Food Prep, Planning and Making Your Life Easier

A hearty welcome to Boston running coach Nicole on this beautiful Sunday morning! Nicole is one of my favorite Instagram friends, and I’ve been intrigued by her awesome food-prep skills every weekend. As a result, “google food prep” has been on my to-do list for over a month now. So it’s about time I learned more, and I thought you’d like to join me!

Hi All! My name is Nicole and I’m here as a guest to talk about food prep. Why is it important and how can it help you?

I started food prepping a couple of years ago when I realized that I was spending a lot of hands-on time in the kitchen every day. I seemed to be a slave to a constant circle of making lunches for the next day, then starting dinner, cleaning up, powering down for the night, going to work, lather, rinse, repeat. Since all of my training is done in the mornings before work, my time was being cut into in a major way. The options seemed slim. But then… food prep to the rescue!

Here’s what I do: once a week I plan out things I’m going to make. This is generally a mix of: breakfasts, lunches (just for me, mainly), a couple of dinners for both myself and hubby, and some quick night dinner items (eggs and greens anyone?). I do this before I go shopping, so I have a good idea of what the week ahead will look like.

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I like to get items I can use in a few ways. I also shop locally and seasonally, when I can. In the spring, summer and early fall, we have a CSA. Right now, we go to a winter farmer’s market on Saturdays. Here in New England, that means a lot of root vegetables and greens. Of course, I buy additional items at the grocery store as needed. Hey, the markets don’t have everything!

The items I prep will make lunches for the week, and also be used in the quick dinners. I always want all of my ingredients to be interchangeable too! So if I have a bunch of celery, it could go into a soup for a week night meal, get roasted along with other vegetables and topped on a salad for lunch, can be made into ants on a log (kids love these!) or eaten with hummus as a snack.

On a typical Sunday, I’ll spend about an hour or so prepping for the week. Then, it only takes me a few minutes every day to assemble the next day’s lunch!

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Here’s what I usually do: steam a bunch of vegetables in my steamer. This can be any combination of things, or a solo vegetable. I really love broccoli and green beans right now, but I am coming off of a cauliflower kick! Steaming is a really quick way to cook your vegetables without adding any fat while also retaining nutrients. Let’s be honest: I’d rather save my fat calories for delicious avocado!

I also massage a head of kale. Typically in any given week, I have a variety of greens in my fridge. Right now I have kale, swiss chard and baby spinach going. After trimming the thick stems from the kale, I wash the kale and spin it dry before adding a little olive or coconut oil and a pinch of salt. While my vegetables are steaming, I massage the kale until it’s wilted and soft. You can use it in omelets or as salad greens during the week.

(Side note: did you know you can also massage red cabbage? Yes you can! And it’s fantastic to add some crunch to a salad.)

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In the oven, I roast any root vegetables I have on hand. Right now, I like sweet potatoes, beets, parsnips and squash of any kind. This is a “set it and forget it” activity. I will also roast up some tofu or tempeh. If you eat chicken or other meats, you can prep these all at the same time. While the veggies and proteins are roasting, you can chop or prep any other items you’re going to be using for the week. Make some carrot and celery sticks and store them for crunchy snacks!

On the stove top, I hard boil 6 eggs at a time. The best way to do this: place eggs in a pan and cover with water. Bring just to a boil, then turn off water. Allow the eggs to sit for 9 minutes, then remove with tongs. They’ll keep in the shell in the fridge for a week.

In addition to the eggs, I also make 2 cups of quinoa (1 cup dry to 2 cups water will yield 2 cups cooked). I typically make a pound of beans once a month and then freeze in 2 cup portion sizes. Two cups is the same size as a can. I make this once and have beans for the month. You can also buy canned beans (just rinse well before storing in the fridge). Of course, this is a longer process.

I also make a few vegan overnight oats at a time, in small Ball jars. They’re the perfect size to take with you to work! I make mine with gluten free oats, flax or almond milk, chia seeds, hemp hearts, banana and cinnamon. Just line up your jars, fill them up and pop the lids on. Oh She Glows is an excellent resource for lots of variations on the overnight oat recipe.

Other extras that are fun to have on hand: hummus (store bought or homemade), tahini, nutritional yeast and some kind of hot sauce. Lately, I am completely obsessed with Post Punk Kitchen’s red hot tahini recipe. It’s great on pretty much everything – especially quinoa and beans!

And then you can just assemble as needed, and continue on about your week. Healthy and yummy food everyday!

Follow Nicole on Instagram and Twitter!

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