Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Weekly food prep: let's do this thing.

I wrote a post on this before, but it was disorganized and thrown together. After I posted it I wore the cone of shame. I think it was actually a messy meal planning thing. I don't think I really addressed how I do my weekly food prep in under two hours on a weekend day. And that's what you really want to know - how can I prepare for the week in a short amount of time?

I really enjoy cooking...on the weekends, when I have time. I make dinner most Saturdays and Sundays at a leisurely pace and I enjoy it. I do not enjoy working my ass off all day and commuting an hour each way and then making dinner and creating the next day's work food from scratch. But I also don't want to rely on takeout, eating out, buying lunch, or ingesting a lot of processed food.

What I do will not work for everyone. If you want to do this but can't imagine how you'll adapt it to your family's eating habits, shoot me an email at lifeaccordingtosteph@gmail.com and we'll work through it. I love helping other people make the most of their time.

I did my food prep on Saturday this week because I wanted to sit on my ass on Sunday morning, and knew I'd be off visiting mothers on Sunday afternoon. My goal is to do no food prep during the week (aside from dealing with fruit) and very little cooking.

Typically, my weekly food prep includes:
1. Breakfast: Some type of egg bake with cheese and a veggie. I need protein to start my day. I pair this with fruit or raw veggies. I have issues with cutting up fruit too far in advance, so I usually only do two days of it at a time.
2. Lunch: Soup, salad, quinoa with veggies, or tuna.
3. Work snacks: I pick two to three types of veggies and prep them for the week.
4. Two to three complete entrees or the components to those entrees: I might chop onions and bag them for a meal later in the week, cook rice and refrigerate, etc. I grate my own cheese and make a lot of pantry items so I will make those in advance too.

Here is my plan for this week (regular readers, remember that I am in the midst of a Pantry Challenge - to only buy dairy, produce and bread until I've used everything in my freezers and pantry):
1. Breakfasts for work: asparagus and mushroom egg bake with goat cheese
2. Lunches for work: Lentil soup out of the freezer
3. Work snacks: celery, carrots, orange peppers. I have kiwi too, which I cut up on Sunday night for Monday and today.
4. Dinner one: butternut squash enchiladas (I added black beans and used greek yogurt instead of cream cheese). Make one tray for this week and one to freeze. Requires a double batch of enchilada sauce too. I make these in full and assemble.
5. Dinner two: pasta tossed with sauteed broccoli/orange peppers/onions. I prep the ingredients but will not make this until Wednesday.

Ready, set, go.

I assemble all vegetables on the counter. I pull anything I need out of the baking cabinet ( flour this week) and whatever has to come out of the pantry (tomato paste, kosher salt, vegetable oil, chipotle peppers in adobo, tortillas), and freezer (butternut squash, black beans). I pull out the casserole dishes I'm going to need, along with my tupperware.
I scan my recipes and see where I should start. I typically have several things going at once and chop veggies in between.

Enchilada sauce, you're first. I throw that together and allow it to simmer.

While it's simmering, I peel, slice and store carrots in tupperware. I wash, slice and store celery the same way. Our fridge is large at work and I will take one of these in at a time. If you have a small fridge at work or travel with a cooler, portion your veggies down into snack/sandwich bags or smaller reusable containers.
I wash asparagus and snap it down into bite sized pieces. I saute it in some olive oil. While that is working, I slice a pound of mushrooms down. When the asparagus is finished, I transfer that to a casserole and saute the mushrooms. I preheat my oven for the breakfast bake.

While the mushrooms are working, I cut up a bag of orange peppers. I throw them into a pyrex dish. I put the frozen butternut squash into a bowl with water and steam it in the microwave.

I add the mushrooms to the casserole where the asparagus is, chop some green onions and throw them in there as well. The kitchen mess has reached epic proportions, so I quickly toss goat cheese on top of the mushrooms and asparagus mixture before moving dishes to the sink. I beat a carton of eggs, add them to the veggies and cheese, and pop the breakfast casserole into the oven.
I clean everything up and load the dishwasher. I need a relatively clean space to make enchiladas. I drain the butternut squash and throw the black beans into the microwave to heat them a bit.

I put the remaining asparagus into a pyrex dish with broccoli. Since I'm not going to make the pasta dish at this time, I'm just collecting the veggies as prep. I dice onion and put that in a little glass bowl so it's ready to go later this week.

