Happy Superbowl Sunday. If you’re like me, you just dove into a pizza and some chips to celebrate this annual game (that most people really don’t care about). Treats like this for me are few and far between at 12 weeks out from my next bikini competition. Tonight, however, I enjoyed every bite because I knew that I was set up to succeed with my meal prep for the remainder of the week.
Someone recently asked me to help her get bikini-ready for a spring break vacation that was 6 weeks away. She wanted to know what type of workout schedule I would recommend to lean out a little in this short time. My response was simple. If you have 5 hours a week to devote to your fitness, use 4 hours of that week to meal prep.
That doesn’t mean she needs to be in the kitchen for 4 hours, chopping and cooking and chopping some more. That time would include making a grocery list, shopping, looking at the calendar to plan ahead for a busy schedule of dropping her kids at activities, and then actually cooking or prepping some simple foods that were ready to go.
Here are some of my top meal-prep hacks that I use regularly to stay on track when time is tight:
Pre-Cut and Pre-Washed Lettuce and Veggies
I spend a little extra money each week to have Whole Foods wash my lettuce for me. Do you know how annoying it is to wash lettuce? Don’t even get me started. I don’t even own a salad spinner to dry the lettuce, and frankly I have no space for one. Sign me up to pay fifty cents more for clean lettuce that’s ready to go. I also splurge on some veggies that are already washed and pre-sliced. It sounds silly, but have you ever bought whole vegetables at the store with intentions to wash/peel/chop them and you find them a week later in the back of your fridge, rotten? Go on. I’m with you. Sometimes our weeks are too busy to even chop a vegetable, and when we do have 5 minutes to ourselves, that’s the last thing we want to be doing. This is a minor expense that I pay to save me a little bit of time. That way when I am ready to assemble my daily salad, all I really have to do is assemble.
I also purchase a lot of frozen vegetables and use them as sides for many of our dinners. Broccoli, green beans, asparagus and spinach are all good choices that are low carb (yes, veggies have carbs) and packed with fiber.
I buy 2 rotisserie chickens a week, one on Sunday and a second one on Thursday. I always do a second grocery shop on Thursdays to restock anything that I need, so that I go strong into the weekend prepared. I know a lot of people that undo all of their hard work on the weekends, and they are back to square one on Mondays. This second shop helps to ensure that I can still meet my goals, even on a Saturday.
Rotisserie chickens are a simple solution for the lazy cook (or the bad cook). The KEY is to remove the meat when the bird is still warm. Trust me, you do not want to unpack the groceries, throw that bird in the fridge and think “I’ll get to it later.” You just spent $8-12 on a delicious bird, take that meat off (eat the juicy wings while you’re doing it) and shred the breast for later.
You can use that chicken for a lot of things:
- Salad topper
- Chicken tacos
- Throw it in the food processor (when cooled) with some carrots, onion, celery, some mayo or Greek yogurt and some hot sauce for buffalo chicken salad
- Make chicken enchiladas
- Make chicken soup
The list goes on. Get creative and use this simple hack to help you add protein to your week.
Whole Grain Rice Packets
I recently discovered that Whole Foods sells these whole grain rice packet medleys that are ready to go after 90 seconds in the microwave. Each packet serves two, so it’s perfect for me and the hubs. They come in blends like Spelt, Green Lentils & Long Grain Brown Rice and Long Grain Brown & Wild Rice. You can use it as a side for any dish or mix it with some taco meat, and make your own little burrito. Plus, 90 seconds is about the most time I want to spend on rice these days.
Frontera Sauces and Marinades
We eat a lot of Mexican cuisine in our home. Fish tacos, taco soup, enchiladas, flank steak tacos. The list goes on. I always have Frontera Sauces and Marinades on-hand, since all you have to add is the protein of your choice and wa-la a tasty dinner. I love the Carne Asada marinade for flank steak, the Red Chili Barbacoa Seasoning sauce for a slow cooker meal, and the Texas Original Taco Sauce for ground beef. Just buy a pouch, and follow the recipe on the back. There are no sketchy ingredients, and the calorie content is minimal. Keep and eye on the sodium if you have a history of high blood pressure.
Last but not least is frozen fish. Fish is an excellent way to add a well-balanced side of protein to your family dinner. I typically cook very bland white fish (cod, tilapia and halibut) and spice it up with Flavor God seasonings. If you haven’t heard of Flavor God, check them out. They are low sodium and they come in both sweet and savory flavors like pizza, spicy everything, and chocolate donut (which is amazing in oatmeal). They are non-GMO and MSG-free.
To make the fish, I defrost it (same day), rinse it and pat it dry. I place it on a foil-lined baking sheet (another hack to reduce clean up time – just toss the foil after the fish is cooked) that is sprayed with cooking spray. I drizzle a little olive oil on each piece and load up the seasonings. Fold up the sides of the foil and then the ends, sealing it tightly. Bake the fish for 10-12 minutes at 375 degrees. Open the foil and scrape gently at the fish with a fork. It is cooked through when the flesh flakes easily and the color has turned opaque all the way through.
Another quick dinner that is healthy and easy in under 15 minutes.
I believe that I have mastered the simple-quick weeknight dinner in our home. It’s not fancy, but it’s healthy and easy. On the weekends, I venture out a bit and try new recipes .
I know you’ve heard the phrases “abs are made in the kitchen” and “you cannot out exercise a poor diet.” These statements are 100% accurate. Take some simple steps to plan ahead with your meals, and you can skip the gym a bit more often.