If you have been following myself or Sarah on social media lately, you’ve been seeing those little black to-go containers full of food, neatly packed together, in a methodical, yet practical fashion. Did we order 5 of the same entrees from our favorite restaurant? Even better friends. We made those meals ourselves, with a widely known method called “meal-prep”.
Meal-prep has been around longer than most people think and not just something bodybuilding goons do so they can get their meals or calories in for the day. Meal-prep is a just a simple way of planning your meals for the week for whatever meal period and having a corresponding entree. It is a matter of picking a protein, a carb source, and a vegetable that you wouldn’t mind eating for a couple of meals.
Depending on your goals, whether it is to lose or gain weight, maintain, or just to simply have a lunch packed everyday, meal-prepping ensures you are always prepared. Remember; failing to plan is planning to fail.
Why We Prep Meals for the Week
Last September, I started intermittent fasting with the goal of losing weight. I was researching meal-prep ideas and learning a little about nutrition until I finally decided to start planning our meals for the week.
By doing meal-prep, Sarah and I are able to control each portion of food, down to the last ounce. It allows us to eat healthier while we are out working or when we are at home on our days off. It helps save us money because it reminds us we have a meal ready to go versus having to eat fast food . It also eliminates making bad choices at work like having fried, greasy food.
Since Sarah and I are on a “fertility-diet” so to speak, meal-prepping allows us to know what ingredients go into each meal and allows us to know what goes into our bodies as well.
How We Prep Meals for the Week
It all begins with a grocery list. We research recipe ideas beforehand so we can get some ideas floating around. We start with a couple of proteins (like beef, chicken, pork, etc.) and then decide on the starch (sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, etc.). We usually have a lot of frozen veggies on hand, but we also pick up a few more bags because we go through them so quickly. Depending on the recipes we chose, we may pick up some barbecue sauce or some salsa too. We go through many bottles a month!
Once we have all the groceries ready to go, we cook the starch while cooking the protein. We love using our crockpot for our proteins because it allows us to just throw the ingredients in and forget about it for a couple of hours. We usually bake our sweet potatoes or boil up some rice with some herbs and spices and coconut oil. So, our meat can be cooking in the crockpot while the carbohydrates are cooking in the oven or on the stovetop. We love multi-tasking for saving time!
Once everything is cooked and cooled down slightly, we portion each meal accordingly. Sarah usually can’t eat as much as I do so I usually opt for more protein than her. I usually don’t like too many veggies so we load her meals up with those. Once they are portioned, we simply refrigerate them on separate shelves so we know whose is whose. It’s usually easier to determine when both of us have different proteins/starches/veggies too.
This is all done in one day, usually in just a few minutes of prep time and a few hours of cook time while we are doing other things.
Our Meals for this Week
Items from the grocery store:
This past week we picked up some chicken thighs, lean ground beef, a large jug of salsa, sweet potatoes and green beans.
Using our slow cooker and liners, this is the easiest way to make salsa chicken.
We first put the chicken thighs in the lined slow-cooker.
Next, we put a generous cup or two of salsa.
We then throw in whatever spices we feel like.
A generous shake of paprika, a dash of red pepper flakes, a few sprinkles of meat magic and chili powder and a cap full of Mrs. Dash
Can you tell that this has gotten a lot of use?
After a 5-6 hours on low, the chicken is easy to shred and looks amazing. Drool. This recipe makes for SUCH juicy chicken!
We started with some nice lean ground beef.
Next, some Italian seasonings. I never have measurements, I usually just wing it!
Since we are trying our best to avoid gluten and dairy, we used about a half-cup coconut flour for this recipe instead of all-purpose or whole wheat flour.
We then added 4 eggs to this particular recipe.
Coconut flour, seasonings, and eggs, all together.
Next, we mixed all the seasonings together until they were fully incorporated in the meat.
Using a small 2 oz. ice cream scoop, we portioned out each meat ball.
Making sure the meatballs didn’t stick to our pans, we used coconut spray.
All the meatballs – portioned and ready to go into a hot oven.
We set the oven to 375 degrees (F) and covered the meatballs.
