When I was first diagnosed with Celiac disease (an autoimmune disease where you have to be strictly gluten free) nine years ago, gluten free takeout just wasn’t an option like it is now. Being a busy-bee who was working a corporate job at the time, I was forced to meal prep and plan everything ahead of time so that I would always have something I could eat when life got busy! Otherwise, I’d be left attempting to grab something out, and more often than not I wouldn’t feel well afterwards.
Fast forward nine years, and this is still one of the most important habits I have to keep me on track all week long, except now it’s not just so that I can eat gluten free – rather, it’s so that I can eat whole, unprocessed, delicious foods that fuel me! The best part about meal prepping is I’m not spending hours and hours in the kitchen – I really only cook once or twice during the work week and have food all week long!
Here are 7 tips to meal prep like a boss:
Have a plan
Sounds basic, I know, but hear me out. How many times have you gone to the grocery store without a plan, only to buy ingredients that don’t get used or to get home and realize you’re missing something that you want to make? Take some time to think about what you want to make and create a grocery list. I usually plan for 3-4 main courses and have them for lunch and dinners, 2 breakfast recipes and 1-2 snacks. Purchase only what you need with that list.
Pre-portion out your smoothie ingredients
Smoothies are a great way to pack a ton of nutrients into your breakfast and set your blood sugar for the day. Smoothies are still pretty fast to make in the morning (5-10 minutes max), but if you want to save even more time, I recommend you pre-portion out your ingredients in advance. What you do is place all of the ingredients you want to put in your smoothie, with the exception of the liquid, into a bag or Tupperware and store it in the freezer. Then, each morning, grab one of the portions and dump the contents into the blender, add liquid and voila, you have a 30-second breakfast.
Make a bunch of the basics and switch up the sauces
If you love ‘bowl’ recipes, you’ll love this idea. On Sunday, make a large batch of the following basics:
- Proteins of your choice (chicken, salmon, tofu, lentils)
- Roasted vegetables (bell peppers, zucchini, eggplant, onion, mushrooms)
- Complex carbohydrate (quinoa, rice, yams)
Make 2-3 different sauce or dressing recipes so that each day, you can mix and match the pre-cooked basics to make delicious bowl recipes. Here are some of my favourite sauces:
- This sauce from my Dino Bowl recipe
- This green goddess sauce from Oh She Glows
- Or, just plain old hummus
Then, for lunch and dinner, mix and match some mixed leafy greens with the leftover cooked food and a sauce!
Make one pan or one pot dishes
The trick to one pan or one pot dishes is to group protein and vegetables that can cook at the same temperature. The nice thing is that most vegetables are pretty versatile and can be cooked at higher temperatures for less time or lower temperatures for more time. This One Pan Veggies and Salmon is one of my favourite one pan dishes. It’s so easy and tastes awesome! Another great one pan dish is this Roasted Chicken Thighs with Tomatoes, Olives, and Feta recipe.
Use your slow cooker
Slow cookers are a fantastic way to make a delicious meal with very little time. Plus, you can buy cheaper cuts of meat and by cooking them at a low temperature for a longer time frame, the meat comes out nice and tender. Here are some great slow cooker recipes.
Prep everything to go into the slow cooker the night before, and then either cook it overnight on low for 8 hours or start it in the morning and by the time you get home from work for dinner it will be ready!
Be efficient with the order you cook
It’s typical to cook each recipe separately as you meal prep, but a major time saving trick is to actually have multiple recipes going at once. Let’s say on a Sunday you are going to cook 2-3 recipes for the week. Here’s what you would do:
- Look for parts of recipes that require the same temperature to cook at and make them at the same time
- Start with whatever parts of the recipes require the longest cook time and get them going – usually roasting ingredients, or rice/lentils are great things to get cooking immediately
- While certain ingredients are cooking, get the next part of the recipes ready
- Always finish with whatever doesn’t require cooking (i.e., salad dressing or chopping raw veggies)
Cheat where you can
There are certain items you can buy online or at the grocery store where you don’t have to compromise on quality, and it can really save you time. Hummus is a great example: look for one made with olive oil instead of canola oil and then it’s really the same as making it at home. Some other examples include:
- Eden Organics BPA-free canned products vs. cooking lentils or legumes from scratch
- Pacific Soups, either as the base of homemade soups to save you time or to bulk up leftovers
- Canned Seafood (no salt added and in olive oil or water) instead of cooking the fish from scratch. Be careful of using too many canned products that are not BPA-free
Join a weekly meal planning program
If you find yourself continuously wondering what the heck to cook, I can help you with my Weekly Meal Planning Program. Each week, I take the time to plan out your recipes (and ensure there’s a proper balance of protein, fat and carbs) and create a grocery list organized by section of the grocery store, so you simply do the shop and cook! The meal plans have a focus on 30-minute meals and crockpot meals – you definitely don’t need to be a chef to make these recipes, but they taste delicious! Click here to learn more about the HEAL Weekly Meal Planning Program.
Mandy King is a holistic nutritionist and the founder of HEAL, a wellness company that provides corporate wellness, 1:1 nutrition coaching and weekly meal planning. Mandy leads corporate workshops for Canada’s top companies, including Google, Facebook & PwC, and helps health-conscious clients looking to heal their digestion, boost their energy and shed excess weight through healthy, delicious food. A self-proclaimed gluten-free guru, all of Mandy’s recipes are gluten-free and Celiac friendly.