My food prep isn’t cute. I don’t have coordinated, perfectly-sized containers lined up in my fridge when I’m done. In fact, my fridge is smaller than a normal fridge to fit in our 1912 kitchen, so there’s no way all those cute containers you see on Pinterest would fit in there. I also am not just cooking for me…I have a family to feed and some of the food I prep needs to do double duty in meals for them, too. Lastly, there’s the cost of all those containers. It looks impressive in a post, but I tend to reuse a lot of containers, stuffing things into old pasta sauce jars and a mish-mash of Tupperware rather than buy all kinds of matching sets.
I’m also not one of those people who can eat the same thing, every day, all week long. That is pretty much right up there with boring salads as a recipe for disaster and me giving in to temptations. I have to have some variety and be able to mix things up on the fly, depending on what I’m in the mood for…and yet, my weeknights are also super busy!
So…this is what works for me.
I prep on Sundays, which is my least crazy day and I prepare some specific things each week to make sure I’m set up for success. I like to think about it kind of like I’m putting together a few different “teams” to support me in the big effort to eat healthy. Specifically, I have team veggie (non carby veggies, that is), team healthy carbs, and team protein. Everything else is easy enough to add in, like healthy fats, seeds, and such, but those 3 I need to have easy at hand for when my days get hectic. In order to get variety, I make 2 of each so that I pretty much have a mix and match capsule wardrobe of food in the fridge for the week. As things get used up, I replenish my “teams” from leftovers from dinners I make for my family or swap in easy things like frozen veggies or fake crab sticks and instant brown rice. This way, I keep my variety going and my teams filled, but I don’t have to do major food prep beyond dinner time during the week.
So…what does this wind up looking like on an average week? Here were my teams last week that I prepped…
Protein – I roasted chicken breasts and salmon in the oven, both just with a healthy sprinkle of seasoning blends
Carb – I peeled and diced sweet potatoes, tossed them with smoked paprika, and roasted those as well on a sheet pan sprayed with olive oil. I also boiled some quinoa.
Veggies – I cut up and roasted some cauliflower plain on a sheet pan sprayed with olive oil, then tossed it with buffalo sauce. I also roasted a whole spaghetti squash at 400 degrees for 40 minutes, then let it cool, cut it open and scooped out the seeds, shredding the flesh into a container. As a bonus, I cut up onions, zuchini, and baby spinach for my morning egg scrambles and those I do put into a single portion container so I can just grab them in the really busy mornings.
Boom…done. I put it all into whatever the smallest container it fits into and it’s all done for the week. I make sure I have quick additions on hand like string cheese and nonfat greek yogurt, those individual avocado portions from the refridgerated section, and frozen fruit, seeds, and almond milk for my morning smoothie that I mix with protein powder. I keep 2 different types of fruit on hand, whatever is in season.
When it comes time to eat? Most of my “meals” are 1 veggie, 1 protein, and 1 carb and I just pick one from each team, whatever sounds good and I put them all together in a bowl and microwave. For family dinners, I follow the same formula, but cook a protein, veggie, and healthy carb with a lot of fiber and then keep the leftovers to replenish the supply for lunches and snacks. By thinking in terms of these “teams” rather than individual meals, I’m able to keep the variety I want as well as keep my prep to a minimum so it’s less overwhelming.