Are You Still Meal Prepping???
Me neither. Well, at least not to the extent I was in the past. With grocery stores be unable to keep up with supply and demand under current conditions, things look a little different. Combine that with the fact that I’m home a little earlier than I was able to be previously, I am actually cooking daily as opposed to once a week. With that being said, I’m still using some of tricks I learned from my years of food prepping.
1. Cookie sheets are still my best friend. Make that foil lined cookie sheets. You can easily roast multiple different veggies all at once, and the foil makes clean up a snap. You can even season meat a few different ways in one pan, using foil to make dividers so that you’re not eating the same exact chicken every day. Make sure when you do your veggies that you group fasting cooking veggies together so that you don’t have to have multiple sheets to do. Do the same with longer cookie veggies.
2. The Crock-Pot or even better…the Instant Pot is my other best friend right next to cookie sheets and aluminum foil. The crockpot is an easy way to make a lot of chicken, fast, without having to watch it on the grill or flipping it in the oven. Even better, did you know with an Instant Pot you can actually throw FROZEN chicken breasts in and they will come out, moist, tender, and falling apart? LIFE CHANGER! And in maybe 45 minutes of cooking time, tops! I don’t know about you, but I’m known for having to run to the grocery store for fresh chicken breasts because I forgot to thaw out the ones I froze the week before. And right now with the shortage of meat, when you can find it, you grab it and freeze it. Am I right?
3. Tired Of Boring, Plain Rice?
One look at the grocery store shelves and I think it’s safe to say many have stocked up on rice and grains. Let me let you in on a little secret that’s an absolute game changer. Broth. Instead of cooking grains in plain water, use broth! OR jarred sauces like salsa or tomato sauce, tomato juice or V8 works great for that matter. Grains like rice and quinoa or great for packed lunches, and they’re easy to reheat quickly. The only downside is they can be pretty bland.I like to cook mine in chicken broth, butternut squash broth, etc..instead of water. It adds a subtle yet savory flavor that isn’t to over powering so it’s versatile enough to be used in several different dishes through out the week. If I plan on eating it as a side dish and not in a salad or as a part of another recipe, I’ll swap out half the cooking liquid for salsa or tomato sauce (with a good shot of black pepper to boot.) This adds a ton of texture and color. Give it a try!
4. Keep your fridge stocked with soft goat cheese feta, and Parmesan at all times, plus lemons, limes, and cilantro.
Obvious tip? Maybe. But honestly, these are versatile ingredients with relatively long shelf lives, so there’s no reason not to keep them around. Stocking soft goat cheese, feta, and Parmesan in my fridge at all times has been a game changer in terms of adding flavor with very little effort to otherwise lackluster meals. Parmesan has the strongest flavor, so it’s great when you just need a dash of flavor. Feta is perfect in salads, especially paired with citrus or a really acidic vinaigrette. And goat cheese (my favorite) is amazing because you can toss it into salads or melt it into eggs, but it’s also spreadable, which is perfect for sandwiches.
Fresh lemon or lime juice is a great way to jazz up meal-prepped food and make it taste fresh again. Use them to make a big batch of fresh vinaigrette at the start of the week (but don’t dress your salads in advance, because they’ll wilt), or just pack a wedge with your lunch each day. Fresh cilantro- either you love it or hate it. Me? I’ve yet to have anything not made better by cilantro. (And Sriracha!)
5. MY BEST TIP
Utilize your leftovers!!!!! For example, this past week I made mini ground chicken meatloaf with sun dried tomatoes, basil, and a little mozzarella. With in two days I noticed they weren’t quite the hit they were the first day. There were about 6-8 left which equals around 24-32oz of ground chicken and I was not about to let it go to waste. I make it a point to keep rice on hand and some steam-able veggies in the freezer, so I grabbed a couple of bags of stir-fry veggie mix (minus sauce), a bag of peas and popped them into the microwave to steam.
In the meanwhile I had rice going on the stove. While the veggies were steaming and the rice was finishing up, I chopped the mini meatloaves into small bite size pieces and tossed them into a large mixing bowl. Once the veggies and rice were finished I dumped them into the bowl and combined well. I hit it up with a little (okay, a lot of) sriracha, and a decent amount of fresh chopped cilantro and some black pepper. Let me just tell you…OH. EM. GEE. It was delicious! That recipe would have never came together if I hadn’t had the left-over meatloaf, if I hadn’t gone digging in the freezer looking for something to add to it, and had used a little creativity. It could have been a total fail, but don’t let fear keeping you from experimenting!
I realize planning dinner might pose more challenges today than maybe it did a month ago…and hopefully the above tips helped you out. But my biggest word of advice is get creative! Start with a protein, add a veggie, throw in a high energy carb and season with your favorite spices. You might just discover your new favorite dish. When you’re at the grocery store feeling frustrated because your old stand by isn’t sitting on the shelf waiting for you to pick it up, try something brand new! Grab that rutabaga or parsnip you don’t have the slightest idea what to do with and hit pinterest for recipe ideas and how to.
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