Last week I wrote a blog introducing a new concept that I like to call ‘partial meal prepping’. Think of it as batch cooking’s more updated sister. It involves some of the initial steps of batch cooking: planning the week’s meals, shopping for ingredients and prepping these ingredients. But it stops there.
So rather than going to the effort of preparing entire meals ready for the week, meals are half-prepared to allow for the option of varying the meal depending on what you’re feeling on the day. This method is:
- Fun and flexible- eat more of what you want on any particular day
- Less overwhelming- no spending hours at a time cooking up big batches of food
- Still a time-saver- less time spent on cooking an entire meal each night from scratch, more time for other things
Wondering how you could apply this strategy, or what exactly to prep beforehand? Here are my top 5 foods to prepare for the week ahead, and lots of ideas on what to do with them…
Whether it’s rice, quinoa, pasta or cous cous, these can take a fair bit of time to cook. To make dinner prep a one-pot situation (where you only need to cook up the accompanying sauces or meats etc.), pre-cook your grains and store them in containers at the start of the week. Then they’re ready to use in all sorts of hot dishes, or can be added to salads to bulk them out and turn them into more of a meal than a side.
From a nutrition standpoint, this strategy is also a big winner because grains that have been cooked and cooled contain more ‘resistant starch’. This is a type of carbohydrate that fills us up but resists digestion, and helps to lower our sugar levels and improve our gut health. (Grains will last up to 4 days in the fridge)
2. Roast vegetables
Roasting vegetables can be a delicious way to bump up your daily veggie intake, but it can also be very time consuming. To save time during the week, chop up a variety of vegetables, spritz them with olive oil and chuck them in the oven to roast away. Then you can have them stashed in the fridge for use as a side dish, or they can be chucked in all sorts of main meals.
Some examples of meals that can include roasted vegetables are soups (e.g. roast pumpkin soup), curries (e.g. chickpea cauliflower curry), frittatas, or toss them together with some balsamic vinegar and pre-cooked grains to make a warm roast vegetable salad. (Veg will last up to 7 days in the fridge)
3. Boiled eggs
Eggs are very versatile, so having some boiled eggs in the fridge can be quite handy. They’re great for a satisfying snack on-the-go, and are an easy lunchbox filler, whether eaten plain or mashed up in a curried egg sandwich. As far as using them for mains, boiled eggs can be a nice addition to salads- think Caesar, potato or Nicoise salads. Or why not whip up a healthy and delicious Gado Gado? (Eggs will last up to 7 days in the fridge).
Hummus is one of my staples- it’s way more than a delicious dip to dunk crackers and carrot sticks in! For a seriously nutritious option, spend 10 minutes making your own, or if you haven’t got the time or equipment required (a processor/blender) grab one at the supermarket for ease. It can be a great addition to wraps and sandwiches, used as a salad dressing, a condiment for meat and roast vegetables, a pizza base sauce, a creamy addition to pumpkin soup, or anything that suits it’s Mediterranean flavour.
One of my favourite ways to use it is in vegetarian pasta dishes, which not only adds protein and iron in lieu of meat, but also tastes incredible! And because legumes sit in the vegetable category of our Australian Dietary Guidelines, being mostly chickpea-based, hummus can partially count towards your vegetable intake too. (Homemade hummus will last up to 4 days in the fridge, whereas store bought versions generally last longer).
Pre-cooking some chicken breasts and tenderloins for dinners means one less step required at the end of the work day. If you’re unsure how you’ll end up using them, cook them up in some olive oil without herbs or spices so that you can alter what flavours you use with them on the night. Then you’ve got loads of options- chuck them in a salad, curry, pasta dish, soup, or just add a little sauce (or hummus!) and pair them with your pre-cooked grains and roast vegetables, then dinner is sorted. (Chicken will last up to 4 days in the fridge)
For more ideas on how to incorporate healthy eating into you or your family’s busy lives, or to discuss eating for particular health concerns, book in to see me at the clinic here.