As I’ve mentioned before, sometimes I’m a little overwhelmed by how fast time seems to move. You put something off for a day and all of a sudden two weeks have gone by and you still haven’t completed that task. You get a job ‘just for now’ until you’ve got time to discover what it is you want to do and then it’s a year later and you’re no step closer to either having the time (because, job) or the money (it’s incredible how fast you get used to spending it once you have it), or the ideas for what to do in order to ‘find yourself’. What does ‘find yourself’ even mean anyway? I know exactly where I am – not exactly where I want to be right now, but living relatively comfortably in central-ish London.
And so your goals to learn that new language get pushed back even further and you’re going to write that novel ‘when you’ve got time’ despite the fact you will always be able to fill that time with something else, and going the gym is something that other people manage to do regularly and you can hardly complete a one month’s yoga course in three…
But you can still eat relatively healthily.
I’m a planner. It’s a terrible form of procrastination, because it tricks my brain into believing I’m doing something useful when I’m actually not. I plan – as you may have already seen – what I want to achieve in a year, what exercise I want to do over the next month, what I’m going to aim to get done today, how I’m going to level up my life.
Writing out a plan for how I’m going to improve my drawing ability isn’t going to do anything to make my lines form more artistic shapes. Actually drawing is going to do that. Over and over again. I get it, practice is dull and planning is exciting, it feels empowering. But how empowering can it actually be when a year later you’re no closer to your goal but you have 12+ sheets of paper detailing your latest strategy?
There is one area however where planning is absolutely essential in keeping me on track with what I want to do, and that is meal planning.
You will, in all likelihood, have heard of meal planning before. It’s not a new concept. Where meal planning comes into its own however is when it is paired with meal prep. Then it becomes a life changer.
The problem with straight up meal planning is that you stay on track for the first few days, but then you get in from work and you’re tired and it’s so much easier to order a pizza than it is to make that chicken soup, even if it is quick and uses leftovers.
But even easier than ordering a pizza? Is opening the fridge and taking out a pre-made meal ready to just stick in the microwave for 2 minutes.
It’s a very simple and easy concept to put into practice. You draw up a plan for what you want to eat over the next few days, purchase the ingredients, then spend several hours cooking everything and dishing it out into individual portions. Including overlap in the meals makes it of so very much easier to organise, and planning and preparing all of your own meals means that sticking to healthy eating requires very little effort!
Allow me to demonstrate with my meal prep from last Sunday.
I started by deciding how many days I wanted to cook for. Sometimes I’ve done batch cooking that will last me 5+ days, but work was pretty light for me last week so I didn’t mind having to cook again mid-week. I decided to make something for dinner, then lunches and dinners for Mon-Wed. Breakfasts could take care of themselves, either banana pancakes or porridge.
I’m definitely not one of those people who can eat the same thing day in and day out, I get bored far too quickly. If I do end up eating the same meal every day for a week I probably won’t touch it again for a good few months.
Not wanting that to happen, I decided the best way to organise seven meals was as follows:
2 types of protein – turkey burgers and sea bass
3 types of carb – mashed sweet potato, brown rice, puy lentils
2 types of veg – steamed broccoli, steamed cavolo nero with sauteed garlic spinach
These could then be divided up into numerous combinations to prevent boredom and sameness:
I started by preparing the carbs and veg, as they were the easiest to do all at once.
2-3 sweet potatoes were peeled, bruised bits cut off, then boiled for about 15 minutes until a fork went through them easily. These were then drained and mashed with a little bit of spreadable butter to taste. Divided into three gave around 175g mashed sweet potato per serving.
100g of brown rice were added to a pan of boiling water for 25 minutes. Drained and then divided into two.
The lentils came in a packet because I wanted to try these, and since they were ready-to-eat with heating optional, I could just divide them ino a further two containers as-is.
The broccoli (1 head, ~150g) and cavolo nero (~70g) were steamed over a little water for 5-8 minutes, whilst 125g spinach was sautéed with a little extra virgin olive oil and three cloves of garlic, finely chopped.
The sea bass was the next to be prepared. I had two fillets weighing around 240g in total that I sliced into cubes.
I created a marinade by blending 200g red onion with two preserved lemons together, then completely coating the sea bass in this mixture. This was wrapped in tin foil then baked in the oven for about 15-20 minutes. Probably around 180 degrees C, although I can’t remember exactly. That tends to be my usual go-to temperature.
When it came to dishing the sea bass out, I did not include most of the onion/lemon paste. The lemons were preserved in brine so this mixture was fairly salty and by itself could be a little overpowering. Instead I picked the fish out and only left a little clinging to it.
Finally came the turkey burgers, which I have detailed how to make here. The recipe makes enough for 8, so I froze half of the mixture and just made four of perfectly decent size.
All that’s left is to divide everything up! My plan was as follows:
Meal 1 – Turkey, sweet potato, broccoli
Meal 2 – Turkey, sweet potato, greens
Meal 3 – Turkey, brown rice, broccoli
Meal 4 – Turkey, lentils, greens
Meal 5 – Sea bass, sweet potato, broccoli
Meal 6 – Sea bass, brown rice, greens
Meal 7 – Sea bass, lentils, broccoli
Of course, that was the idea. When it came down to it I completely forgot about dishing the vegetables out in this way, so I ended up having all the turkey burgers with broccoli and all the sea bass with greens. But oh well!
I was still left with seven extremely healthy (and relatively low calorie – 350-450 each) meals for the next few days that would just take 2-3 minutes to reheat before eating. I didn’t have to make any hard decisions about what I should or should not eat, and I could be as lazy as I liked because the food was already there.
It did take 2-3 hours to prepare everything, but that’s partly because I wasn’t moving particularly fast and both of my proteins required use of the food processor, which meant I couldn’t prepare them both at the same time. With better recipe planning I could definitely reduce that time.
So there you have it! Meal prepping – the one tangibly useful, non-procrastinating form of life planning. Do you have any recipes that are good for times like this? Any meals you like to combine and prepare in advance? What’s your experience with food prepping? Get in touch and let me know!