Last spring I published a post on weekend food prep tips for healthy meals all week. The post provides ideas for which foods can be easily prepared, cooked and stored in bulk and then assembled into a variety of healthy meals in the following days.
I’ve found this strategy to be very helpful not only for meal planning but just ensuring there is enough healthy food in the house. Depending on how busy your day is it can be tough to get a nutritious meal on the table each and every night, so the less stress and effort required, the better!
I decided to follow up my original post with a second edition including winter ingredients like squash and kale. This version also happens to be vegetarian (lacto/ovo, meaning it includes dairy products and eggs) to show that it’s just as easy to plan a mostly plant-based diet.
And to show that the meal prep process doesn’t take much time, I timed myself as I went through my own Sunday food prep routine. Keep in mind that I’m cooking for two adults, so if you’re feeding a household of five then it will obviously take a bit longer. But a little effort now will still have huge payoffs for the rest of the week. Here’s how it went…
It took me from 4:46 to 5:25 pm (just 39 minutes) to prepare and cook enough handy ingredients to build a week’s worth of breakfasts, lunches and dinners for two people.
In this time frame I was able to…
- Roast 1 butternut squash, cubed
- Cook 6 servings of brown rice
- Cook 6 hard-boiled eggs
- Drain and rinse 1 can of black beans
- Cook 1 package veggie ground round with black beans and chili powder
- Wash, trim and chop 1 bunch of celery into sticks
- Wash, trim and slice 2 bell peppers into strips
- Wash and slice 4 Persian (mini) cucumbers into spears
- Tear 1 large head red leaf lettuce into bite-sized pieces and then wash and dry in salad spinner
- Tear leaves from stem of 1 large bunch kale then wash and dry in salad spinner
- Make 1 jar homemade red wine vinaigrette salad dressing
- Transfer everything to containers and stack them in the fridge
- Refill pepper mill with black peppercorns
It’s easy to do as long as you pre-heat the oven and start the longer-cooking items at the same time right at the beginning (i.e., the squash, rice and eggs). Next, you stir-fry the veggie ground round at around the halfway mark (it should take no more than 10 minutes to cook). While it’s cooking, move on to the chopped vegetables, greens and homemade salad dressing. I even had a spare moment to fill up my pepper mill. The rice will be done in 10 minutes and the hard-boiled eggs in 18 minutes. The squash will be the last thing to finish cooking at around 30-40 minutes.
I don’t prep everything in advance but instead stick to things that can be time-sucks on a weeknight. Some things I don’t bother prepping beforehand include:
- Chopped onion and garlic – they don’t taste, smell or function the same way if done ahead of time and can even go bad
- Cheese – it’s quick enough to cut up or grate at the time you want to use it, but all too easy to snack on while prepping! Have I mentioned before that cheese is my favourite food?
- Fruits and vegetables that oxidize quickly – avocados, apples and pears turn brown after they’re cut so it’s better to do it at the time (or at least toss cut slices with lemon juice)
- Cooked plain pasta – if you ‘re ok with mushy, overcooked noodles, then you can make plain pasta ahead and dress it with sauce later. But I like mine done right when I’m taking the time to make it – cooked until al dente and then tossed immediately with hot sauce in a pan along with a bit of pasta water to help it coat the noodles (honestly, try doing it this way and you’ll have a whole new appreciation for pasta!).
And there you have it: another meal prep Sunday to inspire you to cook and prep in advance for healthy weekday meals! Do you prep for meals in advance? If so, do you find that it helps you make more nutritious, balanced meals?