Author Topic: Meal Prep Favorites  (Read 6083 times)

lunahsol

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Meal Prep Favorites
« on: May 07, 2015, 09:41:08 PM »
I love to cook . . . and like many of you, I do the majority of my cooking in large batches to make it easier for myself during busy times.  Inspired by recent chatter on another thread, I thought it might be fun for us to share our meal prep ideas and best practices. 

What are your proven strategies for feeding your freezer?  What kitchen tools can you not live without?  What is your favorite go-to recipe when you need to prepare a meal with what you have on hand?

For me, a high quality blender and pressure cooker are my main tools.  I eat a lot of beans, so the pressure cooker (Instant Pot) has been invaluable in saving time, money, and achieving good results cooking batches of dry beans.  I also love my enameled cast iron dutch oven.

My favorite meal to make for the freezer is curried red lentils.  It is so simple!  Just red lentils, water, half a small can of tomato paste and spices (curry, cumin, ginger, garlic) cooked together until mushy/done.  Then they go into containers for the freezer.  I can eat them with rice, naan, or with corn chips/tortillas.  Sometimes, I use the mash as a filling for taquitos with lettuce, avocado and homemade salsa.  They are a cheap and tasty protein with so many possible uses.

Please share your tips and meal ideas!  I look forward to learning some new tricks!

GreenSheep

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Re: Meal Prep Favorites
« Reply #1 on: May 07, 2015, 10:17:54 PM »
I do the same, and it saves me a lot of time and (I think) money. My Vitamix and food processor are two things I'd have a hard time living without. The Vitamix is expensive, but I got a refurbished one with free shipping, and I use it every single day, often several times a day. The food processor was $30 on Amazon and is a workhorse.

I don't waste money or space on little kitchen gadgets like a garlic press, etc. Most chefs will tell you that you don't need those things and that you can do better with just a good set of knives, etc.

I freeze a lot of things in ice cube trays... pre-juiced lemons and limes, homemade chia jam, sauces, etc. Once they're solid, I take them out of the ice cube tray and put them in a plastic bag. Then I have the right amount at my fingertips when I need it. (My ice cube tray holds 2 tablespoons per "hole," so it's easy to know how much I have.) I also make sure to label everything because I've learned the hard way that even if I'm sure I'll remember what something is, about 20% of the time I don't. I get fruits and veggies when they're in season and on sale, and I freeze them. Nothing like having cheap raspberries in December!

I am mostly vegan (I do eat honey, and I occasionally eat cheese or products made with milk or eggs when I'm out, but not at home), so most of you probably won't be very interested in my recipes. :-) Two of my go-to websites, though, are ohsheglows.com and mynewroots.com. Great recipes there for those who don't require meat in every meal or those who are willing to experiment with non-meat options.

Thanks for starting this thread! Looking forward to other ideas!

vagon

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Re: Meal Prep Favorites
« Reply #2 on: May 07, 2015, 11:52:36 PM »
Bolognese all the things: onion, garlic, tinned diced tomatoes, tomato paste, mince meat and water. Replace water with chicken//beef stock for extra flavour.
Good by itself with pasta, in shephard's pie and in lasagne. Add cumin, paprika and chilli and it become tex-mex filler.
We do a non-meat version with black beans replacing the mince meat that works especially well with the tex-mex.

Pressure cooker is also a fav. I'll freeze soups and stocks every time we make a batch.

PJ

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Re: Meal Prep Favorites
« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2015, 12:26:32 AM »
Tomato sauce, which can be made in endless combinations of spices, and with a variety of veggies and other additions.  Less frequently (but sometimes at the same time) use part of the sauce to make a veggie lasagna then cut up and freeze in individual portions.

Ditto on pots of rice with veg and lentils, or veg and split peas, or veg and tofu.  Can be served on their own, with extra fresh veg, with a stew or sauce, or with a veggie burger patty on top.  I don't bother to label them, just stick them in the freezer and see which one I pull out next.

Another common one is quiche, usually crustless.  Occasionally with a crust (if I've bought them for some special baking) or with a soft tortilla to line the pan.  A friend also makes mashed potato crust for quiche, which is yummy, but I haven't gotten around to trying to make it myself.  Anyway, I have a set of nesting quiche pans, so I'll tend to make a few in varying sizes, from individual serving size right up to a normal pie size, which usually gives me 4 servings. 

Ocelot

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Re: Meal Prep Favorites
« Reply #4 on: May 08, 2015, 01:43:00 AM »
Soup - cubed potato, onion, garlic and random additions of spinach/kale/corn/lentils/barley/kumara/carrot/capsicum/mushroom etc etc plus a rotating roster of spices, cover with water and leave in the slow cooker for a few hours before mashing and/or blending. So easy, you can use virtually anything you have lying around and it's always cheap and makes heaps. Eat it fresh, refrigerate for the next few days, freeze for longer or to store at work. Eat by itself, with noodles or pasta, add broccoli etc at the time of heating, add meat (if you're into that kind of thing), basically ridiculously versatile. 

mveill1

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Re: Meal Prep Favorites
« Reply #5 on: May 08, 2015, 05:20:20 AM »

Trifele

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Re: Meal Prep Favorites
« Reply #6 on: May 08, 2015, 05:39:21 AM »
X2 on the soup.  We make massive quantities.  DH eats a gazpacho-like creation cold nearly every day.  He food-processes tomatoes, peppers, cukes, kale, onion, and whatever else we have and adds a splash of wine vinegar and olive oil.  There is always a big container of it in our fridge.   
I like to make a hot minestrone-like soup with tomato, beans, potato, and any veg we have on hand in the crock pot. I freeze half and then take the other half to work for a week's worth of lunches. 
We use our freezer to death.  In the fall it is packed with vegetables from our garden, which we eat all winter and the next spring until the new year's garden starts bearing. 
Probably our favorite family meal is Burrito Night.  We put lots of fixings on the table and everyone can assemble their own using whatever shell/wrapper they prefer. 

