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:
- 1Although 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.
- 2I 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.
- 3I 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.
- 4Not 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!
- 5I 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Sugar-free vegan Nutella