This week, Ciaran Ruddock from FFS shares his top tips for meal prepping.
In last week’s blog I spoke about the importance of preparation and how ‘preparation beats willpower‘ This week, we’re going to share some practical strategies to make food preparation simple and enjoyable.
The simpler and more enjoyable the process, the easier it will be to remain consistent with this habit. When it comes to nutrition and training, consistency is key.
While there are many different strategies when it comes to food preparation, there is no single best approach.
There is only the best approach for you; based on your schedule, current cooking skills, personal preferences and a whole host of other variables.
It’s important to remember that you must first make time for food preparation in your Sunday schedule (or another day of your choice).
Two important questions are:
- How many hours per week are you currently able to allocate to food prep?
- What specific days and times are you going to allocate to food prep?
Once you have answered the two questions above, book these food prep appointments in your diary or calendar. Make a commitment to yourself. Make a commitment to making time for food prep.
Batch cooking is the most time efficient method of food prep. Batch cooking can mean cooking numerous portions of the same meal at one time. Batch cooking can also mean cooking numerous portions of different meals at the same time. Either way, batch cooking is cooking lots of food in one go.
Here are two of the most popular batch cooking strategies:
– Batch cooking once per week
– Batch cooking twice per week
This is my personal favourite. I simply cook all of my meals that I will eat in work on a Sunday. This approach can work very well for a person who has limited time for food preparation in their weekly schedule.
The benefit of the this approach is that it is the most time efficient method of food prep. For a one hour investment of my time, I have ten meals (two per day) ready to eat in work. I don’t have to think about my food in work for the rest of the week. All I have to do place meals in the microwave to warm them up.
The downside to this approach is food may spoil, especially if the sell by date is close to the date that it was cooked. Two strategies that you should use to negate this are:
- Purchase ingredients that have a longer ‘use by date’. For example; on a Sunday I will choose meats and poultry that don’t go off until Friday or Saturday.
- Freeze half your batch cooked meals and take them out of the freezer to defrost the night before – from Wednesday onwards. If you are concerned by the prospect of an upset stomach, this is the strategy I would recommend.
The second downside to the once per week batch cook is how the food tastes. Food will not taste as fresh on a Friday if you have cooked in on Sunday, even though you have frozen it and defrosted it the night before.
If you are reading this and thinking “there is no way I am going to cook food on a Sunday and eat it on a Friday!”, then do not.
This is not the approach for you, read on and I will outline an alternative batch cooking strategy.
Batch Cooking Strategy 2
This strategy will work really well if you can allocate two weekly slots of roughly 45-60 minutes to prepare meals.
The benefit of this approach is your food will be fresher than the ‘once per week’ method. Providing that you buy ingredients that will be in date for the next three days, you won’t have to freeze and defrost your meals.
The drawback of this approach is that you will have to allocate two time slots during the week for food prep.
Top Tips To Increase Variety Of Meals
I imagine some (or all) of you are thinking “batch cooking sounds boring, I don’t want to eat the same thing every day for a week”.
Don’t worry, I have you covered – just simply make two to three meals at one time.
Maybe you are thinking “I don’t have time to make two to three meals in one go”.
It doesn’t have to take much longer (if any longer) to cook numerous meals at one time. Use the following bullet points to help you multi-task your meal prep.
- Choose two to three meals that have similar ingredients and cooking time.
- Chop all of the ingredients at the same time before cooking.
- Get a few pans ready, a wok and the oven or whatever methods of cooking that you are going to use.
For example, one could cook an extra lean beef mince chilli, a chicken and cashew nut stir-fry and turkey mince fajitas within an hour, including prep.
- Chop all vegetables
- Chop the chicken into small strips or chunks so they cook quickly
- Turn on three hobs and heat three pans or woks to medium heat
- Add 1 tbsp of coconut oil to each pan
- Add chicken to one pan
- Add beef mince to one pan
- Add turkey mince to one pan
- Cook all meats for 5-8 minutes (continuously stirring)
- Add chopped vegetables to each pan and cook for 3-5 min
- Add cashew nuts to stir-fry
- Turn heat down in each pan to a medium to low heat
- Add spices and sauces to each pan and leave to simmer for 10 mins
- Start washing up or loading the dish washer as your dishes simmer
- Divide your meals into Tupperware boxes for the week
- Leave meals to cool
- When cool, place in fridge / freezer
Wrapping it up – the three take home points are:
- Make time for food prep
- Use an approach that works for you and your schedule
- Maximise your time in the kitchen
If you are looking for a recipe to get started, here is a link to a three bean chilli that myself and coach Craig made:
Now ….Ready, Steady, Cook!