This has been an ongoing project or wishful thinking of mine for quite some time, which goes to show that persistence is a key factor to success. It’s not always about hitting your goals and expectations of yourself first go. I’ll post more information on the breadcrumbs that lead me to this gingerbread house in the future, it was all to do with balancing hormones
What am I talking about? Lunch prepping
Noun ~ the process of making food in advance in order to save time, money and eat healthy options during the week.
Synonyms: meal prepping; meal preparation; being organised; looking good at work; feeling good about what you eat; balancing your hormones; banishing the default sandwiches for lunch every day.
I have looked at and saved, i.e. pintrested many “make ahead freezer meals” for lunch prep inspiration, but none of them ticked all my boxes. Some spoke of throwing freezer parties where you host a big cook off with bunch of your friends/family getting together and sharing the bounty, which, on so many levels would not work for me.
Another misalignment with my own circumstances, was the whole meal prep on a Sunday thing. Sunday or the Sabbath day is a holy day for me and reserved for rest, family, worship, church and a day to refocus, definitely not slaving in the kitchen for hours.
With others I just didn’t like the ingredients, I don’t like using store bought sauces because of junk and sugar they contain and some recipe ideas were full of them. I do love the idea of the cute Mason jar lunches but honestly sometimes I just feel like they are a bit too virtual reality for me. Maybe in the future I’ll join that parade but not right now.
The majority of the ‘freeze ahead meals’ were crock pot/slow cooker meals, I have a slow cooker but those ideas didn’t really help me with all my lunch prep, I was thinking grilled chicken and steamed fish and wanted the flexibility of having a salad or roast veggies, plus living in sub-tropical Queensland, on 30 degree days you won’t want to be thinking of eating too many slow cooker meals.
A key missing link for me was timings, I prefer to know how much time something will take, not just the end result. That way I can plan ahead or quickly slot something in when I have free time. I work full-time, have commitments on Wednesday evenings, try to spend at least 30 mins with my Knight in the night and want to exercise after work too. Plus I’m working on getting this blog up and running so it’s paramount I prioritise properly. Gosh that makes me sound so organized lol. Time and more so energy, are in short supply so I took a bit of this and a bit of that and I’ve found what works for me. Hopefully it will be an inspiration to you too.
Enough of the fluff – here’s the practical stuff.
A month’s worth of work lunches, for me and hubby looks like this: 4 weeks x 5 meals each.
Every week, in no real order, we have chicken, fish and a veggie dish. The chicken is grilled organic chicken breast, see the helpful tips below for the fish info and the veggie dishes will get a separate post written for them.
Even though the meals are in no real order, I normally reserve the veggie dish for Monday. (A) because it’s easier to prepare on Monday morning and (B) to honour the Sabbath, I try not to do domestic things on Sunday.
So that leaves, for 2 x 8 meals or 4 weeks x 2 meals each to fill.
I have filled those up with a zucchini slice x 2 days, a pasta dish x 2 days, beef sausages, kangaroo sausages, kangaroo hamburger patties and rissoles.
To these basics, except for the veggie and pasta dish I add my sides: A half cup portion of rice, avocado and salad or roast veg (coming into winter so roast veggies it is).
I add salad and avocado to the zucchini slice, but not the rice. The salad is mainly green leaves (kale, lettuce, spinach) and chopped up salad veggies (capsicum, tomato, cucumber, gherkins).
I’ll discuss the buying, prepping and timings of each element in separate posts to avoid this turning into War and Peace, aka mega long and boring. Plus naturally I’ll add some photos too.
For now I’ll leave you with my 6 Helpful tips:
- VARIETY is the key to yummy food. Our weekly fish consists of steamed white fish, grilled Moroccan salmon patties and steamed or roasted salmon portions, while the zucchini slice often has some sweet potato or even some cherry tomatoes added in. I also switch between salad or roast veggies for the sides to give a bit of variety too. Some days, just to be extra crazy, I don’t follow the plan and we have leftovers. Mix things up a bit, boring food is not enjoyable and will put you off lunch prepping.
- Don’t be afraid to GET IT WRONG You don’t have to be perfect all at once. In the beginning our lunch was fish, avocado and rice, every day and lol sometimes even just fish and rice, no sauce – bleh. I’ve also experimented with bean dishes and boiled eggs as the filler meals, but I found boiled egg, rice and avocado to be a bit bland. Keep trying until you find what works for you, which leads me to the next tip.
- Be prepared to BE FLEXIBLE. The rissoles meal used to be a pie/pastry meal, but I’m experimenting with gluten free, for my hormones (full report in 3 months), so pies are out. Equally we used to have crumbed fish, which contains gluten, so out with that too. The rissoles, lamb and mint, aren’t consistently in stock, but generally I tend to find them or if there aren’t any rissoles on buying day, I just keep an eye out for them later in the month. Try not to be too rigid, rissoles day is a work in progress and that’s OK. If needed, I substitute another sausage day in that spot. Allowing yourself some flexibility means your plan can work for you, not you for it, if that makes sense.
- Look to THE FUTURE. When doing my shopping I keep a look out for alternatives or new ideas. If you get stuck in your ways things become stagnant and boring and yes that extends to food too. On my radar is making my own crumbed fish or chicken portions, making sauerkraut as a side and making homemade pies. I really want to add some variety to the chicken meals too, perhaps by roasting a whole chicken or making a chicken slow cooker meal, all of which links back to tip no. 1.
- MAKE LIFE EASY for yourself. I used to put so much pressure on myself to do this huge meal prep for the month and would push through really painful bad health days to do it. Once I started living in synch with my body and my life circumstances and not forcing myself to be 100% all the time, I found ease and enjoyment with meal prep.
If I feel energetic at night I’ll cook up the protein and pack the sides. Or I might just pack the sides and leave cooking the protein for the morning, remember number 3, be flexible.
- Having the right TOOLS AND TIME-FRAMES for the job will really, really, really make life easier too. More on the tools in a later post, I will just say that a sharp knife in the hand is worth 3 blunt knives in the drawer. I mentioned timings before too, if you know how long something takes, then you can fit it in during the week and don’t have to spend 6+ hours on a Saturday doing everything. E.g. cooking the rice ½ cup portions takes roughly 1hr all up, but only 25 min of that is actual labour and it’s sporadic, this is easily slotted into a week day.
I’ll post full details as promised, which will include a time-line and how I organise my cooking day. Just as a preview it only took 3h44 mins to make 14 meals.
I get a lot of complimentary comments about my lunches, mainly because of the super cool lunch box my knight bought me, school lunch box envy is alive and well in the corporate world.
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~Allison, called Binney ~