Taking Back Your Weeknight

First, I have to start with that I love to cook.  I love playing with interesting ingredients, new recipes, made up recipes, and the “I only have these 4 items in my fridge what can I concoct” game.  All with a glass of wine in my hand and great music on in the background.  It is my form of stress relief.   I would do it every night.

But if you’re like any normal human, during the week you get home by 6pm (if you don’t have two obligations to attend before you get home in which then it’s just quesadilla night), convince yourself that you have the energy to cook, then cook for 1- 1 1/2 hrs, sit down to eat for 10 minutes, clean for 20 minutes, and then sit down to finish a little bit of work or pay that bill that is about to be late and all you can do is sit and stare at a wall.  Reaching for the remote at that point is exerting too much energy.  So your bill is late, your to do list for when you get home doesn’t get touched, and your brain is legitimately fried.  Oh and now it’s time to go to bed so you can do it all over again tomorrow.  Where did the time go?  Also, this is when cooking is absolutely ZERO fun and is the complete opposite of my way to release stress.  I can feel the knots building in my shoulders even thinking about this scenario.

Sooooo what to do, what to do.

Meal prepping, I know you’ve heard about it. Definitely not a new concept.  It often sounds like spending your whole day Sunday to make a few meals that you eat all week long and by Wednesday/Thursday, the sight of the same thing makes you want to vom.  FUN!  Also, how in the world are you supposed to know what you’re going to be in the mood for on Wednesday night?!  It’s only Sunday for goodness sake!   Meal prepping done wrong is a sure fire way to guarantee that you’ll end up a restaurant by Thursday, food in the trash, and money wasted.

Luckily, it doesn’t have to be that way.

I have been meal prepping for the past few years and would consider myself a pro.  Not because I love cooking and think I am an amazing cook.  But I have figured out a few tricks that make meal prepping worthwhile and you’ll never say OH THIS AGAIN….

Why should you meal prep on Sunday?

  • Saves money
  • Makes eating healthy easy
  • Weeknight dinners will take the same amount of time to heat up/assemble and clean up as they will to eat = less stress.
  • You’ll have more time on Sunday to cook so there is no mad race to see how fast you can cut up 5 different vegetables without losing a finger on a Monday.  Once again, less stress.

FYI… my goal in life is to be less stressed.  It can’t be good for us.

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My tricks and tips to meal prepping.

Find a few recipes that use a lot of the same ingredients – Do all of your recipes call for onions?  Carrots?  Diced tomatoes?  While you are dicing an onion for one recipe, dice all the onions at once and use small prep bowls to hold the different ingredients so it’s easy to grab what you need when you need it.  Less knife cleaning and less cutting board cleaning.  **Bonus: buying ingredients in bulk is most of the time, a lot cheaper.

Prep so meals can be versatile but quick to put together -Instead of assembling 5 salads with all of the same ingredients, chop all of your vegetables and fruit at the same time but store separately in baggies or containers.  This way, if you’re not feeling like a salad you can make a veggie wrap that day instead.  Or you can change up your vegetables in your salad so it is less redundant.  Assembling a salad or wrap takes a quarter of the time if vegetables are already cut up.  These vegetables can also be used for dinners as well.  **Pro tip: having extra onions, celery, and carrots pre-chopped for use throughout the week is a serious time saver.

Cook the items that take the most time on Sunday  – For example, a whole chicken can take over an hour to cook.  Go ahead and get that out of the way, then for the week that chicken is ready to be used for fajitas (with your already chopped veggies!), chicken salad (with your already chopped veggies!!!), chicken over rice, chicken and pasta… the options are endless and only a few minutes away from being ready on a Tuesday night.  Brown rice, dried beans, and winter squashes are other timely items to cook but can be used as a base for all kinds of dishes throughout the week. **Bonus: if you cook these timely items all at the same time then it takes a long time once rather than a long time every night of the week. Because I like math, that could be either 1 hour of your life or 5 hrs of your life. You pick. (That makes sense, right?)

Fall in love with soup – Soup is easy to cook, healthy if you want it to be, easy to pack for lunches, have for weeknight dinners, super cheap to make, and is great to have on hand for even faster weeknight meals.  Usually the hardest/most time consuming parts about soup is chopping the vegetables and waiting for it to be ready.  You’re already cutting vegetables and waiting for other things to cook so it’s an easy meal to add on without taking more time or a ton of additional ingredients.  **Pro tip: It freezes well so make a double or triple batch for the weeks that Sunday meal prep didn’t happen.

Make meal prepping fun! – I’ve already told you what makes cooking fun for me: wine and music.  My mom loves cooking with Lifetime and/or James Bond movies on (and wine).   Joe is all about beer and sports on while he chops onions.  Meal prepping doesn’t have to be a chore!

Once you start meal prepping, you’ll never stop. It really is life changing.  Imagine coming home and actually getting a work out in, your to do list done, or just being able to read a book.  Well that sounds FABULOUS!

 

And just because, here are two of my favorite, go to recipes for Sunday meal prepping:

Whole Chicken – Pictured above.  https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/skillet-roast-chicken-with-fennel-parsnips-and-scallions  I change up the vegetables to whatever I have on hand.  Potatoes and carrots are amazing under it!

Butternut Squash Three Bean Chili – BEST CHILI EVER.  Even meat lovers love it.  http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/three-bean-vegetarian-chili

 

 

Eat like you want to live forever,

Cayla

 

 

 

 

 

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