One of the most common things I hear from people who claim they want to lose weight or eat more healthfully is that they can’t do so because it’s too much work to ensure that proper food is available. Either they say they don’t have time to cook, or don’t know how to cook, or they don’t want to fix separate meals for different family members – or, or, or any one of another of reasons. Part of me gets really frustrated because I know from experience that the problem isn’t that people *can’t* figure out how to create a proper food environment – it’s that they haven’t committed to it. In some cases, especially when I’m talking to the more sanctimonious category of people who need to get control of their food intake, I leave the conversation wishing it was legal in all 50 states to smack people in the face with a bag full of nickels when they are behaving like delusional idiots. But then I try to take a step back and recognize that just because I’ve managed to make a lot of techniques work for the last few years and drop 64 pounds, that doens’t mean other people can’t use a few tips.
About a month ago, I wrote a post called My Own Personal Environmenal Crusade in which I shared several techniques I employ to create a healthy food enviornment for myself. This topic is near and dear to my heart because I have demonstrated to myself over and over and over again that if I get my food environment ducks in a row over a weekend, I have an excellent chance of eating well all week, feeling good, and seeing great results on the scale. And if I don’t do this….well it ain’t pretty. Last weekend was one of those weekends where I did not do well, and I paid for it – I ran out of healthy things to eat towards the end of the week, hit too many drive throughs, and weighed 2.6 pounds more on Saturday morning than I did on Wednesady morning. Since I’ve had a few people ask me for more information about how I manage to do a week’s worth of food prep on the weekend, I decided it’s worthwhile to share how I put together enough stuff to feed myself for about 18 meals next week in roughly 100 minutes (not counting crockpot time) while using very few processed ingredients.
Here is the bounty in my fridge after this weekend’s cooking – all individually portioned for my enjoyment
- 5 servings Paleo Breakfast Casserole – similar recipe here
- 6 servings low-fat cottage cheese
- 4 servings sugar snap peas and hummus
- 6 servings mixed green salad
- 7 servings chicken pecan salad – (Arby’s Copycat Recipe)
- 6 Hard Boiled Eggs – my favorite snack!
- 8 servings Crock Pot Pork – using this recipe, but substituting lean pork for chicken
I also have plenty of fruit cups in my fridge, as well as fresh fruit in my kitchen, to supplement the meals above.
All of the hands-on planning, grocery shopping, food prep, and cleanup to make the dishes above took 2.5 hours this weekend. That’s all. I’m set up for meals all week long with only 150 minutes worth of work! I will grant you, for the most part the recipes above are not hard to make by any means, so some people might want to dismiss my efforts. But I’m a busy girl, and also a firm believer that making good, healthy food does not have to take a ton of time. I like cooking enough that I can happily spend a couple of hours preparing a special meal, but for the most part I don’t do that during the work week, especially when I’m just cooking for one. My goal is to set things up so that I can put food in my face at home faster than I could go to a drive thru, and for the most part, when I plan ahead I accomplish that goal.
So how did I do it?
Meal Planning and Grocery List Creation – 10 Minutes: With the exception of the breakfast casserole recipe, which I googled while planning my meals, everything listed above is either a recipe I have made before and therefore have handy, or something I consider a staple. This made it a snap to decide what I wanted to eat for the week and write up a grocery list.
Grocery Shopping – 25 Minutes: Yes, I mean that it really took me only 25 minutes to do my grocery shopping. Granted, I don’t have to juggle kids while I shop (no, Johnny, we are NOT going to buy Capri Sun today. Hannah, put those Froot Loops back where you found them!) but still, when you have a good list, know your grocery store layout, and shop the perimeter, you can be in and out of the store in a hurry. One of the most important places I stop in the grocery store from both a time AND money perspective is the salad bar. I like to get a ginormous salad to eat throughout the week, so it’s a no-brainer to hit it up for that. But I also used it this week to get several ingredients for the breakfast casserole and the chicken salad. For example, I only needed a cup of grapes for the chicken salad, but if I buy them in the produce section I’m going to end up with 2 pounds of them – and I don’t like grapes enough to eat them as my main fruit all week.
Food Prep – 1 hour 40 minutes: I had stuff I wanted to do Sunday, including feeding my friend Kelly a bit of healthy breakfast to help her make up ground after a night of too much food and too many cocktails, so I was hell bent on cooking right away. First thing I did was preheat my oven and make my casserole – which basically consists of eggs, veggies, and turkey breast – so I could get that in the oven for the 45 minutes it needed to bake. Then I put the eggs on the stove to boil while I pulled together the sauce/marinade/whatever you call the delicious goop that goes in the Crock Pot with my meat. Once the Crock Pot was going, I portioned out the sugar snap peas, hummus, cottage cheese, and salad and put them all back in the fridge. At this point, I was bout an hour into my cooking session – at which point I put some chicken thighs on the stove to boil for my chicken salad. While the chicken was boiling, I chopped up apples and grapes for the salad and set them aside. Then I did some dishes while waiting for my chicken to finish cooking. Once the chicken was done and cooled, I diced it up, mixed it with the fruit, nuts, lemon juice, and mayo, and portioned it out. Then I washed the rest of the dishes. DONE.
Deal With The Crock Pot Pork – 10 minutes: Once the pork was done cooking in the crockpot, I divided it into 5-6 ounce portions. I used a scale and everything, so I know that I’ve got the right amount in each container.
Wash The Remaining Dishes – 5 minutes: At this point, all that’s left to wash is the Crock Pot (which is mostly clean because I use Reynolds Slow Cooker Liners) plus some utensils that I used when portioning the meat out, so it took no time.
Total Time – 2 hours, 30 minutes. For realz, yo.
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always take the time to be this organized with food prep every week. And I’ll also admit that sometimes my life can be nuts and I don’t HAVE the time on a certain weekend to do it. But given the number of times I have proven to myself that I can get my life together for the low, low price of 2-3 hours of my life, it would be disingenous for me to claim that I *can’t* prepare healthy food for myself. And if I can do it, I’d be willing to bet my bottom dollar that you can come pretty close to my results, too.