Ways to Meal Prep That Don’t Feel Like Meal Prep

It’s January. This tends to be the time of year that people start making lifestyle changes (usually in the hopes of losing weight). For busy people, meal prep is key to having healthy meals and snacks ready. However, it can take a lot of time to prepare large full meals. Many people make a day of “Meal Prep Sundays” or Mondays. Not everyone has the time for this.

I started my weight loss journey after I came home from studying abroad (though I lost weight while living in China). That’s how I started learning to cook. With no job or school I could spend all the time in the world cooking, experimenting, and getting inspiration from online and cooking shows. Now that I’m working toward medical school, working full-time, and (at one point) attending classes, I had to prioritize tasks other than meal prep.

My husband is a gym-junkie. He likes protein-heavy meals. This was quite an adjustment to cooking for him (high volume and high protein) versus myself (leaner, smaller meals). Over the years we’ve learned some tips and tricks for meal prep.

  1. Hard Boil Eggs

Boil a dozen (or fewer) eggs. This should take less than 20 minutes. These will be available throughout the week. Eat eggs whole for breakfast or a snack sprinkled with salt and pepper. Cut up eggs to eat on toast. Make egg salad.

2. Cheese, Meat, and Crackers with Fruits & Veggies

Starbucks sells “Bistro Boxes”, which I refer to as “adult lunchables.” Use cheese cubes, deli meats, crackers, and slice up fruit and vegetables. These make excellent lunches. I find them incredibly filling. I also love the ideas from College Nutritionist.

Is the Starbucks Protein Box Healthy? | Eat This Not That

3. Large Batch of Rice and/or Pasta

I make several cups worth of white rice in my rice cooker. Once cool, I place it in glass tupperware in the fridge. Egg noodles, spaghetti, and other pastas are also options. It makes dinner easier when the carbohydrate is ready to be reheated. My husband and I cook up some meat quickly in a pan and eat it with rice and a frozen veggie.

4. Frozen Meatballs

I started buying these to make super fast spaghetti and meatballs (spaghetti + frozen meatballs from the oven + a jar of spaghetti sauce). Pop them in the oven for 20-25 minutes and they’re done. Very little effort. I’ve found they also can be versatile to add as a protein into frozen Steamfresh meals, salads, or with the rice and pasta I’ve pre-cooked.

The point of meal prep is to save money, eat healthy, and often to cut down on the amount of cooking you do in a week. Find what works for you. Prepare slow cooker dinners and store in the freezer so you can toss dinner in the Crock Pot to cook all day. Meal prep breakfast if you’re someone who is always rushing out the door in the morning. There is nothing wrong with relying on pre-cooked or frozen foods to help you with faster and healthier meals. Finding easy, efficient ways to meal prep will help you with your goals!

Low Carb Philly Cheesesteak Meal Prep

Meal prep is pretty important when my attending doesn’t set aside any time for lunch. He built up the ability to skip meals for prolonged periods while working as an intern and resident. I haven’t had that experience, so I still experience human urges such as hunger. My Attending books patients during our half-hour lunch slot, so I usually need something quick and filling. Most of my meal preps follow a pattern of meat, vegetable, and grain. In this case I chose to leave out the grain. For meal prep more interested than rice, meat, and roasted veggie, I turn to mealpreponfleek.com.

Though it sounds fancy, low carb philly cheesesteak is really just all of the insides of the sandwich without the bread.

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces steak, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 medium bell pepper sliced
  • 1 medium onion sliced
  • 6 ounces portobello mushrooms sliced*
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 slices provolone cheese
  • salt & pepper

*I left these out because Boyfriend doesn’t like mushrooms, but I would keep them in if it was just for me.

Instructions:

1) Heat oil over medium heat. Add meat and cook for about 2 min. per side.

2) Add in onions and peppers and cook for about 3 minutes.

3) Add sliced mushroom, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper. Cook for about 3 more minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

4) Add provolone on top and cover the pan until the cheese melts.

I turned off the heat and covered the pan, which melted the cheese just fine without overcooking the meat.

Final Thoughts: I think the best part about this is the cheese. You get really flavorful meat and peppers, then that bit of creaminess from the melted provolone. What’s even better is that you really don’t need to pay much mind to the cooking times in the instructions. Brown the meat, soften the veggies, and melt the cheese. If you’ve cooked before, you can do it by eye and it only takes minutes. The best meal prep is the meal prep that doesn’t make me work hard.

Korean Beef Meal Prep

In my junior year of college, my best friend announced she was moving to South Korea. She didn’t speak the language and knew a little about the culture, but it was still quite sudden. When she came back, she could fluently speak Korean. She also came back with an extensive knowledge of Korean food. She started taking me with her to local places, ordering food that I hadn’t heard of in a language I can’t understand. Needless to say she helped develop a love of Korean food.

Every week I make a recipe to bring to lunch for work. When I found that one of my favorite bloggers had a recipe for Korean beef, I knew I had to try it. It’s a mock-bulgogi that has quickly become one of my favorite recipes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup rice
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups chopped spinach (I bought 2 bunches, but 3 might have been better.)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp Sriracha (I actually used gochujang- a Korean fermented chili paste.)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. ground beef (I always use venison of course)
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 tsp sesame seeds

You’ll need more spinach than you think.

Instructions:

1. In a large saucepan, cook rice according to the package. Set aside.

2. Boil the eggs to desired consistency. I prefer medium-hard boiled eggs.

3. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in the spinach until wilted.

 

 

4. In a small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, soy sauce, ginger, sesame oil, and Sriracha (or gochujang).

This sauce is super sticky. It will congeal if you don’t stir it every now and then.

5. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the garlic, and cook until fragrant. Add the ground beef and cook until browned. Make sure it crumbles, then drain the fat.

 

Basically up until you add the meat, the steps are the same as how you prepare the spinach.

6. Stir in the soy sauce mixture and green onions, allow to simmer for about 2 minutes.

I stirred the sauce prior to adding it into the meat.

7. Place the rice, eggs, spinach, and ground beef mixture into meal prep containers. Garnish with green onions and sesame seeds if desired.

I left the garnish off of the food, but added a little extra gochujang to the meat. It was the perfect meal.

Final Thoughts: My dad said this was his favorite lunch I’ve ever made. I was disappointed that I didn’t make enough spinach, but since I doubled the recipe, we had plenty of food. I could eat this every week for lunch. Slightly sweet and slightly spicy, all delicious.