I know, first hand what it is like to not have a minute to yourself on the precious time off you get to relax or have fun! Whether you work full time or are raising a family….there is never enough time. I have heard this concept of food prepping that takes all of one of your precious days. In this definition of food prep, you are to cook all your meats, sides and such for the week so you can stay on track with healthy eating. I disagree! Let me share with you why and what is best!
In my dictionary prep means the following: “To prepare an item that will be used as an ingredient at a later time.” In commercial kitchens, where I spent over 30 years, the prep chef would do tasks such as cut the potatoes and store in a bowl covered with cold water to prevent oxidation, dice the celery, cut the butternut squash, clean broccoli and break into florets, mince several heads of garlic and drizzle with olive oil to store over the next few days, make the marinara sauce, boil the fusilli pasta, make the pasta salad dressing and store for later, you get the picture. The prep chef would then store in the cooler, properly labeled and dated for the sous chef. Then over the next few days, the sous chef turns it into items such as Oven Roasted Veggies, Oven Roasted Italian Herb Potatoes, Primavera Pasta Salad with Italian or Ranch dressing. Get the picture? Now, how do you do this at home?
Start with shopping for your veggies for the week. Get what is fresh, seasonal and organic if possible. Set aside no more than two hours in the kitchen. That’s it! Clean and prepare the veggies for cooking later in the week. Be careful to only prep the veggies that hold up well, not romaine lettuce or tomatoes. Say yes to prepping:
- Brussel sprouts
- Red bell pepper strips
- Celery strips stored in water
- Diced onion
- 3-4 cloves of fresh garlic
- Sliced beets
- Dice up some uncured ham to toss into salads
- Make at least one salad dressing you can enjoy all week
I often will scrub up a few sweet potatoes or russet potatoes and rub with olive oil, salt and pepper then wrap in foil. You can then pop this in while you are chopping veggies for use later that week in your lunch or as a side to your dinner. That’s it…no meat. The veggie prep is what we LEAST want to do after a hard day and what our bodies most need while you rest and digest overnight.
Have your freezer stocked with meat options. You will need to decide the day before what you want to prepare for the next day so you can safely thaw in your refrigerator. I cook for two so I keep as staples the following in my freezer:
- Ground buffalo in 1# packages
- Chicken breast with 4 to a pack (which leaves two extra for salads or chicken salad later in the week)
- Ground turkey in 1# packages
- Bacon (Tenderbelly brand nitrate free, sugar free and uncured…YUM…locally you can get at Tony’s Meats & Market)
- Ground pork for homemade country breakfast sausage or to blend with buffalo or ground turkey for meatloaf
- Smoked turkey leg, for soup in the colder months
- A couple of steaks individually wrapped in the warmer months
- A variety of butcher prepared sausage like bratwurst, Italian and chorizo for cooking. Great in soups! Watch for hidden sugars in most store brands.
Now you get home from work, select which vegetable that sounds good for the night, steam it, grill it or blend together a few veggies and toss in olive oil and garlic salt and pepper and put in the oven to roast for 40 minutes or so. If you have teenagers, this could be a chore they do when they get home from school, no knife handling needed. Now, cook your protein but make enough for at least one nights meal and one lunch or dinner leftover. Extra grilled chicken can be pre-sliced and stored to toss on your salad the next day for lunch. It’s also great in an omelet or as a snack with a piece of fruit in the afternoon.
Don’t become a slave to prepping all your food for the week. This is not sustainable for most people, unless your business is body building or fitness, you will most likely burn out. But just 2 hours will save you time in the kitchen when you are tired AND help you choose wisely when you are least likely to make a wise choice. Don’t give your mind too much time to negotiate between pizza delivery or a fresh meal for your family.
Next week, I will blog about histamines and how to prevent their build up in leftovers so we can all eat our leftovers safely!