We eat a lot of food.
I’ve noticed that when I take the time to plan out meals, everything in our lives flows better. Mornings are magically possible because there are easy lunches to be grabbed. Tempers fray less when everyone is fed. I fret less about training because I know I’m well-fuelled (and when I fret less, the rest of the family is happier too). At the end of the day, when we get home, we can relax and enjoy each others’ company rather than falling into the “we are too hungry to be civil and have no idea what to eat and really don’t care if it’s nutritious because we’re starving” trap. Weeks in which we lurch from one day to the next, not knowing what will be available to eat, are precarious times.
Preparing enough for three people with divergent likes and needs is tricky. Over the past couple of years, I’ve developed a system that works pretty well. It can be varied according to taste, but it covers the basics.
Note: breakfasts aren’t in here because we more or less have eggs or steak and eggs in the morning. The protein oatmeal is our fallback when out of eggs.
Before you start:
- If you don’t have enough containers for food, buy some. Get the glass ones, where possible (although I send plastic to school with kids).
- Run the dishwasher. Make sure all the dirty lunchtubs you can find are in it.
- Clear prep space. Sharpen knives.
- Make sure you have the ingredients you’ll need. Keep staples on hand. Including parchment paper – it saves on cleanup.
- Pick two good carbohydrate sources of the sort that prepare well in advance.
- One can be rice or potatoes or rice noodles or some other high-glycemic index carb. (Pasta fits this category, but try to go for whole foods where possible, rather than dough-based.)
- The other should be more complex, like sweet potatoes or quinoa.
- There should be something in the selection that each family member likes.
- Set both of these cooking.
- I put rice in the rice cooker while…. (this week it’s Jasmine rice)
- …..chopping and roasting sweet potatoes. (400F, tossed in olive oil and chili powder)
Get these started first and leave them cooking while you move on to the meat.
- Pick two to three meat-based dishes from different types of animals
- ground lamb was on sale this week. So was chicken. I’ll pick up salmon and cod tomorrow to prepare for later in the week.
- chicken – this week I made “Lord of the Wings” from chicken thighs
- this cooks at the same temperature as the sweet potatoes, so I threw it together and tossed it into the oven along with the yams
- lamb burger patties – after the chicken went in the oven, I mixed up 3lbs of lamb with feta and garlic and froze a trayful of 12 patties for use during the week. When I cook them for supper, I will cook extras for lunch the next day.
- beef – ginger-beef stir-fry with baby bok choy – reheats well (stir-fry sauce: 2tbsp ground ginger, 2tbsp soy sauce, 2 tbsp honey, 1/4c cider vinegar, water to taste)
Some weeks I prepare roasted veggies of all sorts. The week I simply gathered a large number of assorted salad and raw components to throw together in whatever combination each person wanted this week. These include:
- salad greens – assorted (spinach and lettuce)
- peppers, chopped
- zucchini chunks
- slivered almonds
- walnut pieces
- cashew pieces
- homemade salad dressing (balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and a dash of honey)
I will also steam up broccoli and Swiss chard as needed at supertimes.
- there are fruit and chopped veggies
- nuts are in the fridge or cupboard
- frozen fruit kept on-hand for smoothies (with protein powder)
- I portion up instant oats, protein powder, and dried berries for just-add-hot-water sustenance (1/3c oats, 1 scoop protein, 2-3 tbsp berries, shredded unsweetened coconut optional)
In the mornings, I can put sweet potatoes and chicken together, and package up stir-fry with or without rice.
Salads could be eaten with sweet potatoes or chicken chopped up.
Lamb burgers are waiting for when we get home and cook on the grill in a few minutes. They go with salad or yams or broccoli.
There are other things to be cooked later in the week, but this should get us through the first two to three days. Organizing it like this allows me to mix and match for lunches. It also lets me put together meals of different arrangements for before and after training (I like most of my higher-glycemic carbs after). Plus individual tastes can be accommodated without too much hassle.
Total prep and cooking time: about an hour and a half
Time and mental stress saved during the week: exponentially more
Food quality and taste: excellent