Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Meal Prepping. My Step By Step Process

So many people have been blown away by the pictures I have shared on our 21 Day Fix Recipe/Meal Swap Group, that I have decided to create a blog here and share a file in the group with a Step by step process of how I plan and execute my meal prep.

To begin, find the recipes you want to use. Whatever your heart desires. Well, within reason, we all know there are certain foods that just don't freeze well. Things like potatoes, pasta, gravy, sauces, some produce, etc.  For a full list of foods that do not freeze well, check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation website at:

 http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/freeze/dont_freeze_foods.html

Once  you have your list of meals gathered, it's good to check the inventory of your pantry, refrigerator, spice racks, etc. Compare your recipe ingredients to what you have on hand. Make a grocery list of everything you will need to buy in preparation of your meal prep day.  Make sure that if you have 2 or more recipes that require like ingredients; say, bell peppers, that you make sure you take into consideration exactly how many will be needed. You don't want to come up short on food prep day.

You will also want to inventory your pots, pans, baking dishes etc. The last thing you want to do is get your meals all prepped and ready to place into the oven, and not have enough baking dishes for everything you planned on cooking.

The next step is a personal preference. I typically do everything on the day of food prep. However, if you have an extra hour or so the day before, by all means, start prepping your veggies needed the night before. Read through your recipes, slice, dice, or chop  up the amounts  needed for each recipe and place in containers or baggies for each recipe. Make sure you label them so you know what goes with what.  By doing it ahead of time, the process of putting together your meals will be a lot smoother and quicker. Like I said though, I don't have time typically to do it ahead of time (I work a full time job, as well as a part time job), so I do it the morning of. Choice is yours.

First thing you want to make sure of when beginning the meal assembly, is that your kitchen is clean and organized. You want to make sure that all the items you need to prep are clean, and available to you. You don't want to have to spend time searching and washing dishes when you are ready to begin.  Though, I do a lot of dish washing as I prep too, as my kitchen is small and I sometimes need to reuse items.

Before beginning your meal assembly, gather your ingredients needed for each recipe. Have them grouped together, so you are not spending a lot of extra time searching through cabinets, pantry, or refrigerator. It makes the process much smoother and quicker having everything in line and ready to go.

You will want to start with the recipes that will take the longest to prepare and cook. If you are using your Crockpot and the recipe says to cook on low 6-8 hours, you don't want to start that last  or you will be waiting long after the other meals are done to finish up the recipes in the Crockpot.  Prepare the meal, place it in the Crockpot, set it, then move on to the next recipe.

The second recipes you will want to do are those that will take time in the oven to bake and lastly the items that you will prepare last are those that are done on the stove top as those are generally quicker to finish.

I have a Kenmore Roaster, which is great for making large batches, or I can use the separate pans to make three separate dishes. I can use it as a slow cooker, roaster, or a steamer, though I have never done the steaming part. It comes in handy for making whole chickens, roasts, and stock.

I also have a Crockpot which has two crocks. A standard crock, and a divided crock, which allows me to make two meals at one time.  I typically use my Crockpot for my Salsa Chicken, Pepper Steak, pork carnitas, etc. Another item I use often is my pressure cooker. My pressure cooker, I typically use for when I cook steaks with mushrooms and onions. It can also be used to cook beef cubes, roasts, etc. It saves a lot of time with meal prep as it's so quick!

Once meals are completely cooked, I measure them out into Rubbermaid or Gladware containers using my 21 Day Fix containers to measure. In meals such as meatloaf or chicken, I will measure out a serving of seasoned brown rice, a baked red skin potato topped with a tsp or so of beef or chicken broth and a bit of real butter for flavor (some may or may not like the texture freezing makes, so choose a carb side of your choice if you don't like the texture). I also measure out a serving of frozen veggies to round out my meal.

I also sometimes make Mac-n-cheese using squash to make it creamy and less cheese. I do the noodles just under done to freeze, so they do not turn to mush when thawing and reheating. Works for me. I do not find them to turn to mush this way. Maybe test a small serving to see how it goes for you before doing a whole batch.

I make both meatloaf and meatballs using the same exact recipe. It just saves me time as I can double or triple the recipe and have two different meals. Meatballs I measure out and cook them right in mini muffin tins. meat loaves can be measured out and baked as a traditional loaf then sliced, or as I like to do, measure out and bake in a jumbo muffin tin.

Here is a link to how I make my Meatloaf, Crockpot Salsa Chicken, as well as my Crockpot Pepper steak (note, I omit the sugar and the cornstarch in the Pepper steak recipe) :

http://fitandfabbylisa.blogspot.com/2015/01/more-meal-prep-recipes.html

I personally do NOT count the veggies, oatmeal, or eggs, when I make meatballs, meatloaf etc. As they say, we didn't get unhealthy eating veggies! And the eggs are mixed with the meat so counted as part of the red anyway, and the oatmeal, I use 1/2 cup dry, which is equivalent to two servings on the 21 Day Fix.  It's divided between approx 8-10 servings, so really is not much per serving; maybe 1/4 a serving or less.

So there you have it... how I plan and execute my freezer cooking. Please feel free to message me if you have any questions at all. I'd be happy to answer the best I can.

Also Note: If you decide to look through the other recipes on my blog, please realize this blog was started about 5 years ago when I first began my health and fitness journey; long before I knew anything about Beachbody or the 21 Day Fix.  I was successful at losing weight, however, I had not yet learned that there was more to a "diet" than portion control and counting calories. I believed then, that I could eat anything I wanted as long as I kept my portions in control. I have since learned, that is not true. A healthy body means eliminating the C.R.A.P. and eating clean healthy foods that are NOT full of additives, artificial flavoring, artificial colors, and artificial sweeteners.


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