6 Steps to Becoming a Meal Prep Master (And 2 Meal Ideas)
Nutrition in essence is such an easy thing. But we all know that in reality, that isn't really true. What to eat? When to eat? HOW to eat? I have to eat HOW MUCH? These are all constant questions I get as a professional coach all the time. The simplest fix to these questions is to plan ahead and join the meal prep train.
Now whether or not people are truly as “busy” as we advertise, we all seem to like to talk about how busy and crazy our lives are…For some of us, it might actually be true.
Often times, the result of our busy-ness is that our intention to cook a healthy meal for dinner gets thrown out the window for something quick and easy, or our intended day of meal prepping just doesn’t happen.
If this is you and you want to turn over a new leaf and actually honour your commitment to yourself to meal planning and meal prepping, here are 6 steps to becoming a master meal prepper!
You’ll realize when you follow these steps that meal prepping really doesn’t have to be time consuming at all. If you’re efficient, you can easily churn out five prepped meals by just spending an extra hour in the kitchen per week.
Step 1. Keep it realistic and do-able
If you’re new to meal prepping, don’t bite off more than you can chew. I’ve had clients tell me they’re going to make 12 elaborate dinners and lunches with all these obscure ingredients every Sunday.
That might be a bit aggressive.
Maybe just start by devoting 1 hour each week to make five lunches for that week.
And keep it simple: Start with just one meat and one vegetable. Get used to the routine of meal prepping first before you get all elaborate. Being too fancy and ambitious will just end up being too time-consuming and might cause your well-intended motivation to dwindle.
Step 2. Get a slow cooker, or even two!
A slow cooker is your best friend when it comes to meal prep as it does 95 percent of the work for you.
Let’s say as you’re making dinner on Saturday night: While you’re cooking, take the time to pop a pork shoulder or two with some spices in the slow cooker. It only takes a few minutes to prep, but then when your meal prep Sunday rolls around, all you have to do is cook some vegetables and pull your pork. Literally within 30 to 45 minutes, you could have 10 lunches prepared and packaged and ready to refrigerate or freeze.
Step 3. Take an inventory of your fridge beforehand
Though it’s great to have an exact idea and execute it, it’s also efficient to use what you already have on hand, as it saves you money, and you’ll reduce food waste in the process. It might also help you mix and match, for example; vegetables. This way, your meals for the week won’t necessarily be the exact same each day.
Step 4. Get all of the "Tupperware" or Glass containers
Invest in good quality food containers with solid lids that aren’t going to fall off. If they’re all the same then you never have to search and search for the lid that fits the container you put your food in (missing Tupperware lids are kind of like the sock that disappears in the dryer: A mystery).
But seriously, get 12-20 Tupperware containers of the same brand and size and you’re set for life. Or at least for a couple years.
Step 5. Use leftovers to your advantage
Another time-saving tip is to use leftovers in your plan. If, for example, you know you’re making a ham or beef roast for dinner, use the leftover meat in a hash mixed up with a bunch of vegetables and spices.
Step 6. Cook once, eat twice. Or three times.
Like the “measure twice, cut once” rule, if you’re bothering to cook, cook extra on purpose. Meal prep doesn’t always have to mean batch cooking 7 to 10 meals every Sunday. It can also mean making just one or two extra meals for later.
So if you know you’re not going to have to skip this Sunday meal prep day, but are cooking a meal on Friday night, at least make enough for a couple extra meals that you can package up and freeze or refrigerate right away.
Ok, as promised, here are two meal prep ideas to get you thinking in the right direction:
1. Pulled Pork with Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Greens
Step 1: Throw a pork shoulder or two (depending on how much you want) in the slow cooker. Add a little bit of water and apple cider vinegar (it helps break down the proteins) and some seasoning. I use salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, salt, garlic powder, chilli powder, oregano and more salt. Yes, add LOTS of salt, it needs it to help bring out the true flavour of the meat and other spices. And because you aren't eating processed foods, your sodium intake is likely relatively low. Remember to use ALL seasonings generously as you're only seasoning the outside of a very large piece of meat.
Cook for 8-10 hours on low. Then pull the pork - I usually just use a strong pair of tongs and it will fall apart. You can definitely add some more spices after pulling apart if it tastes a bit bland.
Step 2: Cook 3 to 5 sweet potatoes in the oven wrapped in foil, depending on the size and how much you want to make. Put them in the food processor and puree them (or mash the old fashioned way with a potato masher). Add a little butter or ghee and some cream or coconut milk, and some salt and pepper. You can also go the route of some heat with cayenne or live dangerously with some cinnamon and a touch of maple syrup.
Step 3. Add some pork and sweet potatoes in each container (try 1 cup of mash and 1/2 cup of pork). Then add a generous handful of spinach, broccoli or green beans in each container. When you warm it up before you eat, the greens will cook and steam.
Step 4: Seal them and freeze them, or keep them in the fridge if you’re planning on eating them in the next 3-5 days.
Optional: Douse each meal with hot sauce if you’re into that!
2. Pork and Turkey Butternut Squash Chili
Now this may seem like a lot of steps, but it's really quite easy and broken down to be very simple.
Step 1: Get a giant pot! (A very large stove pot usually works, but a big stock pot is even better - less chance to overflow!)
Step 2: In separate pans, season and cook the ground pork and ground turkey until no pink spots remain (1.5-2lbs each, season with salt, pepper, chili and cumin. You can always add more later, but I start with a couple teaspoons of each - taste as you go!)
Step 3: While your meat is cooking (you don't need to constantly tend to it, let the heat do its work), prepare and chop your vegetables:
5-7 garlic cloves
1 large/2 small onions
1 large butternut squash
4 large bell peppers (any colour)
Step 4: Sauté your garlic and onions in olive oil in your large pot until they start to become soft. Then add in your turkey, pork and butternut squash. Stir to combine and cover with a lid and let it cook and steam for about 10 minutes.
Step 5: Remove the lid, add your peppers and season with salt and pepper. Stir once more and cover for another 10 minutes until the butternut squash can be pricked with a fork. (Other great options include kale and celery. Even throw in whatever leftover vegetable you have in your fridge.)
Step 6: Add 2 large cans of diced tomatoes and 1 large can of tomato sauce (or two small ones, about 1L) and bring to a simmer.
Step 7: Once a simmer is reached, add some more seasoning; chili, cumin, basil, and maybe some chipotle powder if that's your thing.
Step 8: Let simmer on low heat for another 30-60 minutes if you can wait so all the flavours have a chance to develop a bit more.
* Make sure you taste the chilli as you go and add more spices and salt and pepper as needed.
Good luck. Keep it simple. And once meal prepping becomes a habit, you won’t even think about it….