While I'd like to say that I spend every Sunday prepping a week's worth of breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and nutritious snacks (plus maybe some freezer meals for later on), the reality is it often just doesn't happen. This has been one of those weeks. We're doing whole bunch of house projects right now, so I'm spending all my time talking to contractors, scheduling estimates, and clearing out closets (on top of the usual life craziness). Meal prep took a definite trip to the back burner. And while that's okay for a little while, it really starts to take a toll on me eventually.
I know that by cooking food at home, I'm able to take control over what I eat. I can choose foods that support my goals and save money by not eating out all the time. I'm always talking about how meal prep is the one skill you have to learn to really start building your PoleBody. But when things get busy, we start eating out a lot at dinner, my husband buys lunch at work every day, and my breakfasts at home start consisting of coffee...aaand very little else. I finally did a 9pm grocery store run last night and set aside an hour to do a mini meal prep session today, just so we had something in the house to eat.
I wanted to show you exactly what I prepared so you could get an idea of how an hour in the kitchen sets me up for healthy meals the rest of the week. You'll see that this is nothing fancy or elaborate. Instead, I prepped basic items that I could use in different ways throughout the week to easily create healthy meals.
It's getting warm here, so while it's not really "soup season" anymore, I find this to be the easiest food to make a large amount in a short period of time. I threw together a batch of my favorite Chicken Enchilada Soup and it will spend the next few hours in the crockpot so we can eat it for dinner tonight (and then for lunches or additional meals throughout the week).
I made a big batch of Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip PoleBody Bites to have on hand for snacks. This was honestly the most time consuming part of my meal prep--not because they're difficult to make, but because I chose to roll each one individually in shredded coconut. If I were really in a pinch time-wise, I might have skipped the coconut or even just pressed the mixture flat in a glass container and cut out squares as I wanted them throughout the week.
Hard Boiled Eggs
I made a few of these for snacks to have in the refrigerator. They can also be chopped up on top of a salad or sliced onto a piece of toast. Quick and easy!
I browned a pound of ground turkey (hello, rhyming sentence) and only seasoned it with a little salt and pepper. I can use it here and there as I need it this week, maybe in pasta sauce (on top of zucchini noodles or whole wheat pasta) or on a salad, adding additional seasoning as desired. Having the protein already cooked will save me time. Some weeks I might do a bunch of shredded chicken instead, or maybe just make sure I have lots of canned beans on hand. (If I were more organized I would prep a big batch of dried beans instead, as it's more cost effective and would help avoid all of the added sodium from canned beans. Someday!)
For some reason, if I buy lettuce and don't immediately chop it up, it will sit in my refrigerator until I eventually have to throw it out. Instead, I quickly chopped it all up, washed it, and stored it in a ziplock bag (along with a paper towel to absorb moisture). This will be perfect for speedy salads, wraps, and taco toppings. (Yes, you could buy pre-chopped, pre-washed lettuce. I just don't care for the way it tastes, so I'd rather take two minutes and do it myself).
I did all of that prep in just over an hour. It took a little longer than I'd anticipated because of the time spent prepping the PoleBody Bites and because somebody arrived to do a paint estimate part of the way through so I had to pause. In general, though, it was quick, simple, and set me up for success. I started with the eggs. While they were boiling, I chopped all of the soup veggies and got everything I needed for that in the crockpot. Then I cooked the turkey on the stove and chopped lettuce while the browned. I did the PoleBody Bites last, as I had good momentum going and thought they'd be nice to have.
In addition to doing the meal prep, I also made sure I picked up a few ready-to-go basics at the store.
I picked up berries and bananas this week because that's what looked good, but the key is really just to get whatever is easy and you'll use. I don't wash or chop my berries before storing them as they don't seem to last as long that way, but you certainly could. I find it's easy enough to just wash them as I need them. I put them on yogurt or cottage cheese for a quick snack. Bananas are obviously super portable for snacking. I love them with almond butter!
I grabbed grape tomatoes to put on salads this week (since my lettuce is all ready to go!), and I also picked up a bag of "rainbow salad," which is basically a mix of cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, and carrots. I knew I would never get around to chopping all of those veggies myself, so I'll add a handful of that to my salads for extra nutrition. I have cucumbers in the fridge as well, but I prefer just to peel and slice those as I need them.
These little packets of guacamole are so handy! If I'm in a hurry and don't want to make a batch of guacamole myself (or if I just need a small portion), these are convenient to have on hand. They have safe ingredients and are tasty. I use them in place of salad dressing, on a sandwich in place of mayo, and, of course, on tacos or burritos.
This is another easy option for a quick snack on the go. I'll often grab one of these packets and a banana for a post-workout mini meal.
Nuts are great for a boost of protein and healthy fats, and having them already packaged and ready to go means no excuses! Obviously you could make your own little bags of trail mix or nuts (which we often do on quieter weeks), but something like this is really easy when you're in a rush.
In addition to what's pictured above, I also always have smoothie basics on hand. I keep lots of frozen fruit (including bananas), nut milks, seeds (hemp, chia, and flax), protein powders, and pre-washed spinach (or other greens) ready to go. I also have been trying to keep green ice cubes on hand for when I don't have fresh greens around. When my leafy greens start to get a bit limp and I'm not sure I'll get an opportunity to use them, I just blend them up with a little water and freeze the mixture in ice cube trays. Then I just toss the ice cubes into smoothies as needed.
While this is kind of a mini prep session, it really gives me a lot to work from. If you're having a crazy busy week (or just a week where you're struggling to make yourself get your meal prep done), keep in mind just how much can be done in an hour. Put aside the time, focus, and get it out of the way. It will make a huge difference!