Whether it’s not procrastinating on a homework assignment, creating an elevator speech, or making some meals and snacks ahead of time, being prepared helps us when life throws us a curve ball or when it’s just crazy busy in general! As I covered in my first food prep post in the fall taking some time once per week saves time and stress later. When it comes to making decisions about food, you can’t ignore them or put them off. We need to eat at least three times per day in order to feel physically and mentally well. When we make the right decisions, we may not consciously give ourselves enough credit to reinforce those good decisions but unconsciously they are balancing our mental well being, making our brain more sharp, making us feel happier and more energetic. Being prepared with meals and emergency snacks helps us make the correct dietary decisions during crunch time and then influences the rest of our abilities for the day and week.
If prepping ahead is not something you are in the habit of doing or you are not ready to tackle, read the beginning of my fall post where I highlighted what needs to be done before you commit to planning out your meals (ex: start with a list like the one to the left). Earthbound Farm Organics gives similar tips too.
While prepping food is a major part of my life most Sundays, I have made a commitment to post a new week of food prep each semester. At this point, my students have learned a lot about the science of nutrition, specifically what essential nutrients are, why they are important for the body’s metabolic processes, and where to get the nutrients from. However, we are just now getting to the application. There is no one diet for everyone and to improve health, each individual person needs to focus on small goals/changes that they can make to change bad habits into good ones for the rest of their life. A diet is simply a pattern of eating. What can you do to improve your pattern?
In addition to the above, I always have the follow fresh and ready to eat foods on hand:
Apples, bananas, clementines, nuts & seeds, nut butters, raisins & dates, and not so fresh but still fairly clean rice cakes.
Here is how prepping went:
Sunday morning we decided to have pancakes. I made my buckwheat pumpkin pancakes but used applesauce instead of pumpkin. For the two of us, the whole recipe makes enough for Sunday and a couple of days during the week. You can either cook them all, freeze, and reheat in the toaster or you can cover the batter with press and seal and make fresh the next couple of mornings. I like to make them fresh when I can because then I can add different things for more variety. One morning I added walnuts and banana and topped with peanut butter and this morning I added chopped dark chocolate, unsweetened dried coconut & hemp seeds and drizzled some local honey on top.
After breakfast and the gym and right before church I threw 3 C dry black & pinto beans, 6 cups water, 4 cloves minced garlic, 1 chopped onion, 1 tsp cumin and pepper in the Crockpot and set on high for 8 hours. When they’re done you can mash or use an immersion blender to really get the “refried” texture, or you can just leave as is and they’re still really good. Throughout the week we add these to salads, potatoes, or have with a random grain and vegetable for a meal. Super versatile and if you are a family of less than 4 I recommend freezing half for another week. Also, if you don’t own a slow cooker I don’t know what you’re waiting for. These things are a gift from God to save us all a ton of time.
Late afternoon potatoes and sweet potatoes went in the oven as did asparagus and a chopped red bell pepper for the frittata. I also thinly sliced fresh beets and tossed in olive oil, salt & pepper and baked them. It saves time and energy ($) to cook as much in the oven at once as you can.
While those were in the oven on the stove top I quick cooked some garbanzo beans from dry for hummus, a cup of brown rice, and a package of Trader Joe’s quick cook farro.
With all of that going, I chopped garlic for the guacamole, hummus, soup, and sauce as well as chopped onion for the guac, soup & sauce and jalapenos for the guac. It saves time to chop everything at once so you don’t have to keep going back. With the cutting board out this was a good time to chop carrots and celery for snacks.
When the asparagus & pepper were ready I chopped them and threw them into a bowl with thawed spinach to let cool. The beet chips were all set and went right into a container.
Food processor came out and I made simple date & cashew energy bars. There’s simple and more fresh than larabars, though I do like my cashew “cookie” hemp bars a little better!
I put the rice away for sushi night Wednesday and used that burner to cook organic green beans from frozen. Drizzled a little Tubby Olive Tuscan Herb on top with some pepper and those were done in minutes. I then started the white bean soup (but you can prep any soup!) which was also quick since it was vegetarian and while it was cooking made a quick red sauce for the farro.
Last steps of food prep were making the hummus in the food processor, smashing up the guacamole, and cooking the frittata. Here is a hummus recipe I have up but you can also just throw in garbanzo beans, garlic, salt, pepper, tahini and water, pulse and you’re done. I always have extra garbanzo beans so we can have them on salads. Here is an easy guacamole recipe too. Make it in the storage container so you don’t have to wash an extra bowl. For the frittata, I added 6 eggs to the spinach, asparagus and red pepper mixture and cooked in a large non stick eco pan on low so it wouldn’t burn but would cook through. You can also bake frittata’s. I cut it into 6 pieces and stored in a pyrex in the fridge. Tim eats it for lunch and I even had some with already baked potatoes after a workout one night as dinner.
The prep I did not do Sunday was crockpot oats Wednesday night so breakfast was ready early Thursday (and Friday) morning for us. 1 Cup steel cut oats, 2 cups almond milk, 2 cups water, cinnamon & vanilla. Low for 8 hours. DONE. Added cacao nibs, coconut, hemp hearts and sunflower seed butter and had some mango on the side.
Things we still prepared during the week:
We still have to pack lunches every night but its a lot quicker when you just ladle soup or farro into a pyrex and throw lettuce and veggies in another container for a quick salad. Below is the bpa free silicon salad dressing containers I picked up recently at Bed Bath & Beyond too. No one likes soggy salads at work!
Wednesday was salad & sushi night. After having a salad easily with pre-washed lettuce and some oil & vinegar, we took the already prepped rice and simply chopped up some avocado & shredded some carrot. We rolled out the sushi and had some pickled ginger, low sodium soy sauce & chili sauce on the side. To add protein we also split a package of organic frozen edamame that was easily heated up in a pot in minutes.
Hope you are feeling inspired to start prepping on your own. I promise its so much better to only have to reheat food after a long work and/or school day! While it seems like a lot of work above, it only took about 3 total hours which would have added up to a lot more cooking breakfast and dinner each individual day of the week. You’ll also spend less time doing dishes! If you already prep, maybe there are some new ideas above too. As my students already know, I am always open to comments and question. Have a healthy weekend!