Meal Prep

NEW THING # 9:

MEEL PREP FOR THE WEEK

Over a year ago, I’ve made the switch towards healthier eating. Together with Michal, we’re trying to eat clean, meat-free, dairy-free, and any-type-of-added-sugar-free. Because of all that it’s just the easiest to cook most of your meals at home.

And it’s totally worth it. Because the impact it has on our moods, energy levels & general health is mind-blowing.
But here’s the downside: cooking every day takes a lot of time!

Even if we try to cook for 2 days at once, and we take turns with Michal, and we chose really simple recipes. It’s freaking time-consuming. It just is.
That’s why I decided to try something new: meal prep for the whole week.
I mean batching must be the answer, right?

I had two main benefits in mind: saving time due to batching and not losing my focus during the days when I don’t have to cook.

My Meal Prep Day Plan: 

So here’s what I did:

  • I saved the whole day just for that because I had no freaking clue how long it’s going to take. Also, I’m a pretty lousy cook – just wanted to get this out of the way so that you know what to expect here.
  • I planned to cook 3 plant-based, sugar-free meals: Shepard’s Pie, Creamy Broccoli Soup, Vegan Mac & Cheese.
  • I also added Simple Home-made Sauerkraut (because I’m Polish, duh!) and spontaneously I added last-minute Crepes with Vegan Nutella just because.

By the way, All the recipes are included at the end of this post.

Part 1: Cooking

Expectation: It’s fun, easy, something fully functional adults do & brag about – just the good stuff, no disadvantages. That’s why I felt quite guilty for not planning my meals.

Reality: It’s hard work, can get overwhelming & boring, takes quite some time and is not for everybody. Maybe I’m not good at adulting, but the cooking part of meal prep sucks!

I’m still glad I’ve tried it, though. I’ve learned a lot about myself & got some insights into how to do it better (for my specific situation at least).

So here’s what I’ve learned:

  • 1
    Although I tried to keep it simple, I overcomplicated it. I wanted to cook all my favorite dishes instead of simple stuff that uses a bunch of the same ingredients.
  • 2
    I approached it like a chore, and it felt like one. It felt heavy. I was overwhelmed & tired. What I’d do differently is to cook fewer dishes, take it slow, maybe do it as a part of family fun part of the day, listen to some music & don’t stress over getting it all done.
  • 3
    I realized that my meals are not as quick & easy to cook as I thought. As I usually only do one of them at a time it feels like it’s easy, but when meal-prepping I realized most of the dishes take around 1 hr to prepare. When I quickly searched for meal prep after I’ve done mine, I’ve learned that people do real quick meals. But It’s good to know as I can incorporate some of that to our eating routines.
  • 4
    Not everything other people are happy with has to work for me. And that’s okay. That what this all trying is about. I don’t enjoy cooking. I never did. I’m not particularly good at it. I only do it because I know it’s yummy & good for my health. So turning it into 6 hours marathon was not necessarily a great idea.  I probably should have started with half-marathon first. Oh, well!
  • 5
    I really wanted it to work. I could not see any downsides of meal planning & I’m still hoping to see all the advantages in the-eating-part. But because I was trying too much & forcing it to work, it didn’t feel right. My 3 reasons for trying new things are building courage, growing & having fun. But I think I’ve lost the last one in this challenge. So I know I need to pay more attention to including more excitement, spontaneity & silliness in the next new things I try.

After this whole thing, I was super glad I didn’t have to spend time in my kitchen for the next week or so.

Polish Sauerkraut

Polish Sauerkraut

Meal Prep results

Meal Prep results

Real-life Meal Prep

Part 2: Eating

All the food I cooked was gone in 4 days. Well, except sauerkraut that was fermenting for a few days (it turned out great, by the way). And I made the whole jar of it, so I’ll be still eating it for a while. However, after 4 days we needed to go back to cooking meals again. 

So here are my thoughts on the eating-the-food part of the meal prep.

UPSIDES:

  • We didn’t have to cook for four full days (both lunch & dinner). It felt good to be able to grab food out of the fridge without thinking what to cook. And obviously, I got my 6,5 hrs of cooking time back. 
  • No need to figure out what to eat. Which seems to be trivial, but really takes some mental effort & decision making power out of your day.
  • We didn’t have to clean the kitchen every day. And it’s a surprisingly significant benefit. It’s the same with all the pans, pots, and spoons. I left them in the dishwasher on Thursday & I didn’t have to use them for days.

DOWNSIDES

  • It gets a little bit boring because you eat what’s in the fridge, not necessarily what you’re craving for. But it’s also an advantage – no temptations.
  • We might have been eating a bit more because it was on hands. I’m not entirely sure. But probably packing meals in containers would be a good option to stick to the right amounts.
  • I got used to having food in the fridge and it felt bad once I didn’t. Somehow I thought it would last longer. Again, this was probably because I didn’t divide it into portions.

Part 3: Saving the Scraps

One more thing before you go. This is the bag of scraps that I gathered when cooking. I didn’t throw them away. I bagged & saved them in my freezer. 

This way, the scraps didn’t go to waste, and I can make the vegetable broth out of them later.
Seriously! It’s super easy. And can be used it for soups & sauces instead of artificial bouillon cubes. How awesome is that? 

In case you’re wondering: most of the veggie scraps will do – onions, carrots, leeks, celery, mushrooms, garlic skins, dill, parsley, etc.

