Better meal prep

Prepped food can get nasty. When I first started meal prepping, most of my meals were not-so-fresh by the time I got around to eating them. Let’s face it – three day old dried up chicken and broccoli isn’t appealing…to anyone.

Now I do meal prepping differently.

Step 1: Pre-bag the meat. When my meat comes home in trays (I buy bulk), I separate it out into double portions. So two chicken thighs per bag, two steaks per bag, and so on. Then I freeze everything.

Step 2: Thaw and cook meat as required. Every night I take the meat were going to eat from the freezer, so it thaws overnight. If my husband isn’t going to have the same thing, that just means I’m going to eat the same type of meat two days running. No biggie. Then I cook it. I avoid sauces and instead focus on herbs, spices and seasonings.

Step 3: Prepare two days worth of carbs. So I cook a few serves of rice, couscous or whatever. Two days old still feels fresh, and it’s a small enough amount that I know it’ll get eaten and nothing will be wasted.

Step 4: Prepare 1-2 days worth of veggies or salad, but no more than that. Once again, this is about freshness. Prepping can include washing and chopping vegetables, building a salad, or just making some cucumber sticks for a snack.

Step 5: Assemble! Now all I have to do for each meal is put a serve of meat, veggies and carbs on my plate, and heat. Everything is fresh, tastes better than if it’s been sitting in the fridge for days, and there’s minimal waste.

Prepped meal: buffalo chicken with asparagus. This took me 3 minutes in the microwave for the asparagus, and a couple of minutes to heat up the chicken. Quick and easy.

You could argue that what I’m doing isn’t “real” food prep. But meal prep doesn’t have to mean a week at a time’s worth of meals.

My version of meal prep is precisely what it sounds like: prepping my meals to make them faster, healthier and easy to portion-control.

Another prepped meal: steak, rice and broccoli. I cooked the steak (200g sirloin) while the pre-chopped broccoli was cooking in the microwave. Then I just heated a cup of pre-cooked rice. My correctly portioned dinner was ready in five minutes flat.

Cooking this way makes it easier to keep track of my portions, it’s faster and I’m eating healthier as a result. With little to no waste, as I’m only prepping a couple of days at a time.

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Meal prep + gym + OA…

Life is going well. I’m finding that meal prepping really works for me. I know what I’m eating ahead of time, and being organised makes it much easier to stick to my food plan.

This week, I meal prepped two chicken breasts, roast veggies, prawns and asparagus.

The prawns were pan fried with a teaspoon of butter for flavour.

The chicken was diced, then pan fried (oil spray) with Moroccan seasoning.

The asparagus was nuked for 3 minutes with some slices of fresh lemon and ground pepper.

The roast veggies (a mix of broccoli, red pepper, onion and carrots) was dusted with Moroccan seasoning (again) then baked in the oven on a tray for 20 minutes.

These dishes give me the following meals: prawns with asparagus for 3 X lunches, chicken with roast veggies for 3 X dinners.

That gets me from Sunday to Wednesday, when I’ll cook again.

Great meal prep recipes should be 1) scalable, 2) easy to store and reheat and 3) dishes you enjoy.

I’m someone who doesn’t mind eating the same thing multiple times, and these recipes make everything easy!

Combining with OA and regular gym sessions means everything is working for me!

Diet + gym = happiness

I’m loving my return to the gym.

I’m finding that I sleep much better, and just feel better overall.

Gym keeps me sane. I forgot how well it keeps me sane, and wish I’d never stopped going. But covid happened, and everything ground to a halt, and the gym was closed.

Then when I could have gone back, I didn’t.

However, I’m back now.

I’m feeling very weak in comparison to where I was – I’m back doing baby weights again.

It’ll soon improve. I’m taking things very cautiously, as I don’t want to injure myself. It’s easy to forget I’m not young any more! (I’m in my 50s now…yikes!)

But I am loving the movement. I love feeling better about myself. I love eating better too.

