I get so many questions on “food prep” (what it is, what I do and how to do it) that a blog post was in order – I do have quite a few posts on the topic but having updated information all in one place seemed like a good idea.
So…. what is food prep?
Food prep = making food in advance – preparing so you eat awesome, delicious and good-for-you-food.
Kind of important if you are into this whole eating real food thing.
I whole-heartedly love food prep. Not only is it a bit therapeutic, but having food made before-hand makes a world of difference when you are busy and trying to fuel your body right. But food prep is just endless tupperwares of chicken and veggies? Don’t you get bored of eating the same thing all week? No. Because it is most certainly not and I most certainly do not eat the same thing.
I focus on (and encourage) preparing INGREDIENTS – so you can put together a bunch of different meals. I keep everything in separate containers in the fridge (and recommend you do the same) which keeps best and allows for easy assembly. By having the components prepared, you are set to create delicious and nutritious meals – it’s like a food puzzle! Obviously I still cook throughout the week but having stuff ready to assemble and throw into a bowl is awesome.
From the blog archives:
But before you get jig-sawing, you need to get the food – aka grocery shop. I like to go to the store with a general idea of what I feel like eating so I know what to buy and am not buying all.the.things. But if I get to the store and see sales or see that the wild salmon I was planning on buying is going to cost me an arm and a leg, I adjust.
Having a rough idea of what you feel like eating/plan on making for the next few days or week ahead, is smart. That way you won’t waste things and hopefully budget your grocery cart. Think about breakfast, lunch, dinner and some snacks.
From the blog archives:
Now that you’ve got your groceries, you need to do your preparing.
Remember to focus on preparing INGREDIENTS so you can put meals together from them. Yes, get used to leftovers but different combinations of these foods feel like a completely different meal – you can customize meals with different sauces, spices, preparation methods, etc. Just because you prepare shredded chicken in advance, doesn’t mean you should eat it the same way each time. You can mash it with an avocado for a creamy chicken salad; you can mix it with eggs and spinach in an omelette; you can have some post-workout with a sweet potato… get creative!
When it comes to what to prepare, I focus on:
1. Prepping veggies
2. Prepping protein
3. Making a “big-batch meal”
I think it makes sense and works…
We know VEGGIES are awesome for us and are a great component of any meal (or for easy snacking) but if they aren’t washed, chopped, made… are we going to eat them? Debatable.
There are plenty of ways you can prep your veggies. Simply wash and chop, steam, roast, grill, throw them in a food processor… whatever. I like having lots of veggies pre-chopped to make salads more fun or make my bowls of food. Here are a bunch of ideas:
Vegetable Prep Ideas
- Broccoli: wash, chop, steam for 5-8 minutes in a veggie steamer (in pot on stove) OR roast in oven at 400F for 20-30 minutes OR wash, “blitz” in food processor
- Brussels sprouts: peel the outer layer off, cut in half, coat with cooking fat (coconut oil, olive oil, ghee), roast in oven at 400F for 30 minutes – flipping them around half-way through – try my Easy Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- Cabbage: remove outer layer, chop
- Carrots: peel, chop and keep in water in an air-tight container in the fridge
- Cauliflower: wash, chop, coat with cooking fat and roast in oven at 400F for 30 minutes OR puree in food processor (or with grater) for “rice” – try my Cordoba Cauliflower “Rice”
- Green beans: wash, chop off ends, steam for 5-8 minutes in a veggie steamer (in pot on stove)
- Peppers: wash, chop or slice or dice – for easy snacking!
- Spaghetti squash: cut in half, take out the goop and seeds, put some water in a pyrex (about 2 inches), place the spaghetti squash cut side down, 400F for45 minutes (until the outer skin is soft to the touch) – more detailed spag squash directions here
- Sweet potatoes:
BAKED: pierce with a fork (a few times), coat the outside with coconut oil, roast in oven at 400F for 30-45 minutes (until soft)
HASH: puree in a food processor (cook on stove in a pan with coconut oil)
STEAM: peel, cube, cook on the stove in a vegetable steam for 15-20 minutes (depending on size)… just poke it with a fork!
or try my Sweet Potato Fries
or peel, cube, blitz
- Zucchini: wash, cut the ends off, cut in half and spiralize – do not pre-cook! Keep spiralized zucchini in container and only cook when eating immediately – more zucchini noodle directions here OR wash, cut the ends off, cut a bit smaller, blitz in a food processor
**Keep prepped veggies in sealed, air-tight containers in fridge for up to one week**
HOW TO: VEGGIE STEAMER: Put a vegetable steamer in a pot and fill with water (just until it begins to flow through the steamer). Turn stove to medium-high. Begin time when water starts to boil.
Now onto the PROTEIN – having ready-made protein options makes lunches a breeze.
