Planning ahead is a major aspect of living a healthy lifestyle. From finding time for fitness to making sure you’re constantly fueling your body with good foods, it can be a bit overwhelming. The key to success, however, is getting organized and finding effective ways that allow you to keep moving forward.
When the opportunity came along to work with CourseHorse here in Denver, I was thrilled. CourseHorse is a discovery and booking tool for local lifestyle classes within your city ranging all the way from writing and photography to career building. When I saw they offered cooking classes that focused on meal planning, I knew I needed to learn more. I was lucky enough to work with one of the best chefs in Denver at The Seasoned Chef Cooking School and took away a few helpful tips!
Basics: What Is Meal Prep?
For those of you who are new to meal planning let me explain further. It’s basically any sort of food preparation that can be done in advance to help you save time. For me, this happens every Sunday night. I make a list of balanced meals to prepare for the week ahead and spend the afternoon in my kitchen [with a killer playlist of course]. When you plan and prepare nutritious meals in advance you are bound to stay on track throughout the week. Below are a few of my favorite takeaways from the class.
1. Make One Big Meal & Find Ways To Make It Taste Different
I always thought my meals had to be stupid simple because I wanted them to be healthy. As a 25 year old on a budget I didn’t have the resources to make anything extravagant, or so I thought. I learned that one big meal can create a variety of different meals if you plan for it. First you’ll want to choose your protein. Find something that’s within your budget and buy it in bulk. My go-to is chicken, but if you’re a vegetarian you can choose other sources such as beans or quinoa. Second, decide on 2-3 side dishes that would pair well with your protein. This could be steamed vegetables, a side salad or even a baked sweet potato. And lastly, choose a simple sauce or two that you can create with fresh ingredients. This will give you the ability to mix and match anything you combine above. These three components are guaranteed to give you nutritious value and a variety of options.
2. Write a list and stick to fresh ingredients
Going to the grocery store without a list is like going to the grocery store when you’re hungry, it never ends well for you or for your wallet. This is where the planning comes in. When you’ve figured out the meals you’ll be making for the week ahead, break down all the ingredients into categories such as dairy, grains, veggies, fruits, etc., and add how much you’ll need of that specific ingredient next to it. This will make for a quick and efficient shopping trip. Another good rule of thumb is to stick to fresh ingredients. I know it’s not always affordable to buy organic, but if you can, shop at your local farmers market for your produce. It tends to be locally grown and budget-friendly.
3. Make sure you have the right kitchen tools
Before you even begin preparing any of your meals make sure you have the tools you need to make everything that’s on your list. I can’t tell you how many times I forgot to think about this little detail in the past – Ex: Making cupcakes for a company bake sale at 9PM the night before and realizing I didn’t have a muffin pan. Fail. This ranges from cutting boards, to knives, pans and more. I’ve compiled a list of my must-have kitchen essentials for reference if you need it.
4. Mixing & Matching
Once you’ve prepared all of your meals, it’s time to mix and match. If you’re okay with eating the same thing everyday, go for it, but more often than not, you’ll want to switch things up a bit. This is where your sauces come in to play. They can truly make a difference. Like I said before, opt for fresh ingredients and don’t be a stranger to herbs and spices.
5. It takes the same amount of time to cook for 8 as it does for 4
If you’re already cooking a big meal for yourself or your family, try doubling it and eating it well into the week. It doesn’t take much longer to cook a few extra things and you’ll have some extra time on your hands.
If you’re interested in cooking classes in Denver or giving some of their other courses a try, head to their website and sign up to get the latest news and updates! Note that CourseHorse is currently in beta mode for Denver but classes will be available soon! Special thanks to CourseHorse