Nothing beats packing your own lunch to work. The advantages are many. You save money, and possibly eat healthier. And of course, all your colleagues get to envy you as they say "You're so disciplined you actually pack your lunch all the time". While some of them really mean it, others are probably thinking "Oh goodness does this person have a life? Spends all weekend cooking". Well, the good news is you don't need to spend all weekend cooking and you can still have your home made goodness for lunch!
I love a home made lunch. A couple of months ago, I didn't get around to meal prepping, and I was so hungry during lunch time. The sandwiches at the office cafe didn't quite appeal to me so I settled for shortbread biscuit and a cup of tea. Oh dear! First off, the shortbread wasn't the original McVities shortbread. I'm convinced that's the best shortbread ever. Secondly, just think of all the calories in that meal - especially as I was still so hungry. So, each week, I try as much as possible to meal prep. Hopefully these tips below should help you become a pro as well in no time!
1. You have to want it: If you'd rather buy your lunch everyday, then it's okay to stop the reading at this point. Ok, please continue reading maybe we will change your mind or if not get to the end so you can do a good deed and share on social media for those who'll love to meal prep.
2. Plan: In secondary school, every week we had a new quote / inspirational message on the notice board. By far, one of the most popular ones was something along the lines of "He who fails to plan, plans to fail". Decide what day of the week is meal prep day. For most people, it's Saturday or Sunday. You also have to devote two to three hours. You also need to think about the meals you'll be cooking. Some people are happy to eat the same meal everyday, so they just cook one meal and that's all for the week. Initially, I used to try to prep four different kinds of meals, but that got rather tasking, so I now do three. I think that's pretty ideal. 3 different kind of meals spread over 5 days.
3. Invest in Appliances: Cooking can be pretty intense. But having the right gadgets and appliances make it a whole lot lighter! First off, I recommend a food processor. With that, you spend less time chopping, grating and generally prepping. It also does a whole lot more particularly in relation to Nigerian food. Other necessary applicants are Steamers, Fryers and Grills. That way you can literally be cooking different things all at the same time!
4. Pots, Pans and Meal Prep Bowls: Not to make appliances jealous, but these are pretty much as important. It's necessary to have a few pots of different sizes. Small medium and large. Pans and woks too. Finally, you don't want to be all done with cooking and realise you have no bowls. There are different kinds of meal prep bowls available and they're great because they help with portion control. The ones in the photo above are available on Amazon.
5. Your prep starts from shopping: You're essentially trying to be efficient. Initially, when I purchased beef from my butchers I'll go home and spend ages trying to slice it for stir fry or chop it as desired. I later realised the butchers could cut it anyway you wanted: chopped, minced, stripes. I also used to spend ages taking the skin off chicken (personal preference), but they could also do this for me as well. It might be worth checking out how much prep you can cut off while still in the market, and if you have to pay a little extra for already prepped items, it's probably worth it.
6. Cook in Bulk: Don't roll your eyes. I'm not asking you to cook for an army. I'm simply saying rather than grill just two mackerel fish to be used up in just one week, why not grill 5. The grilling time is essentially the same, and that way you can have extra for subsequent weeks.
7. 30 minute meals please: Some foods take a full hour or two or three (read Nigerian soups) to make. You don't want your meal plan to include three different kinds of such meals! If you have such a time consuming meal, you definitely need to include others that essentially take no less than 30 mins to prepare. And this is where sauces and stirfrys come in! They're such a huge life saver. Beef and veg stir fry. Chicken coconut sauce. Prawn and Shrimps. Bolognese sauce. Fish in tomato sauce. All of these essentially take less than 30 mins to prep and can be eaten with a variety of sides: Rice, Potatoes, Plantains, Beans.
8. An extra hand won't spoil the broth: I'm such an advocate for help in the kitchen. Particularly if you're cooking for a family and not just yourself. And more particularly if you have to wash up as well. Most people find cooking itself not to be the problem - but the washing up. So if there's anyone that can assist, be sure to ask!
9. Put the food away: 2.5 to 3 hours down, and your kitchen smells heavenly (we hope!). You're tempted to wipe your hands on the napkin, grab a drink and fall into the couch. Just one more thing to do I promise - serve the food in the bowls and put them away in the fridge. It's really important! You don't want to be rushing off to work (I assume everyone is always rushing off like me) and have to wait to serve your food. You simply want to open the fridge, grab one of the five bowls and head out!
10. Let food bloggers inspire you! : Instagram is the ultimate inspiration. You see people who actually make meal prep so easy and you get the best ideas and tips for food combinations. All photos in this post are from @foodace who inspires me and nails meal prepping all the time!! Thank you for permission to use your photos. Remember, why you shouldn't use people's photos (even those in google) without their permission?
Bonus Tip: If you're overly efficient, you can also prep your fruits, drinks, juices and smoothies. I haven't got around to doing that yet, but maybe soon.
Are you a fan of meal prepped lunches. Or is it one of those things you only admire from afar but actually never get around to doing? Or you just prefer to buy your lunch? What tips have I missed? Share your secrets.
Don't forget to share this post if you think people'll find it useful.
Ps: I'm one of those people who think everybody should be a Nigerian food enthusiast!! Can't wait till our food takes over the world.
ppS: Don't forget to include your veggies in your meal prep. I often forget and end up often buying a pack of ready-to-eat carrots.
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