  • The only thing you need to do differently is to wash all the veggies before you peel or chop them.
  • Then just keep them in the freezer, add more whenever you’re cooking until you have enough for a full pot.
  • Next cook that with water & some spices (garlic powder, black pepper, salt, rosemary, chili flakes, or whatever you like). Just bring it to boil & simmer for an hour or so.
  • Remove the veggies, strain if you need to & you’re done. I freeze mine in 2 cups portions so I can add to whatever I need it for easily.
  • You can enjoy your broth & feel good about it because you just did something good for your health & avoided wasting food!
broth from scraps

Was It Worth It?

I think I will not be repeating this size of the meal prep any time soon. However, I’ll give meal planning another try taking in all the learnings I have. I’ve got to make it simpler, smaller & portioned. That’s for sure. I believe half-marathon cooking for 3-4 days may still be an option for me. But I’m not sure about making it my go-to cooking strategy. I’ll see.

Not what you expected? I’m dying to know your experiences with meal prepping! 

Recipes I Used

Simple Home-made Polish Sauerkraut 


This is the recipe I got from my mom, which makes it a truly Polish Sauerkraut. It’s also super simple because my mother knows the level of my nonexisting cooking skills. So give it a try because it’s really good for your health. Especially in winter months.


Ingredients:

  • 1 head green cabbage
  • 2-3 shredded carrots (optional)
  • Salt

Instructions:

  • Slice the cabbage: Remove the outer leaves and the core of the cabbage. Slice the rest as finely as you can.
  • Transfer 1cm thick layer of cabbage to a big mixing bowl and sprinkle shredded carrots and salt. Add another layer of cabbage, carrots, and salt. Continue this until you run out of cabbage and carrots.
  • Squeeze, smash, and press the cabbage. My mum does it with your hands. Probably most people do. I like using the Vitamix tamper tool. But it’s totally up to you. The idea is to get the juices released.
  • Mix it: so that all the cabbage ribbons are covered in juice. Press the cabbage down with your fist (or tamper) until it is tightly packed. Put the lid on the bowl or cover the cabbage with a cloth or a plate.
  • Allow cabbage to ferment at room temperature for at least 4 days. Test the sauerkraut every day, mix it, and press down until it is sour enough for your liking. If it seems like there’s no juice to cover the cabbage, add a bit of water.

  • Once it tastes good, transfer it to the jar, store it in the refrigerator and enjoy for up to 6 months.

Shepard’s Pie


I use a recipe from the Plant’s Based on a Budget’s Meal Plan Week 2. I love most of their recipes and those meal plans come with the Shopping Lists, so it’s all super convenient. They seriously made our transition to plant-based diet easy peasy. But I also found that they use the same recipe in this blog post (just scroll down to November 19). In my version, I don’t use bouillon cubes, just substitute a bunch of spices like oregano, turmeric, pepper, dill, garlic powder, or whatever I have on hands.

Creamy Broccoli Soup 


This one I adjusted from the Plant’s Based on a Budget’s Meal Plan Week 2. However, mine uses way more veggies instead of the bouillon cubes.


Ingredients:

  • 1 diced onion
  • 1 tablespoon of minced garlic
  • 2 diced ribs of celery
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 large leek
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 8-9 potatoes (peeled & chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 bag of frozen broccoli
  • 2 cups other frozen green or white veggies (spinach, cauliflower, green peas, Brussel sprouts, etc.)
  • Spices: salt, pepper, red chili flakes, dill, garlic powder, onion powder, Tabasco
  • Optionally: 2 cups of veggie broth

Instructions:

  • Saute the onion, celery, garlic, and carrot for about 5 minutes.
  • Add water & all the other ingredients, and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are boiled.
  • Puree half of the soup in a blender and add it back to the soup.

Vegan Mac & Cheese


I tested quite a lot of Vegan Mac & Cheese recipes and I was not happy with a lot of them. Until I found this one from Minimalist Baker. It’s simple. No dairy. And it tastes amazing! I don’t do the roasted garlic part, though. I’m too lazy for that. I just add more minced garlic and it works for me.

Crepes with Vegan Nutella 


Crepes are Michal’s favorite meal so we had to find a way to make them dairy-free and sugar-free. And we did. So here it is.


Ingredients:


Crepes:

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/2 cups cold water
  • 1 cup soy or almond milk
  • 6 tablespoons oil
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon apple vinegar
  • pinch of salt

Sugar-free vegan Nutella

  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup frozen berries
  • 1 cup natural peanut butter (aim for no salt, no sugar added)
  • 3-4 tablespoons cocoa (unsweetened)
  • 2 dates
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
  • pinch of salt
  • optional: silky tofu

Instructions:

  • Nutella: Transfer all ingredients to a blender and blend on until creamy, scraping down sides as needed. You can as smooth as you want. I sometimes blend it on high to make it super smooth, and other days I just mix it a bit and leave it a bit crunchy.
  • Crepes: Place all ingredients in a blender and blend on high until completely smooth. Leave for few minutes
  • In a meanwhile, oil the nonstick frying pan and place over medium heat. Make sure it’s really hot. You can test it by placing a drop of batter on the pan.
  • Use the soup ladle to pour the batter on the pan. Swirl the pan while pouring the batter to make it distribute evenly on the whole bottom surface of the pan. Don’t worry if you don’t get it right away. It’s fine. Nobody does.
  • Carefully flip your crepe once they look crisp, the edges start to lift from the pan and you don’t see the steam anymore. Cook for 30 seconds on the other side & take it off the pan. It should slide off easily.
  • Repeat until you use all batter. Adjust by adding more water if the batter gets too thick and doesn’t want to spread easily on the pan.

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