I hate soggy veggies.
I mean, I don’t LOVE vegetables in general (though I’m learning), but if they’re leftover, limp, overcooked, or otherwise past their prime, I consider them pretty much inedible.
That’s why, as I mentioned in a previous meal prep post, I have never been a big fan of meal prepping. In fact, when my husband decided to follow a super-squeaky-clean diet that involved batch cooking last year, I flat out refused to join him. “No, thanks…I’ll stick to my boxed mac and cheese on busy weeknights, thankyouverymuch.” “Yep, I’ll keep the extra weight I’m carrying around, too.”
You guys, I’ve changed my tune.
Last week, I decided to start building healthier habits. I’ve been trying to walk daily, do a little yoga, drink water, and quit the snooze button. I also started a round of the 21 Day Fix Extreme. Don’t get me wrong, the workouts are hard–I’m still sore from Sunday’s Plyo Fix Extreme–but as a semi-reformed junk food junkie, the nutrition is no cakewalk either (pun definitely intended). If I’m going to stick to my plan, I have to prepare.
Back to the soggy veggies.
If you prep your all meals ahead of time and pack them into neat rows of matching containers, odds are pretty good that by the time you get around to eating them, your meals will be less delicious than the day they were packed. That said, some items suffer more than others.
The solution? Protein-focused partial prep. (How many times can I say “prep” in one post?)
Here’s what I’ve done over the last few days:
- Went grocery shopping (Hello, unreasonably crowded Trader Joe’s! Why do I never remember to visit you during the week?)
- Cooked a massive batch (2.5 lbs or so) of ground turkey with taco seasoning and a can of tomato sauce PLUS a small batch of these semi-homemade refried beans (but with a tsp of ghee instead of the vegetable oil).
- Browned a package of chicken apple sausage (It comes fully cooked, but tastes better when slightly caramelized).
- Packed up two “burrito bowls” (YUM!) and one sausage-and-pepper bowl (MISTAKE!) to take for lunches. Since I only have a microwave at work, I can’t freshly prepare much for lunch. An all-in-one container is the easiest way to go.
- The burrito bowls turned out great. After heating them, I stir the beans, meat, and veggies together; the veggies don’t end up tasting soggy at all. The sausage-and-pepper bowl didn’t fare quite as well. Standing on their own without the help of cheese and refried beans, the veggies were limp and lifeless. Yuck. Oh well, lesson learned.
- I packed the rest of the chicken sausage and cooked ground turkey into containers for quick weeknight dinners. Leftover taco meat tastes about the same as fresh taco meat. I’ve even heard that it freezes well, though I haven’t tried that yet. Either way, all I have to do is add fresh vegetables and a tortilla and I’m good to go.
- For breakfast, I grabbed frozen berries, a fresh banana, and a container of Siggi’s yogurt and mixed them in a tupperware with a few crushed cashews. I thought about assembling this the night before, but it took less than five minutes anyway.
- For lunch, I ate the first burrito bowl. Easy peasy.
Here’s the important part…
- For dinner, I freshly prepared an entire package of chicken breasts and a single serving of broccoli. I also ate a serving of pre-made, frozen mashed potatoes (These come packaged in the frozen food aisle at Trader Joe’s and can be measured out easily. Are they PERFECTLY in line with the 21 Day Fix nutrition plan? No, but they only contain real ingredients and they are pretty close to compliant. I’m not aiming for absolute perfection; ain’t nobody got time for the anxiety that can cause.) After I measured out a single serving of chicken, I put the rest in a container in the fridge.
By preparing ONLY MY PROTEINS ahead of time, I drastically cut down on the time required to put together a meal throughout the rest of this week, but I DIDN’T limit myself to pre-assembled meals that I’m not in the mood to eat. I’ve only truly cooked twice this week, but I will be able to eat fresh-tasting food for every meal.
The ground turkey taco meat can top a salad or fill a wrap. The chicken can be added to a stir-fry or served with a dipping sauce. The chicken sausage can top a pita pizza or be added to eggs at breakfast. Depending on how I combine the ingredients I have on hand, I can come up with innumerable meals that satisfy my desire to eat healthy, my–admittedly finicky–tastebuds, AND my need for convenience. It’s truly the best of all possible worlds.