I’m fully aware these days that junk food, like drugs or alcohol, is addictive. And I am an addict. So I have to keep away from junk, or it sets me off, the monster inside is released from its cage, and everything goes to hell.

I’m better off just eating well. I’ve learned from experience that I can’t control myself with certain foods, so more and more I’m just ruling them out of my life. That doesn’t mean I’m fully successful at ruling them out. But I’m doing the best I can.

Today’s food is prawns (well, shrimp really), and asparagus for lunch. Dinner will be chicken and asparagus. 1 cup of chicken, and a fair bit of asparagus (I’ve learned that I don’t have to count or limit green veggies).

So that’s where I’m at. Still doing OA, still eating well (mostly), and still doing gym every weekday.

Life is – dare I say it? – good. 😁

Meal prep: double up on lunch and dinner

I used to have different meals for lunch and dinner. Now, with meal prep, I have the same for both, just slightly smaller serves at lunchtime.

I was often having a bagel with vegemite, or subway, or a sandwich, then I found I was getting hungry mid-afternoon (like really hungry!).

I’ve realised the processed carbs (bread, bagels, subs etc) weren’t helping me. They’d fill me up for an hour or two, then I’d be hungry later.

So now I have the same thing for lunch and dinner, which is a protein plus salad or veggies. If I want I’ll grab an apple or have a miso soup as a snack if I need it, but not very often.

Because I’ve realised my serving sizes were nutso huge, I’ve now reduced them significantly, and find that my shopping bill hasn’t increased, despite eating two proper meals a day.

For example, one steak will do me lunch and dinner, because I divide it into two, and cut it into slices, so it is slower to eat and more filling.

This is working well, cuts back on preparation time, and it means I know what I’m eating in advance, so there’s less waste.

I’m also feeling happier eating this way. Eating by repetition prevents me overeating, and I tend to eat better overall. It also helps me avoid getting junk food in, which used to happen a fair bit when I had nothing planned.

I guess you could say I’m a bit of a food prep fan!

Meal prep: dividing the week in two

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m meal prepping regularly now.

I divide the week in two (Sunday through Wednesday; Thursday through Saturday) then one half of the week I do veggies, while the other half is salad.

Then I just add a protein, which I also cook in batches. Common proteins I use are chicken, steak, pork chops, eggs and fish, and I’ll typically cook 2-3 days worth at a time.

I also prepare sides for the kids (I have three teenagers at home) in batches. Common sides for them are salad, roast veggies, couscous and rice. Common proteins for them include chicken, pork chops, eggs (omelettes), fish and mince meat (often in tacos).

The kids are having fried rice tonight and tomorrow. I’m having chicken breast and Greek salad.

I try to double up as often as possible, so most of the time we all eat the same pretty much, but when they have something a bit junkier as their protein (for example, fish with batter or home made hamburgers, I’ll have steak or seafood instead with my side.

Batch cooking (meal prep) is a gift for busy mums like me. I don’t typically get home until 6:30-ish, and I’m out three nights a week with activities, so having healthy meals organised in advance for everyone makes things much more manageable.

As for my husband, he’s doing the carnivore diet, and he just makes his own meals, often in the slow cooker (set and forget).

This all works well for us as a family, and we’ve reduced the junk food/eating out habit down to maybe once a month.

It’s meal prep day today!

I’ve been busy this afternoon, prepping meals for myself and the kids for the next few days.

I made fried rice for the kids, which will do them tonight and tomorrow night.

For me, I’ve cooked two chicken breasts, and made a Greek salad.

Both are easy to do – the chicken is plain but I’ll probably add seasoning when I portion it out. The salad is dead easy – a cucumber, two tomatoes, orange pepper, about half a red pepper I had left, a quarter salad onion, 100g (4 Oz) of feta and about 10 olives. Chop it all up and mix together. So easy!

Chicken breast and Greek salad

The chicken and salad will last me 4-5 meals. It’ll be dinner tonight and lunch and dinner for tomorrow (Monday) and Tuesday.

