Saturday, August 16, 2014

That Food Prep Lyfe

There are definitely plenty of blogs out there that detail the best ways to food prep for your nutrition/fitness needs - and I am not here to even try to break that down for anyone.

It's taken me years to figure out what works best for my body and activity level and it's still constantly changing.

All of that aside, my friend watched me food prep a few weeks ago and said I needed to make a tutorial about how I get everything done efficiently. After prepping today I realize I do a lot of things out of good habits that really help me save time and energy. Now I feel like I'm depriving the world of knowledge and I can't justify that any longer.

It takes me about one hour to completely food prep for a whole week of meals—and that includes clean up. Here's how:

1. Think about the time. I know this sounds simple, but as someone who can let an hour blow by while just looking at Youtube tutorials for bike cleaning at home, this is crucial. Know what time you're starting, know what time you'd like to be finished, and use your phone's timer to keep you on track from start to finish. This will bring a sense of intention and urgency to what you do. I also do this in my work life and it's the only way I know to live. It might sound like it would create anxiety, but it actually relaxes me because I know I'm not going to forget anything or get behind.

2. Start with a totally clean house—not just a clean kitchen. Most people can't cook in a dirty kitchen and I'm definitely one of those people, but I've also figured out cleaning my entire house (now, apartment) from top to bottom before going grocery shopping keeps me organized and cuts my time in half when I get home. It's also just a really great way to set the tone for my week and minimize distractions. If you meal prep on the weekend (highly recommended) this is a must. It takes me an hour and a half to clean - which I do as soon as I come home from my Saturday workout while I'm still sweaty and gross. Super details: During the 38 minute wash cycle (I use two washers - thanks laundry room), I clean my bathroom, kitchen, floors, and counters; during the hour drying cycle I line dry all my delicates, take a shower, pick out a cute grocery shopping outfit, plan my gym and office outfits for the week, set my dry cleaning and grocery bags by my door, make my lists, then change into gym clothes because who are we kidding have you met me?

*I wait to take my trash out until it's full of all my scraps after meal prep.

3. Make your grocery lists—and a plan. I make four grocery lists. Yes, four. One list is just menu items—a zoomed out look at everything I'll be cooking later so I can visualize what veggies can be substituted if I'm standing at the farmer's market and zucchini looks better than broccoli. The other three are for Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and Dupont Farmer's Market. Each have things I can't find at the other. I ride my bike to Dupont and Whole Foods because I can strap everything to my bike rack and because they have the most interchangeable items (like kim chi and non-corn fed eggs - micro rant: WHY are these SO HARD to find?), but Trader Joe's requires walking... or, especially if I'm cooking for friends, an uber ride home.

4. Don't try to prep everything at once. I have a two-burner-max rule—I hardly ever turn on more than two of my stove burners at the same time. I know you think cooking 4 things at once will save you time, but it won't because...

5. Use the same skillet and large pot and you'll only have to wash one when it's time to clean up. I have a large skillet that I use to brown all my meat which I then section into waiting tupperwares - then it goes right back on the stove and I fill it up with a ton of whatever green vegetable of the week, and repeat with peppers or onions or mushrooms or whatever until I'm done. I chop veggies while I'm waiting for whatever's in the skillet to cook, so everything always looks like a conveyor belt and time isn't being wasted. While all of that is going on, I cook up a few baking sheets of veggies and hardboil a pot of eggs. As soon as they're done, I make a huge batch of quinoa in the same pot. I finish cooking everything in between waiting for the eggs or waiting for the quinoa. I finish peeling all the eggs, prepping my green monster and snack ziplocks, and washing all the dishes before the quinoa is even finished. Because I'm amazing. Boom, done.

6. Tupperware is stupid - so never store it. I hated storing tupperware and constantly searching for lost lids, so I just... stopped doing it. Now almost none of my tupperware ever finds itself in my cabinets. How? I bring home my week-worth of tupperware on Friday when I come home from work and throw it in the dishwasher that night—Saturday morning they're all clean and ready to go straight from the drying rack to the counter to be filled up before being stocked in the fridge. No stupid lids falling out of your cabinets at you ever again.

7. Pick something new every week. While a lot of the bases of my meals stay the same (hardboiled eggs, ground turkey, tuna steaks), you've got to switch it up. I don't care how much willpower you've got, if you get into a food rut, you won't eat the prepped meal you take to work with you. Trust me, when everyone asks you to join them for lunch and they're talking about hitting up a burger place, you're going to need to be able to convince yourself that even if your lunch won't be as delicious as a burger, it's still awesome and it'll be healthier. If you can't make that case for yourself (plus ignoring the added peer pressure of "come with us!" that I frequently cave to), you're setting yourself up for failure. So switch up your menu, figure out what sauces and proteins you love and which you don't.

8. You're right, I didn't prep dinner. While the above prep details breakfast (green monster and an egg), snacks (fruits and veggies ziplocks), lunch (big bowl of meat and veggies), I didn't mention dinner. That's because I enjoy cooking through the week AND I usually eat fish at night (you can't cook fish and store it for a week), so every morning I pop a steak from my freezer to my fridge so it thaws while I'm at work and cook it at night with veggies when I get home from the gym.

9. What about when I travel? If I get home from a trip on a Sunday night I can still get through my whole cleaning and food prepping routine in about 3 hours. If it's too late and I'm exhausted, I'll wing it on Monday. If you want something badly enough, etc.

10. How much do I spend? $60/week for one person. This seems like a lot but I get a ton of really great food and I think I'm worth it. Also I don't take time to look for sales so I'm sure I could be saving if I was trying a little harder.

I actually didn't set out to have ten items, but look at that! I hope this is helpful - and if not, I hope it's helpful in letting everyone see a glimpse at just how borderline obsessive compulsive I am. Happy prepping, kids!