I cleaned out my fridge yesterday and quickly realized I still had a lot of perfectly good leftovers, so I rescheduled my meal planning and prep for today.
I’ve tried meal prepping in the past, but I’ve failed miserably at it each and every time. The cycle sort of goes like this: I vow to meal prep. I get all excited and buy all sorts of nice veggies and meats. I cook it all. I portion it out. Then, a week later, I throw it all out because I didn’t eat it and it went bad. I hate wasting food, so despite my posts about meal prepping this weekend, I was having some serious doubts as to whether or not I really should try it again.
But, I decided to give it a try. I knew that despite my hesitation, I needed to meal prep in order to have a better shot at staying under my daily calorie goal this week. I needed to make it easy for myself to eat better. I also knew that if I was going to make it work this time, I had to do it differently, so I took the time to figure out how to do it in a way that worked for me – instead of trying to do it the way I thought I was supposed to.
I had to figure out the following three things before I started:
- What meals should I prep?
- How should I cook (or not cook) my food so that I’ll actually eat it and not just waste it? Especially considering I hate eating reheated, healthy meals.
- How can I make the process easier?
Here’s what I eventually came up with:
What meals should I prep?
In an effort to meal prep in a way that works best for me, I decided to stick solely to lunch. I didn’t need to meal prep my breakfast because I usually have time to make it in the mornings; and when I don’t, I normally make myself a protein shake. It’s not really a problem area. I also didn’t need to meal prep any snacks because I have a bunch of single serve Greek yogurts in my fridge that I need to eat before they expire next week.
I refuse to meal prep dinners because I like to make a fresh dinner every evening. It’s the one meal I enjoy cooking because it’s for my family – except for when my husband is away for work. My kids are still too young to appreciate the effort I put into making dinner, so I tend to get lazy about it when it’s just them and me. I do try to plan my dinners ahead of time though, so I took the time to choose healthier recipes for this week.
That brings us back to lunch. Lunch is where I need the most help, primarily because I usually end up skipping it or going through a fast food drive through. Obviously, a fast food lunch is going to take up most of my daily calories, basically guaranteeing I’ll be over come dinner time; and skipping lunch always seems to end in a late night binge.
How should I prep my food to ensure I eat it and avoid waste? And how do I make this meal prep easier (and less time consuming)?
I decided to limit my prep to food I already had in my fridge and pantry – no grocery store trip for fresh veggies or meats. So, after cleaning out my fridge and freezer yesterday for expired stuff and scouring the pantry for healthy options, here’s what I came up with.
- Chicken breasts
- White rice (leftover)
- Yellow, red, and green onions
- Frozen stir-fry veggies
In order to make the prep easier, I narrowed down the ingredients I’d use to the chicken, onions, and frozen stir-fry veggies. I couldn’t think of anything to prep with the carrots, and the salmon is individually packaged, so I decided to leave it in the freezer for another day. The white rice was already cooked; no prep needed there. I know there are better carbs I should be eating like brown rice or sweet potatoes, but I did this prep my way, and that meant reducing food waste.
I decided to make shredded chicken with the chicken breasts and onions in my slow cooker. Past experience has taught me I’m more likely to eat reheated chicken if it’s shredded – it’s the only way I know how to cook it without it getting dry. The problem is, I’ve tossed out entire containers of old, shredded chicken in the past because plain, boring, reheated chicken sucks. The same goes for the frozen veggies. Sure, when they’re fresh they taste good with a little olive oil, garlic, and salt; but reheated? Ugh.
I came up with a couple of fixes for that though. It seemed so obvious, I’m not sure why I’d never thought of it in the past.
Instead of cooking all of the veggies at once and portioning them out into containers with the chicken, I made single serve baggies of uncooked frozen stir-fry veggies and cooked shredded chicken. The idea is that I’ll be able to easily grab a baggie from the freezer and quickly heat it up on the stove – either in the morning on days that I have appointments so I can take it with me, or at lunch time when I’m working from home. No need for reheated food that might go bad if ignored in the fridge.
In order to avoid not eating the meals I’ve prepped because they’re boring and suck, I scoured some of my favorite recipe sites like http://www.rasamalaysia.com and http://www.skinnytaste.com for stir-fry sauces. I found a lot of great recipes and narrowed them down to two. Each sauce only took a few minutes to make. Then, I measured out and poured each sauce into my baggies of frozen vegetables and chicken, making sure to write what type of sauce each baggie contained with a Sharpie on the bag. Total calories per serving of shredded chicken and stir-fried veggies: 264 calories. Add the side of white rice I fully intend to eat with it, and the total rises to 366 calories. Way lower than expected.
And that was it. Overall, it was a pretty quick and easy meal prep. The most time consuming part was measuring and weighing all my ingredients and creating the recipes in MyFitnessPal so I can log them later on. Although it’s basically the same meal for each day, the different sauces should offer some variety. Since I’ll still have to cook it a few minutes, I won’t feel like I’m eating reheated food (other than the rice of course); and if I do decide not to eat it every day as planned, it won’t go bad since it’s frozen – potentially no waste.
I don’t want to jinx myself, but I really feel like I did good today. This might be the first meal prep ever that actually works for me. Fingers crossed!
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