Before you think this will involve Tupperware, a little time, and some effort on your part, let me tell you – you are correct. So if you can’t make a little time, to save you BUNCH of time, and put forth a little effort, to save you a BUNCH of effort, then maybe this article isn’t for you.
What this post is not going to tell you is that you need to eat boring, plain chicken, broccoli and rice for every meal, of every day, in order to get the results you are looking for.
Eating healthy does not mean eating boring, bland, or even completely sugar free, fat free, gluten free, etc. There are ways that all these things can be included in the foods you eat, and you can still lose weight and maintain your sanity. That’s not what this article is about though.
These are the techniques that I use weekly, and some of my most successful clients use as well. Planning and prepping ahead will save you a ton of time, stress, and keep opportunities to stray from your plan at a minimum – without keeping you feeling deprived.
What Should I Prep In Advance?
The quick answer here is, whatever you don’t think you will have time for later, or whatever you can honestly tell yourself you won’t want to do later.
My rule of thumb is – anything that keeps you in the kitchen for longer than 30 minutes, should be prepped in advance. 30 minutes is far too long to spend in the kitchen for most people, unless you really enjoy cooking, then have at it!
Average Prep Time For Common Foods:
- Chicken/turkey/pork/beef- 20-30 minutes
- Roasted starchy vegetables (potatoes, squash) – 30 minutes
- Vegetables for sautéing, stir fry – 10-15 minutes
- Salads, raw veggies – 5 minutes
- Breakfast oats, eggs – 5 minutes
Out of these options, I highly recommend you prep and cook any meat, and starchy vegetables in advance, and in large enough portions to last you until your next prep.
If you also want, you can prep other vegetables as far as washing and cutting them up for a few days in advance, but not too far or they can become bad. More on this soon.
Prepping Meat (a few days in advance) – 20-30 minutes
When you cook up 6-8 chicken breasts for the week, you should be good to go for at least you and another cohabitant in your house. Based off of your needs, you may need more or less though, so make sure you aren’t wasting food either!
I prefer to grill in whenever I can, as it keeps the house cool in the summer, and adds a little bit more flavor to the chicken or pork. Otherwise, I will roast (bake) the chicken in the oven.
For now, I like to keep my chicken or other meats as plain as possible – little salt and pepper. They won’t remain plain, but this is the trick to keeping things diverse through simplicity.
The best thing you can purchase for grilling is a meat thermometer. This will tell you when your food is cooked enough without you having to cut it open and let all the juices out. This is key to keeping your chicken tasting good all week. Cook your chicken to an internal temp of 155-160 then take it off the grill. It will continue to warm up a little bit after you take it off – as you technically want poultry to reach 165 degrees F.
Same temps go for the oven, but you want to set the oven to about 400 degrees, and bake the chicken for 20-30 minutes depending on the thickness. Again, use the meat thermometer to check the temps – DO NOT CUT OPEN THE ANY MEAT WHILE IT’S COOKING OR EVEN AFTERWARDS. All cutting should be done ONLY when you are ready to eat it.
Once you have your chicken or other meat cooked up, place it in a large container, let it cool a bit, then store in the fridge for later.
Prepping Starchy Vegetables (potatoes, squash) – 30 minutes
The main difference between these vegetables (technically potatoes aren’t vegetables, but lets not worry about that now) is their carbohydrate content. Think of these veggies more as a carb choice then a veggie choice. The great hing about them is they are minimally processed, and you know exactly what you are getting.
I like to roast all starchy veggies, as this causes a little chemical reaction called caramelization, which makes them nice and crunchy and a little sweeter.
Start by washing your potatoes, then carefully cut them into one inch chunks, or 1/4 inch slices.
Toss them lightly in olive oil, black pepper, and salt. I like to add garlic as well, because it;s great.
Lay them out on a tray, and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes. Check them and move them around on the tray, and maybe bake for another 10 minute, until some are getting brown, not burnt.
Remove, and store for later.
Meats and Potatoes are MUST’s for prepping in advance.
If you want to prep other veggies in advance you can, but I like to only go as far as washing, chopping, and then freezing them. Some exceptions could be roasted brussels sprouts or broccoli, but them will take less time in the oven than potatoes, so keep an eye on them.
Cut up any veggies you want to use in stirfrys, sautéed sides, etc. After cutting them up, pat them dry and throw in a large ziplock bag and place in the freezer.
By patting them dry, this will keep them from freezing together into one giant block of vegetables.
How to use your bulk prepped, plain meats to keep things diverse…
This is where you can get creative.
Put a little water in the pan, warm up to a simmer.
Place the cut up chicken in the pan, THEN add your seasonings. For tacos you might choose cumin, chipotle powder, lime, garlic, and cilantro – or this beauty – Mrs. Dash!
I also like adding in vegetables as much as I can, because obviously vegetables are healthy, but they also help take up volume and space, and when your goal is to lose body fat, it helps when your belly is full without being full of high calorie foods.
You have now turned your plain old chicken into flavorful, Mexican inspired chicken for your meal. From here, make your tacos as you normally would. This meal should now only take about 10 minutes to make – instead of the usual 30-40 minutes. Your advanced cooking and prep has already paid for itself.
What if you want something more Mediterranean?
Same process, just add different seasonings. Garlic, thyme, oregano, etc. Toss in some veggies when you have heated the chicken (tomatoes, onions) and heat until cooked.
Throw in some tomato paste, red wine, and boom, you are ready to enjoy with some pasta, or a side of your pre-cooked potatoes. Top with parmesan cheese and you are set.
Need more seasoning combos? Click HERE!
Once again, this took you way less time than normal – bulk prep pays for itself quickly!
Play around with seasonings, flavors, and light sauces and you can make endless meals.
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Stay healthy my friends,