We cooked them covered for 30 minutes, removed the foil and let them brown up for an additional 10 minutes.
Roasted sweet potatoes:
We first washed and cubed up the sweet potatoes.
After it was cubed up , we tossed it in a large bowl.
We drizzled some olive oil, salt and pepper, and cinnamon on the potatoes.
Next,we lined a baking pan with foil, sprayed it with some coconut oil spray and laid out the potatoes. We baked it at 375 (F) for 40 minutes (or until they are fork tender)
The final product:
Here’s what the meals look like when they are all done and portioned out. I chose green beans for my meals as the veggie. I drizzled some barbecue sauce on the meatballs for flavor.
Sarah was having the salsa chicken and she decided on corn for her meals
By doing meal-prep, we have saved a lot of time, and it has helped us eat healthier by controlling not only the portions, but the ingredients as well.
Sarah and I dedicated an entire afternoon to make these meals. It took us a couple of hours to have ten meals prepared for the week. With our busy schedules and time spent away from home, it’s nice knowing that we have a home-cooked meal waiting for us whenever we need it.
Have you ever tried meal prepping? Did you see a benefit in your health and your time?
Ever since Sarah and I purchased this house back in May, it seems like our To-Do lists are never completed, or they just keep growing. The responsibilities of being a homeowner often plays a large role in controlling how we go about our day-to-day tasks, which include eating. Sometimes, takeout or a drive-thru seem to be a better option than coming home at around nine o clock most Saturdays and firing up the skillet.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love using my kitchen tools, making up things as I go, and trying new flavors out, but there just isn’t enough time in the day for me to cook each and every meal. If I also have to get up earlier the next day, I don’t want my sleep to suffer, and I love me some sleep (who doesn’t). So, for the sake of time, the wife and I often break out our trusty and always reliable crock-pot. It’s pretty common for the misses and I to use our crock pot at least once or twice a week depending on our schedules. Sarah gets home later in the day because not only does she have to work about ten hours a day, she also has to commute 30-45 minutes each way. Since I do the cooking most of the time and my schedule is so random, this leaves little time for us to make much at home that isn’t a frozen pizza or pasta and red sauce. Here are some reasons why we love our crock-pot:
It’s pretty much common sense, but most people really underestimate how simple it is to make a wonderful meal without having to labor over a stove or keep checking on the oven. Just throw a bunch of ingredients in there, turn it on, and forget about it. Sarah loves using it because it requires her to think less about making dinner and more about getting our home back to order after a chaotic week.
#2 It makes meal prep easier:
Since I’ve started intermittent fasting and plan on dropping a lot of weight this year, I have to keep my calories in check (a caloric deficit). This means that I will be bringing all of my meals to work instead of having what is on hand. Using the crockpot allows me make a rather large amount of chicken breasts (that are fall apart tender) that I can’t do in an oven. Sure, I have to wait longer for them to be completely cooked, but while they are in there, I am free to clean up the house, shovel some snow, or even run a bunch of errands. Once they are finished, I weigh out the correct portion sizes and put them in microwave-safe containers to take to work with me. By doing this method, I am able to make lunch for myself and Sarah for 4-5 days, which is about 8-10 meals! Talk about efficiency!
#3 Clean up is a breeze:
Self-explanatory. Just throw a liner in that bad boy and your set. Don’t forget that most crock-pots have removable stoneware so you can store the left overs (if any) in the fridge.
#4 It’s great for entertaining:
Love pulled pork? Love spinach dip? Then a crock-pot will become your best buddy. Once you’ve finished making either dish, you can keep it on warm for as long as your guests are there for, just make sure to check the crock from time to time (to prevent burning or scorching). Sarah and I love making hot dips and keeping them nice and warm for our friends when they come over. If you don’t have a chaffing dish for keeping foods hot and delicious, the crock is the next best option.
So that wraps up the biggest and probably most obvious reasons why Sarah and I (or probably most people) love using a crock pot. We love being able to come home to a wonderful smelling home cooked meal after a long day of working. Why is a crock pot a useful tool for you? Do you have any favorite recipes that are always being used?