tuesday Dinner: Your lentils and quinoa are already cooked, so you can simply mix them together with your chopped spinach to make the salad. Whipping up a homemade lemon garlic dressing won’t take long and will help keep the flavor fresh!

Wednesday Dinner: Add the prepared chicken to your tortilla. Your bell peppers are already chopped and just need to be sautéed and added to the fajita. Add your pre-cooked brown rice and a dab of salsa and you’re all done! Easy as pie.

The goal of mix and match meal prep is not to completely finish off your weeks’ worth of meals during your meal prep session – it’s to have the basics ready to go so that during the week you can create a variety of meals with less effort. This method helps keep your meals interesting and fresh – you can still jazz up each meal differently even if the base of each meal is similar. In our example, Monday is crazy for Cajun flavors, Tuesday is garnished with garlic flavor, and Wednesday is sassing it up with salsa.

Meal Prep Tips

Vegetables

  • Blanching: consists of steaming or boiling vegetables for a few minutes and then plunging them into cold water to stop the cooking process completely. You can then refrigerate or freeze your blanched vegetables while retaining most of their nutrients and flavour. Try blanching green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots or asparagus
  • Mise en Place: involves chopping commonly-used vegetables such as onion, garlic, mushrooms and peppers during your meal prep session and then refrigerating them so that they are ready to go for later
  • Frozen Vegetables: Look for pre-chopped frozen vegetables at the grocery store. They are just as nutritious as fresh ones and can easily be added to meals
  • Blend and Freeze: Blend vegetables and fruit into smoothies, and freeze in individual containers or muffin tins. When you’re on the run and feel like a smoothie, you can simply defrost it and go!

Protein

  • Purchase a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken at the grocery store. We recommended removing the skin to its fat and sodium.
  • Prepare hard-boiled eggs in advance.  Keep them in the shell until you’re ready to eat them in order to maintain freshness.
  • Use ready-to eat canned salmon and tuna. Canned fish can be stored for up to 3 years, is easy to prepare and is a good source of healthy omega-3 fats.
  • Cook meat during your meal prep day to save time during the week. If you prefer not to pre-cook your meat, marinate it during your meal prep session so that it is full of flavour when you do decide to cook it.

Grains and Starches

  • Choose whole grains such as whole grain bread, brown rice, whole oats, quinoa and barley over refined grains such as white bread, white rice, and white pasta. Whole grains contain more fiber and nutrients to take your meals further.
  • Short-grain rice cooks faster cooking time than long-grain rice to save time
  • Quick oats cook have a faster cooking time than rolled or steel-cut oats. They are just as nutritious too – the only difference is that they have been cut finer and rolled thinner!
  • Roast starchy vegetables like carrots, turnips and squash during your meal prep day and store them in the refrigerator for up to 5 days

At this point we want to acknowledge the humble crockpot. Crockpots are an excellent tool to have during meal prep sessions. You can place all ingredients in the slow cooker and it will do the cooking for you. During your meal prep day simply throw in the ingredients for a batch of soup – you’ll wake up the next morning to a complete meal! A bonus is that as a result of its long, low-temperature cooking, slow cookers help to tenderize less-expensive cuts of meat. Check out the following link for a delicious recipe for slow cooker sweet potato enchiladas: http://www.foodnetwork.ca/comfort-food/blog/win-weeknight-dinner-with-slow-cooker-sweet-potato-enchiladas/

Monday, October 22, 2018 in , ,
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