With the summer holidays winding down, I always get a mad rush of clients who are desperate to get back into a routine after months of patio drinks, BBQs, road trips... all of which usually involve food.
I get it, I've been in the same boat. And I've enjoyed every minute of it! But I have to admit, when fall rolls around, I look forward to getting back into routine! We had such a fun but busy summer. With five weddings and accompanying bachelor/bachelorette weekends, some weekend cabin getaways and road trips, we were gone more than we were here. I wouldn't trade a minute of it but I am definitely ready to enjoy some weekends at home and getting back to lots of good home cooking.
Even though I love to cook and have so much fun in the kitchen thinking up tasty new meals, I don't always have an hour or two to spend planning, prepping and cooking my meals. But I don't want to have to pick between eating well and enjoying other aspects of my life like time with friends and family or exciting work opportunities that might come up last minute.
So... I meal prep.
This is not something I've always done. The very idea of meal prep used to make me gag. All I could picture was the same poached white protein, some sort of green veggies, and yams or brown rice. Day in and day out.
I love food, I love flavour and I love variety, so I've got a bit of a different approach when it comes to meal planning and meal prep. It addresses the most pressing issue of time shortage without having to sacrifice flavour, variety or quality.
If you're new to meal prep, or maybe you've been at it a while but are in the former category of the not-so-satisfying kind, there are four big game changers when it comes to meal prepping like a pro.
I can't stress this enough. This might sound like common sense, but when you're short on time, it can feel like skipping the sit down to plan things out will save you time. Trust me, it won't. Just winging it at the grocery store will leave you frustrated and likely with a lot of waste and partial recipe ingredients.
Get an idea of the meals you're going to make and then...
Make an organized grocery list
Don't neglect the grocery list! Same same, if you skip this step it will cost you in the end — time, money and sanity.
Tip: write it out by section of the grocery store so you're not going back and forth and can get in and out unfrazzled. I like to separate my list in columns of produce, protein, dairy, grains, canned goods and spices/seasonings (working my way from the perimeter of the grocery store into the aisles).
While you're planning your meals for the week, write the appropriate ingredients under each column and you'll be set for a whole new grocery shopping experience.
Bonus tip: Do not go grocery shopping hungry! This is a sure way to end up with alllll the things you don't want in your cart. Or, as I've been known to do in a desperate state, in your mouth while embarrassingly telling the grocery teller, "Yeah, just scan the package, I got a little hungry..."
Bonus Tip #2: If you are super pressed for time or find the whole grocery store experience to be too overwhelming, buy your groceries online to be picked up or delivered right to your house!
Plan around a few key ingredients
You don't need a million ingredients to get a new and exciting meal each night.
What I do is pick three different veggies, two proteins and one carbohydrate to be mixed and matched into so many different meals.
Here's an example:
3 (veggies): cauliflower, green beans, bell peppers
2 (proteins): Salmon and chickpeas
1 (carb): Couscous
Throw some other ready-to-go ingredients onto your grocery list — like corn tortillas, whole grain buns, bins of greens, fresh herbs, or sauces like pesto or hot sauce — and you'd be surprised what you can come up with.
Burgers, tacos, foil pack fish bake, stews, salads... you name it. This will streamline your grocery list, your meal prep and prevent waste.
Invest in some good containers to store your prep and keep it organized. This can make all the difference between a successful or failed meal-prep attempt. I have a couple of tips on picking the right storage. First, I love ones that are compartmentalized. They are perfect for leftovers like tacos or burgers. You don't need to worry about the bun or tortillas getting soggy. Throw the grain in one compartment with your protein in another, and any veg or extra toppings in the third.
They also help me get one step ahead on my meal-prep day. With my recipes in mind, I like to add all of my prepped ingredients for each meal to one container so that on the night-of, everything is in one place and can be added right to the pan or plate. With your other ready-to-go items on hand you'll have your dinner on the table in 10 to 15 minutes!
Second, I always go for ones with clear lids. It makes it super easy to see what's in each, and they don't get lost in the depths of my fridge.
I hope this helps you get on track for a healthy stress-free week as you ease into fall. Do you have any more meal prep tricks to add to the list? Let me know in the comments below!
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