I’m learning that portion sizes are important. You’d think I’d know this, but apparently all these years I didn’t. I’d just eyeball it and figure”that looks about right” without ever weighing and measuring.

I’ve now learned from experience that not only were my portions waaay too huge, I was also eating waaay too much altogether.

For me, as a female in her early 50s, I need about 150 grams (3-4 ounces) of protein per meal to keep me satisfied while losing weight. I can pretty much have as much salad or veggies as I want to go with it, but I’m avoiding sauces and dressings (which get out of control really quickly!) and instead opting to shake some seasoning on instead when I need to.

I am using lighter, more intensely flavoured dressing on occasion (I love Japanese sesame dressing and a little goes a long way!) but I’m avoiding anything creamy or mayonnaise-ey.

The good thing about Greek salad is it needs no dressing. The olives and feta give it heaps of flavour for few extra calories and not much added fat, which is way better than having a green salad then dousing it in creamy dressing.

Meal prepping is working very well for me. I’ll talk about how I’m managing it in a coming post, but it’s meaning I’m spending much less time in the kitchen, and wasting much less food.

Portion control

I can be a real idiot.

For the last two years, I’ve wondered why I can’t lose weight. But I finally figured it out.

Two words: portion control.

I started actually tracking my calories in food I eat, together with carbs, sugar and fat.

This sounds really basic, but if you eat double the amount, you’ll consume double the calories and nutrients.

So while that breakfast smoothie might be very healthy, if it’s too large a portion, I’m not going to lose weight having it.

Same with meat, fish or any other food. No matter how healthy, if I eat too much of it I’m not going to lose weight.

Checking my portions is really important. I just made some curry egg omelettes for work lunches this week. I didn’t realize how much cheese I was going to put on them until I measured it. What I thought was “about right” was actually about 1.5 cups of cheese. I would never have guessed that!

Now, cheese is a great food, but it’s high in calories. A cup and a half of cheese would have easily stymied my weight loss efforts for the week. And get this: I wouldn’t have even realised it.

So for the next few weeks I’m weighing and measuring everything. Sounds Draconian, I know, but it’s the best way to get my intake down to reasonable amounts.

This has been a wake up call for me.

Likewise, I would normally have eaten two egg omelettes for lunch, instead of one. Not because I was hungry enough to need it, but because it “looked right”.

That was stupid. I didn’t need two. It was just a bad habit to eat two, nothing more.

And here’s the great thing: if I cut my servings of such things in half, I’m having my calories.

While eating one egg omelette is about 250 calories, two egg omelettes is 500 calories.

And if I eat them at work every day, I’m swapping out 2500 calories and instead eating 1250 over five days at work.

Make that one small change, and I’ll be dropping 3750 calories every 3 weeks, which is a pound of weight loss.

That’s a huge improvement for something I don’t even need!

They say life is a learning curve. That’s true, but you can’t learn if you don’t open your eyes to begin with!

The easiest meal prep in the world…

I prep my lunches. This is how:

I have a jar of quick oats that I keep at work in the kitchen.

Every lunchtime, I serve myself a half cup of oats into a bowl, adding a teaspoon of sugar (optional) and using hot water from the boiler to make them up. (They sit in the boiling water for about two minutes to cook.)

Then I add a dash of milk.

Done!

This method of meal prep means I always have food on hand at work for lunch, it costs next to nothing, and I can have a hot lunch every day.

Oats fill me up and they’re one of the healthier bulk foods out there.

The big advantage – beyond cost and convenience – is I don’t binge on oats. I eat, I’m done. I don’t crave more.

Every few days, when my jar of oats gets low, I take it home and refill it.

Meal prep for me isn’t just about finding something hot and healthy to have for lunch every day. It’s also about avoiding the pitfalls of local eateries and restaurants, where I might overeat. It keeps me on track. Plus, having a hot, filling lunch every day makes me much less susceptible to all the cakes and biscuits on offer at work.

Give it a try. It works for me.