How I prep ingredients for effortless meals all week

I’ve been paying attention to my nutrition for around 10 years now (we just passed the anniversary of my emergency pre-cancerous gallbladder removal, which kinda spurred the whole thing). In that time, I’ve tried many dieting styles – keto, paleo, Whole30, low fat (see gallbladder removal), intermittent fasting, If It Fits Your Macros, and probably others that I’ve tried to forget. I’ve had coaches, I’ve worked with multiple Registered Dietitians, I’ve used templates, I’ve done it all. And if I’ve learned anything in these past 10 years, it’s that every diet style can work if you have the basics in place:

  1. Caloric Balance
  2. Macro Balance
  3. And CONSISTENCY

And today we’re focusing on that last one. Consistency. Without it, you are guaranteed to fail. I tell my clients all the time – it’s what you do most of the time that matters. Vacations can be really relaxed when it comes to nutrition and training if the rest of the time they ARE something you focus on. Having a date night meal out isn’t that big of a deal – even if you’re doing it pretty frequently – if the rest of your week and the rest of that day you’re prioritizing the right nutrition for you.

One of the biggest hurdles to consistency is an obvious one – lack of food preparedness. The answer to that is usually to meal prep everything on a Sunday, so you can just grab your food containers and go. I’ve done this too. And I think it works really well for a lot of people.

What I’ve found now, especially with spending a lot more time at home, is that I want a little more flexibility in what I’m eating. I don’t necessarily want to spend 30+ minutes making a full meal every time I need to eat (5+ times a day), but I do want some more creativity in putting things together.

So I ingredient prep.

Instead of either 1. The basic chicken/broccoli/rice meals or 2. Eating the same more elaborate meal every single day, I have a variety of foods prepped or cooked and ready to be used in my fridge in whatever way I choose in the moment. I can have a burrito bowl one day, and then fairly easily turn those ingredients into a sesame soy stir fry the next day, and a veggie-heavy pasta dish the day after.

This gives me more freedom to eat intuitively. The ingredients I prep are the ones I know sit well with me and give me the fuel I need to train. Because I can cook and eat them however I want, it helps decrease the urge to order takeout at every craving. Because I HATE wasting food, it also forces me to use up what’s in the fridge from our Misfit and Butcher Boxes. 

This will only get more important for me as we’re just a few days out from (finally) starting the soft opening process of a new brick-and-mortar business (shout out Victory Float Lounge, get on our mailing list for more info). It’ll pretty much just be the two of us taking care of – the float, both of our online coaching businesses, the house, and 4 (FOUR) dogs. Having food that’s ready to grab is going to be imperative, because otherwise we are both known to easily cave to pizza delivery that doesn’t make us feel or perform our best. 

This is the quick version of my ingredient prep process. I’ll do it throughout the week right now, but going forward it’ll be more like twice a week (days when I’m home with the dogs).

The List

Rice – we eat SO MUCH OF IT. Or really, the dogs and I eat so much of it. They all get it with every meal, and I rely on it heavily around my runs. I’ll make 3-4 cups at a time, in a well-loved rice cooker, usually every third day, and store it in the fridge. Can be eaten as is, can throw some cilantro and lime in for tacos or burrito bowls, can turn into fried rice. We buy huge bags of jasmine rice from Costco.

Chicken breast/Chicken thighs – I eat more chicken breast since I do better on a lower fat diet, but Casey loves chicken thighs. Sometimes he’ll grill a ton (the best option), otherwise I’ll pan cook or bake them, then chop them up to easily be added to stir frys, used on sandwiches, etc.

Ground beef – the best taco filling. I’ll cook 2 pounds at a time on the stovetop and drain a lot of the fat.

Roasted veggies – this is variable based on what we get in our boxes each week. Roasted broccoli is my FAVORITE. I’ll do asparagus (for like 8 minutes tops, it cooks quick), beets, carrots, whatever.

Braised greens – I love kale, collards, turnip greens, Swiss chard, all the leafy greens, and we get a lot of them. I’m more likely to eat them if they’re pre-cooked, so I’ll braise them in beef or chicken stock with some minced garlic. Can easily be added to any grain-based dishes or as a side.

Potatoes – I like to pre-boil potatoes that I can later pan-fry. Just cuts the cook time down immensely, and lets you add more herbs and spices to the potatoes without burning them with long cook times on the stove (have you had rosemary garlic pan roasted potatoes? You should).

Cleaned/chopped raw fruits and veg – for snacking or again, to cut down on prep time for cooking meals. We ALWAYS have cleaned mushrooms, chopped bell peppers, sliced strawberries, and clean blueberries/blackberries/raspberries in the fridge ready to go. As a rule, we clean everything as soon as it gets into the house. This was mostly a Covid-related change for me that will be a permanent fixture.

Prepped grains and legumes – I don’t always do this, but sometimes I just love cooked grains/legumes in salads or as sides. I’ll boil quinoa, lentils, and whatever else I have (like farro) all together, then just drain it and keep it in the fridge. Can easily be seasoned and used as a hearty, protein-filled alternative to rice. Complex carbs are king.

Fun stuff – I’ve recently rekindled my love of learning how to do things in the kitchen, so I’m experimenting with things like fermentation, canning, bread breaking (I know I’m behind the times on this one), gardening and preserving and on and on. So I like to have things like sauerkraut around to quickly add to my breakfasts! Can’t wait to get some chickens and fall greens popping up in the containers so this whole meal can be homemade!

Ultimately, this all needs to be catered to YOU. What foods can you not live without? Can you make them in advance, and then come up with new ways to season and combine them every day? The options are really endless!

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