BREAK - I take a 10 minute break to check my phone and put some laundry in.

Enchilada time. I saute onions and chipotle and work my way through the recipe. I have a pan of enchiladas for this week, and one to freeze. I elect not to top them with cheese at this time. I will do that right before I bake them. For the pan I'm freezing, I cover it tightly with press-n-seal, then tin foil.

This particular recipe was a little intensive. I chose to do it this week because I knew I'd be taking soup from the freezer for lunch. And with the pasta and veggie dish and the enchiladas, this week is meatless to boot.

I pull the egg bake out of the oven and decide not to bake the enchiladas at this time. I will bake them on Tuesday.

The cooking and prep is finished aside from portioning out the eggs, but shit is a mess again. Clean up, clean up. I have extra enchilada sauce and chipotle peppers in adobo, so I pack them up, label them and freeze them. Everything else gets put into the fridge, and I clean up the cyclone that is my kitchen and run the dishwasher.
By 1:55, I had a fresh glass of water with lemon and I was outside reading.

I spent an hour and 35 minutes in the kitchen on Saturday and will spend barely any time at all there this week. I leave the house by 7:20 every morning, and I don't get home before 6. I have dogs to walk, shows to watch, gym classes to attend, laundry and chores to do, a husband to hang out with. Food prepping on the weekend means I can spend more time doing other things on weeknights.

It's worth it to me!

Do you food prep? Do you have any questions on how I do it?

Linking up with Northern Belle Diaries and Confessions of a Northern Belle for Just Because.


  1. Holy shit, I'm exhausted just reading this! But impressed. Very impressed. And I will try that breakfast bake!

  2. This is a wonderful idea! I've really been considering starting to do this. I have been prepping my fruits and veggies as soon as I buy them so they're an easy snack to grab.

  3. wicked!
    i food-prep too; not as hardcore as you but i do plan my meals out every friday night (for the following week), shop for everything on saturday and then post up the meal plan on the board so i know what i'm working on when i get home from work.

    i never thought of making everything and then freezing it for the week... sounds so much easier!

  4. Excellent. Not only is it better for you physically, cooking/baking,knowing what is in the food you eat is a mental boost. I multi-task and clean up as I go. I buy chopped frozen onions & slices mushrooms if they are on sale. You have long, busy days, so this is perfect! I now have and relish my luxury of time. I am soooooo enjoying the chocolate zucchini yogurt cake. OMG! It's the #BEESKNEES
    Love YOUR MOMMA Carpe diem, everyone! Cool, but SUNNY

  5. I do this every week! Those enchiladas sound delicious, they may need to go on next week's list!!

  6. Do you notice the food tasting any different with the reheating? AND - when you reheat for dinner - can you reheat again? Did that make sense? I typically have leftovers, and I use them for my lunches. But I'm afraid to reheat for dinner, then do it again (only portioned out) for lunches. But I am in love with this idea. I need to work out some ideas, but I am totally giving this a shot! It might take me a little longer as I would need to prep at least 5 meals, but still!! THANKS for sharing.

  7. Awesome post! I need to direct Aaron here to give him ideas. Bwahahaha!

    But seriously, I'm going to try that egg bake - it looks delish and I've been very lazy with my breakfasts lately (just eating protein bars).

  8. that is really really awesome and honsetly doesn't take that much time. i need to do this so i can start eating healthy and it saves time!

  9. I do breakfast prep for the week, but I like to cook at big when I get home from work, at leas two or three times. But my commute is less than 10 minutes, so I have e time. Lunches are typically leftovers from dinner the big before,

  10. Holy Christ on a Bike!!! I was sweating bullets just reading all this!!! Me + Cooking = Hell No!!!!

  11. I think you have inspired me to make more stuff at home. While I generally cook every night, I am all about convenience (canned enchilada sauce, packets of taco seasoning, cream of chicken soup (so so bad, I know).

    My days aren't as long as yours so I don't necessarily need to do as much weekend prep, but I think I could be better about not using so much processed shit.

  12. I love that you meal plan. I find it so annoying at the time, but love the time saver the rest of the week!

  13. So bad about this...not even thinking more than a day or two ahead of time. Thanks for the inspiration and maybe something to look forward to when I get by booty in gear, lol!

  14. Wow, you are seriously a great cook, and so healthy. Since you're done so quickly, I think you have time to come over to my house and whip up a few meals...


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