I’m known to preach meal prep and planning — slaving away for 2-3 hours in the kitchen on Sunday evenings, portioning my meals into Tupperware, etc. However, lately, I have not been doing my full-boar Sunday prep routine. I’ve been scurrying around, but am still making nutritious eating as a steady habit. Here are 15 tips that work for me when I’m on the go OR just simply don’t feel like cooking:
1. Purposely make leftovers. Vegetables heat up well, so always make extra. I often will saute 2 bags of greens into one pan, as they wilt anyhow. This allows for guaranteed extras too.
2. Buy chicken as thin cut breasts, cutlets or tenders. Unless you are stuffing or pulling your chicken breasts, these less thick versions are easier to cook in a flash.
3. Freeze meat in separate portions. As a single person, I don’t want to freeze 5 turkey burgers together because I also don’t want to thaw and eat 5 of them in one sitting either. You won’t waste meat and one portion is easy to grab and throw into the fridge before you go to bed at night or leave for work in the morning.
4. Buy pre-cuts. Only when I’m in a full-on Martha Stewart cooking mood am I into cooking, slicing and mincing my fresh veggies and herbs. It may be less economical to do this, but if you are in a jam and find that you don’t “feel like” cutting up bell peppers and skinning carrots…swing by the grocery store on your way home and grab pre-cuts.
5. Put “thawing” into your morning routine. As you brew your coffee or tea, grab something out of the freezer that you will want for dinner and/or you want to cook for your lunch the next day. A lot of times you are hungry in the evening and will reach for something less-nutritious if you don’t have meat thawed and ready to cook.
6. Make Lean Ground-Beef-Saute. Ground beef is a good base meat to mix everything but the kitchen sink with into a saute pan. Personally, I love to season the beef with a hickory-bbq seasoning, adding in onions, a lil broccoli slaw mix and top with shredded cheese. It tastes like it’s bad but really it’s good for you!
7. Steam bag veggies. These are good and even better for a quick fix. I often throw a bag of veggies in the microwave while I finish up my makeup…then take ’em out, throw them in a to-go container and wah-lah, I have a nutritious side to go with my chicken, fish or pork, etc.
8. Have these on your weekly grocery list, as they are versatile and healthy but can spoil if you buy too much ahead of time:
- plain greek yogurt
- cottage cheese
- greens (kale, spinach, collards)
- brussel sprouts
- snap peas
- fruit for snacks (apples, bananas, strawberries)
9. Add bacon and garlic to your greens. Yep, bacon. In small doses, it’s not a caloric nightmare. I take 2-3 strips of bacon, dice them up and put them in a pan first. The fat from the bacon takes the place of an oil and adds a nice kick of flavor for sometimes boring greens. If you are a garlic fan, some minced garlic is the icing on the cake to this dish.
10. Make your own snack mix. I try to keep my cupboards stocked with a variety of nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans) and different dried fruits (unsulfured and unsweetened). You can throw a few nuts, handful of fruit and some carob chips into a sandwich bag. This can be a satisfying snack mix to hold you over while you are out running errands or hit an afternoon slump. **My favorite fruit for this is apricots.**
11. Canned soups. There are myriads of canned soup options out there. Many times, when Matt claims starvation and mal-nutrition after we get home from the gym, I will throw a can of soup in pan, heat it up and serve before he passes out from food deprivation. It buys me time to not have to actually cook something. This is a great, low-calorie snack option (or meal, depending on your dietary needs). It’s quick and can also be something to heat up at work too!
12. Beef jerky. I always have beef jerky on hand. This tends to keep me busy, makes me feel fairly full and allows for me to snack on a protein very easily.
13. Cut up your chicken and make it transform. Look, I think we’ve all gotten extremely bored with chicken breast. If you saute thin-cut chicken breasts in coconut oil and garlic, you can then cut it in chunks for multiple uses, such as:
- topping a greens for a grilled chicken salad
- dump guacamole and salsa on top
- throw into an Ezekiel wrap with greens, tomato and honey mustard
- top on stir fry veggies
- spread greek yogurt and panko flakes (and a sprinkle of salt) before you saute/bake
14. Pork Tenderloin. This is by far is one of the easiest meats to prepare and it delivers multiple portions. You can buy these pre-marinated. When you do that, you literally plop it out of the bag, into a non-stick baking dish — then into the oven for 30-40 minutes. I love this grilled in the summer.
15. Flip your yogurt. Greek yogurt (plain), can be very versatile:
- Mix crushed garlic with some yogurt, and spread it on a turkey burger
- Chocolate protein powder + PB2 + yogurt = fulfilling, sweet, protein-filled treat
- Yogurt + Parmesan cheese and/or panko flakes = delicious coating for baked chicken
If you are one of my vegetarian friends, I apologize — probably only about 7 of these apply! But do share your own tips if you have them.
Life changes, our mood changes and routine is sometimes disrupted. Adjusting to these constant changes is what is most important. I’m beyond getting upset when I can’t cook on Sundays, and simply finding other ways to make sure I have nutritious and filling meals or snacks. Truthfully, most of my lunches are cooked in the morning before I take my shower for work.
Take Care & Be Well!