Protein Prep Ideas
- Apple Chicken Burgers
- Baked Falafel
- Chicken Bites
- Easy Baked Meatballs
- Hard Boiled Eggs: eggs in a pot, add water until it covers the eggs, on stove, bring to a boil. Once boiling, cook for 10 minutes. Once done, immediately run cold water over the eggs and then remove from pot, run some more cold water on them and then peel.
- Grilled Chicken
- Salmon Sweet Potato Cakes
- Shredded Chicken
- Just brown ground meat in a pan on the stove, wait for it to cool, put in air-tight container and keep it in the fridge.
**Keep prepped protein in sealed, air-tight containers in fridge for 5-7 days**
I also think making a “BIG-BATCH MEAL” is really helpful for the week – especially for breakfast. I guess it’s not that much different from prepping protein but I see it as more “all-in-one” and try to make one every week – like my latest obsession: my chicken and vegetable frittata. Think: casseroles, soups, stews but pancakes and other things for quick breakfasts are a great option.
“Big-Batch Meal” Prep Ideas
- Asparagus, Peppers & Kale Frittata
- 5 Ingredient Pizza Spaghetti Pie via PaleOMG
- Chicken & Vegetable Frittata
- Egg & Banana Pancake
- Tomato Sauce or Meat Sauce
**Keep prepped meals covered in their dish or in sealed, air-tight containers in fridge for up to one week**
If you are feeling particularly ambitious, you can always make some SNACKS or DESSERTS but remember that a handful of nuts, seeds, dried fruit and dark chocolate is a totally fine option if you don’t feel like blitzing and balling .
Snack/Dessert Prep Ideas
- Almond Butter Bites
- Banana Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cups
- Chocolate Chip Sunbutter Fudge
- Cranberry Pumpkin Seed Bites
- Fruit, Nut & Seed Granola
- Raisin & Seed Squares
- Sunbutter Fudge
A few OTHER food prep ideas…
Other Prep Ideas
- Grains: If you tolerate certain grains, those would be great to prep ahead of time! Whip up a batch of rice (you know I’m partial to white), quinoa or oatmeal for easy carbs throughout the week
- Fruit: Chop up some over-ripe bananas and keep them in the freezer for smoothies. Wash apples, pears but be careful with washing berries – they don’t keep as well when washed.
A few not-so-secret food prep truths…
Food Prep Truths
- Food prep for one gets boring. I shop, cook and eat for one. I can only buy so many things, otherwise they will go bad. Of course I wish I could buy a bunch of different veggies every week but that’s just not realistic. Don’t waste food. Save money. It’s just a week – you can buy something else next week. The more mouths you have to feed, the more exciting your food prep becomes because you can buy more.
- Prep food you like to eat and won’t get sick of (for at least a few days). We have established you are going to be eating “leftovers” and that you can’t buy a billion different things: so make sure you like what you are going to see in the fridge. I like hard boiled eggs. I love sweet potatoes. So I prep them. Don’t prep two heads of broccoli if you hate broccoli. At the same time: don’t prep a batch of cookies if you are trying to curb your sugar cravings.
- At first, you will spend hours in the kitchen. I am pretty sure I’d be in the kitchen for close to six hours when I was first figuring out this food prep stuff. I was chopping, stirring, washing, mixing, baking, cooking… I was doing anything and everything but I was highly inefficient. Now I have a routine (and wrote a whole post explaining it). I often split up my food prep: I’ll do veggies and my proteins on Saturday, then I’ll do one or two big batch meals on Sunday. When I’m on my A-game, I get everything done in less than two hours total. Try, try and try again. It will take foreverrrrr at first but it will change: you’ll figure it out and figure out what works for you and ultimately find your food prep groove (yeah, it’s a thing).
- Your kitchen will be a mess. This won’t change. Sure you might get better at cleaning as you go but things will be everywhere. I “reserve” a time to be in
the Little Honey Bee kitchenmy parent’s kitchen to get my prep done because I create a disaster zone. Cutting boards, knives, food processor, pans, pots, tupperware (lots of tupperware) and the odd bits of veggies and egg shells. Breathe. Clean. It will get done.
- Your fridge will be taken over by Tupperware. Embrace it. I also reserve my own section of the fridge for my food. It seems to be expanding every so often… thanks guys.
- People will think you’re weird/crazy/nuts until they try it themselves. Food prep haters – there are plenty of them. They make fun of our tupperware and that every meal is the same. Tupperware is a fabulous invention and we’ve already established that every meal is most definitely not the same. I promise, they will soon start prepping too. Why? Because food prep just makes sense.
From the blog archives:
I hope this helped and gave you lots of ideas!
If you want some extra help (or me to food prep for you!) contact me here and we can cook and prep food in YOUR kitchen together!
Remember, I’m in Toronto – unless you want to pay for my flight :)