I think that I may have mastered the meal prep…finally. My instagram has slowly been transitioning to symmetrically laid out Tupperware containers containing all the meals I eat for an entire week.
There are two things that are true about my cooking habits on a regular basis. 1. I hate buying food from restaurants or ordering in! why spend 20$ on a meal when you can use that to feed yourself for an entire day? 2. I hate cooking fresh meals everyday; I find that I cook when I am hungry, which means I eat more when I cook. Also, I have a strict week night schedule to adhere to, and cooking cannot be squeezed in. Hence, I need to meal-prep because my bank account and my sanity relies on it.
When I meal prep, I always prepare a breakfast porridge, veggies, two “sauces” and two carbohydrates. In the winter, it becomes a porridge, a soup, a sauce and a carbohydrate. I do not have all these cooked but I have everything prepped, which sets me up to assemble my dinner in less than 10 mins. This means I take 2-3 hours during the weekend to cook and just get it all out of the way. Most of the time, stuff is cooking away in my pressure cooker so I have time to focus on school work or chores while it is cooking. Below, I will outline the rough process I use for an efficient meal prep.
I do not strictly plan every meal. I just essentially take inventory of what I have in my pantry and fridge and work around that. I generally go to the farmers market every two weeks and the bulk store every month so its just based on what is in season and what I have. I soak two different beans for the week’s meals the night before I cook.
I like porridge, preferably oats. I eat porridge everyday. I never get tired of it because I can change up the flavours everyday. One day it’s apple cinnamon, the next day it’s persimmon and pumpkin seeds; it honestly a blank canvas. Having a pressure cooker makes life easier. I essentially put enough steel cut oats for a week in my instant pot and cook it for 10 mins; then it is done
After the porridge is done, I cook the first set of beans. Since I soak the beans prior, I generally cook it quicker in the instant pot, adding different spices. My favourite combinations are 2 cups dry of black beans with chopped onions, garlic, tomato, chipotle powder, paprika, onion and garlic powder or chickpeas with onions, garlic, onion powder, curry powder and salt. I cook these with enough water to cover the beans and within 30 mins they are well cooked. I generally also choose a softer bean like lentils or black eye peas, which I can cook quickly on the stove once it is soaked. I cook my black eye peas with garam masala and cumin and cook my lentils with cardamom, star anise and coriander seeds powder. In the end, I have one set of beans in the pressure cooker and another on the stove.
If I have a little bit more time, I cook an actual curry or a stew. I alternate between the Red lentil curry or Egusi stew or Ghanaian Black Eye Peas Stew or a random sauce or curry. I also just make a quick tomato sauce in general to add some more flavour or a tahini lemon salad dressing to go on top of my meals
If I am not drinking soup, I usually prepare two kinds of carbohydrates. But throughout the week, I do cycle between carbohydrates because eating rice every single day can get boring. After all the beans are cooked, I will cook some brown rice or bulgar wheat for about three servings. In addition to grains, I eat a lot of potatoes and squash. I generally do not make these ahead of time because they are very quick to put together everyday. I would usually chop up an entire squash roughly and freeze it. When I am ready to eat, I will boil enough potatoes or bake enough squash for three meals so that they are ready for lunch. Once in the week, I will also cook some quinoa, but not often because quinoa is expensive!
I don’t have a variety of vegetables because it can get very expensive. I always have kale in my fridge because it is so easy to shred and add to my meals. I tend to stick with carrots and peppers all year and include leaks and peppers in the winter time when they are season. I do not chop or prep these vegetables ahead of time. I generally cook the carrots, leeks or peppers with my beans and keep the kale fresh till I eat it. If i am feeling fancy I may include cauliflower or broccoli and roast my vegetables.
I do not make desserts on a regular basis. If I have a few bananas leftover that may be getting to ripe I will make banana bread or some kind of sweet loaf, but since I am terrible at portioning these for the week, I do not make it often. I generally snack on fruits such as banana or dates if I need something sweet to end a meal.
So this pretty much how I meal prep. I have been meal prepping like this for so long that I have gotten very used to it. It starts out feeling like a lot but once you get used to it, you can get a hang of it. If you are looking to save money and TIME, while sticking to your health goals. You need to start meal prepping.