As millions of us stay at home amid COVID-19 concerns, family meals are resurging in a big way. This shift is one of the precious positives resulting from the pandemic, and we are rediscovering the joys of eating together regularly.
Studies show that that adults report cooking more at home now while sheltering in place. The top motivators for meal prepping and planning include:
- It saves money.
- Food waste decreases.
- It helps you eat healthy and control your portions.
- Large-batch cooking makes family meals easy.
- It’s relaxing and a great stress reliever.
As you set your 2021 goals, add meal prepping and planning to your list. It’s time for you to become more confident in the kitchen and reap the benefits of prepping.
PREPARING TO PREP
Meal prep involves planning, preparing, cooking and portioning your meals out for the week. This means cooking in bulk once or twice a week. Meal prep can have a huge impact on you, as it has on me for over a decade.
When will I have time to cook all this food, you ask? I know your to-do list is huge with work, meetings, kids and more; there’s always so much to juggle. But I’ll let you in on a secret: meal prepping makes life easier, and you can even involve the kids!
The process takes about four hours, and you can divide it between two days. I prep once a week, on Mondays, because I am off work.
Here are the easy steps to follow:
STEP 1: MAKE TIME
Find that day that will give you a good three to four hours to plan your menu, grocery shop, cook and portion out your meals. During this pandemic, we seem to be home much more, so pick a time and commit to it weekly.
STEP 2: MAKE A MENU AND SHOP
Write down the meals you want to make and the ingredients you’ll need. Write down which meals you actually will make and create your grocery shopping list. Categorize this list by breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. You also can order your food in advance, since you have your list done, or you can bulk shop so you don’t have to go to the store as often.
Beginners — keep it simple and stick to recipes with few ingredients and staples you can make and combine. Pick meals you actually want to cook. I’m no chef, and I pick meals that are manageable.
I focus on a balance of macros, including proteins, fats, carbohydrates, fresh fruits and/or vegetables in each meal. I recommend myfitnesspal.com to track macros and exercise. I use the app every day, and it keeps me accountable
Here are some staples/suggestions:
Proteins: chicken breasts, lean ground beef, turkey, flank steak, turkey breast, salmon, tuna, egg whites, eggs, shrimp
Carbohydrates: sweet potatoes, quinoa, brown rice, ezekiel bread or Dave’s power seed bread, hummus
Healthy fats: Almonds, walnuts, almond butter, olive oil, coconut oil
Vegetables/fruit: Spinach, kale, arugula, mushrooms, asparagus, celery, tomato, peppers, zucchini, squash, eggplant, pineapple, blueberries, blackberries, watermelon, apples, strawberries (I try to eat fruit that’s in season.)
STEP 3: STOCK UP ON PANTRY STAPLES
From garlic and olive oil to onions and spices like fresh cracked pepper and pink himalayan crystal salt (my fave), every meal prepper should have certain staples. I use Flavor God seasoning or find salt-free spices.
Create a 10-item must-have list when you go shopping so you know to add them to your cart and pantry.
STEP 4: INVEST IN THE RIGHT TOOLS
Investing in the right kitchen equipment makes all the difference. Make sure you have the essentials: cutting boards, sharp knives, sheet pans and meal prep containers. I use Ello food storage containers — the best! They feature a leak-proof lid, and you actually can cook in them because they’re oven-safe without a lid up to 425 degrees. They’re also freezer, dishwasher and microwave safe, and yes, they have family-size options, too.
Wishing you a healthy, happy, 2021 filled with meal prep and planning. Next, we’ll get cooking!
Karol Brandt is an executive host with Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort, as well as co-author of the Amazon best-seller “The Struggle is Real: Finally Break the Dieting Cycle, Transform Your Mind and Body, and Evolve into The Person You Have Always Wanted to Be” and the “30-Day Evolve Challenge Journal.” Contact Brandt by email at email@example.com, Facebook/ The Struggle Is Real or Instagram at karolbrandtnola.