Ok, maybe not hotter, but definitely healthier.
Yep, I’m here to talk meal prep.
‘Wow, that looks healthy’ is a standard refrain from people in the kitchen at work when I get out my food. They say it with a sense of envy or wistfulness (or maybe just relief that they don’t have to eat it). But overall, people act like making a daily tuna salad is some feat of adulting that’s beyond them.
I’m here to change your mind on that. If you really want to take control of your grocery bill and your diet, meal planning is the not-so-magic bullet.
Moreover, if you buy lunch at work even a couple of times a week, that’s $1000 a year at least.
I thought everyone knew how to do this whole menu planning thing, but my friend Linda told me it’s a bit of a dark art to her.
So, here I give you the step-by-step guide to meal-prepping like a boss. A ladyboss, of course.
1. Gather your recipes, grab a coffee and write a list
Pick a recipe book, website or Pinterest board and have a browse. This might sound fancy – i.e. researching recipes – but it keeps you interested in meals and gives you new ideas.
You can still put your staples in the week’s meal plan (mince and veg sauce is a firm fixture on mine). But throw in a few new things, and you’ll feel like Nigella fucking Lawson.
(Life pro tip: e-books on your iPad mean you can take a few recipe books to your favourite cafe. This one is Well-fed 2 by Melissa Joulwan, one of my fave paleo books. I also like Pete Evans’ Healthy Every Day, despite him being a massive tool).
Writing a list is where you start to make savings. By buying just what you need, instead of stuff that kinda looks useful or tasty as you wander the shops, you will avoid wasted food.
I split my list into three sections – fresh food, supermarket aisles, meat/chicken/fish – for easy nagivation.
2. Buy the things on your list but be flexible
I shop at Harris Farm a lot, and they have an awesome section of cheap, marked-down meats that need to be cooked or frozen in the next day or two. This is ideal for meal-prep nerds, because I’m cooking most of it in one day. But of course, it depends on what’s available, so I will often change my meal plan to use those ingredients.
Similarly, if you make a plan that uses, say, avocado, and those bastards are $7 each (a real thing I saw yesterday), then good sense dictates that you ditch or amend that recipe.
3. Put your stuff away properly
I’ve sung the praises of Tupperware’s fridge range in a previous post. They are the key to avoiding the curse of soggy celery and wrinkled capsicum. However, they don’t work if you leave them empty in the pantry.
I wash and dry the fresh things, then put them in my Tupperware. If you are a loser and don’t have any, buy some special stay-fresh bags or read these tips. (Or ask me to hook you up with my Tupperware lady). Food waste is a killer for the planet and your pocket, so making a bit of an effort makes a big difference.
3. Set aside a food prep time and get cracking
I devote Sunday afternoon to food prep. I totally understand if you have lives and kids and obligations; not everyone can do it all the time. But creating a routine like this, even including the kids in it, is the only way to make this work.
It’s a matter of investing time on Sunday to reap the rewards for the rest of the week.
As I said to a boy on Tinder who “didn’t have time” meet me after a couple of months’ chat, “I don’t believe in having time, I believe in having priorities”. (He was actually really surprised/upset. Next!).
It can take a while to get the hang of what order to cook things in, and it makes an unholy mess in the kitchen. But the end result is worth it.
4. Cool and store all your cooking
Finding room in the fridge is the hardest part of this. I have an extensive Tupperware collection and end up playing Tetris with it (sorry, will stop mentioning the T-word). But if you don’t, that’s ok, the old snap-lock bags work a treat too (try and reuse them where you can).
I’ve been freezing more stuff lately, so I can rotate dishes through the week. One thing I struggle with sometimes is ‘Day 4 Syndrome’: when you can’t stomach one more of that chicken curry after four days in a row. So the freezer is helping with that.
And that’s basically it. Stop buying lunches, save money, avoid food waste, be healthy and maybe even get skinnier (if that’s what you want, and if you don’t, that’s totally fine and good on you for your self-love).