Life gets busy. Sometimes we have easy weeks where we can bake all the treats we see on Pinterest, clean the house, spend an hour at the gym, and still get 9 hours of sleep every night; sometimes we have 1 million things to do and no time to spare. It is the weeks when the calendar glares with mighty red notes, appointments, and pen strokes that meal prepping becomes the key to success.
Preston is working overtime this week with a 12.5 hour shift plus an hour commute to the lab each way. He is not using his hectic schedule as an excuse to pick up drive-thru meals or consume frozen lunches. Instead, we prepped chicken, rice, and vegetables for a grab-n-go lunch.
We chose chicken because it is easy to cook in bulk, keeps and reheats well, and is a great source protein for the calories. Of course you can substitute many other proteins and vegan options: we happen to like chicken. Because Preston still needs 2,500 calories every day, we prepped batches of rice to create a complete meal in a Tupperware.
When you are thinking about your own meal prep consider a these key aspects to set you up for success.
Keep it simple. You are cooking a lot in one afternoon, so you don’t want to be overly involved. Stick with ingredients that are completed in a few steps so your meal prep doesn’t dominate your day off. We simply grilled the meat and set the rice cooker to on.
Keep it plain. Meal prepping provides a canvas that you can dress up throughout the week. Preston added taco seasoning to some Tupperwares and stir-fry mix to others. Chicken and rice are an excellent canvas because of the neutral flavors that can be mixed up with various sauces or seasonings. Even though you are eating the same meal, you can make it feel different all week long.
Keep it labeled. Measure out your food and then label the Tupperware so you can quickly grab and go. Make some of the Tupperware less calories and other more to remain flexible with your schedule. If you have a breakfast meeting one day, grab your lower calorie Tupperware to stay on track. Make sure you know exactly what is in your box.
Keep it fresh. Mark on your calendar when you made these meals so that you don’t end up with mystery boxes at the back of the fridge. The FDA recommends 3-4 days of fridge life for cooked meat and chicken. On that note, purchase ice packs (we found some at King Sooper’s for $1.50 a piece) to place in your lunch tote to keep your meals cold while you work.
Keep it enjoyable. Do you have microwave access or will this be eaten cold? Microwaves open up your options considerably, but cold meals can still be enjoyable. Chicken and rice can be eaten cold… we don’t mind it… but you may want to opt for a salad or sandwich version instead of rice; rice does tend to get crunchy and dry. Lettuce and bread will be soggy by the time you eat it, so keep these items separate from the chicken and meats. You can still assemble your lunch quickly when you are ready to eat.
Go forth and conquer your week, but stay on track with a meal prep!