Nickyd£g

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Re: Meal Prep Favorites
« Reply #7 on: May 08, 2015, 08:13:23 AM »
I meal prep most Sundays, and eat mostly primal/low carb.  I don't have any fancy gadgets, other than my blender which I use for smoothies once a week.  Otherwise, a good set of knives, some chopping boards, tupperware, pots, pans and my oven are it [I don't have a microwave].

I get a glass of red wine, turn on the radio to BBC 2 or youtube on my tablet and start chopping and mixing.  I tend to cook/prep all my lunches for the week and sometimes my breakfasts, if I make a sausage frittata.

Meals include:
Bolognese beef and courgette spaghetti
Chilli con carne and cauliflower rice
Beef Stroganoff and cauliflower rice
Chicken curry and cauliflower rice
Chunky vegetable Soups/Stews
Big ass salad - topped with roasted chicken or salmon, make up a bottle of salad dressing.

I will portion these out and if needed freeze, or just refridgerate.  Dinners tend to be really quick and easy, such as chicken breast or salmon fillet & steamed veggies, steak and a baked sweet potato and salad, lamb cutlets and cauliflower cheese.

It's not the cheapest diet, and is quite repetitive but I enjoy it and definitely feel better eating this way than I did when I ate a lot of bread/pasta/sugar.

Bracken_Joy

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Re: Meal Prep Favorites
« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2015, 08:27:21 AM »
I batch cook and freeze:
spaghetti (I just eat the very thick sauce like a stew, I don't eat pasta)
chili con carne
stewed apples with season fruit (rhubarb right now, cranberries in the fall, etc)
Shredded pork and cooked chicken in one-dinner size portions
Soup and stews (my favorite soup right now is the Budget Bytes Chicken Lime... can't get enough)


These are the main things that come to mind. I find batch cooking and freezing has been VITAL to me bringing my own lunch every day.

I hardly have any kitchen "gadgets", basically just knives and a cutting board. (Seriously, I don't even have a cheese grater. Or a toaster. Or a microwave.) The only "gadget" I have is a cordless stick blender. I make a lot of mayo, hollandaise, bleu cheese dressing, etc, and use it for this. Gets used nearly every day, sometimes multiple times a day.

MandalayVA

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Re: Meal Prep Favorites
« Reply #9 on: May 08, 2015, 08:41:18 AM »
Soups and stews.  And I'm thisclose to pulling the trigger on an Instant Pot, although I dearly love my slow cooker and enameled cast iron Dutch oven.

rocksinmyhead

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Re: Meal Prep Favorites
« Reply #10 on: May 08, 2015, 08:52:59 AM »
Crockpot all day. Nothing like it for turning cheap cuts of beef and pork into delectable meal components, or cooking beans from scratch!

gillstone

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Re: Meal Prep Favorites
« Reply #11 on: May 08, 2015, 08:58:01 AM »
Stock - lots and lots of stock.  From there I can put together a soup, a tasty bit of beans and rice, good lentils or a quick and dirty risotto.

Ham stock and turkey stock being my absolute favorites.

Amesenator

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Re: Meal Prep Favorites
« Reply #12 on: May 08, 2015, 06:47:51 PM »
@Nickyd£g, could you tell us more about how you make cauliflower rice? Is it like cauliflower mash in lieu of mashed potatoes?

lunahsol

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Re: Meal Prep Favorites
« Reply #13 on: May 08, 2015, 08:09:54 PM »
I freeze a lot of things in ice cube trays... pre-juiced lemons and limes, homemade chia jam, sauces, etc.

I am mostly vegan (I do eat honey, and I occasionally eat cheese or products made with milk or eggs when I'm out, but not at home), so most of you probably won't be very interested in my recipes. :-) Two of my go-to websites, though, are ohsheglows.com and mynewroots.com. Great recipes there for those who don't require meat in every meal or those who are willing to experiment with non-meat options.

I love the ice cube idea!  I just checked my cupboards to see if I have ice cube trays (I never make actual ice - lol) and am now planning things to make in them - lemon and lime juice especially, since I seem to go through plenty.  Maybe leftover salsa for individual portions? 

Thank you for the website recommendations!  My current favorite cooking blog is Beard & Bonnet (www.beardandbonnet.com) (also vegan/GF).

Also, I am looking to expand my repetoire with cauliflower.  Anyone have a proven cauliflower crust (like pizza crust) recipe?  I have seen several online, but also see comments that they come out watery.  What is a good one?

Thank you, everyone, for sharing your ideas
« Last Edit: May 08, 2015, 08:12:16 PM by lunahsol »

Oslo_gal

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Re: Meal Prep Favorites
« Reply #14 on: May 09, 2015, 05:19:12 AM »
I'm not as good with the big-batch-thing as I'd like to - especially since lunch at work is expensive. Most of the food I freeze is for lunch. I love cooking, and I'd rather just cook something simple one night if we're short on time. We love doing the middle eastern mezzo for dinner, and on weeknight, we just make a few simple dips (hummus, muhammara, tzatziki, aioli, baba ganoush..) with bread served along oven roasted vegetables sometimes. I also love the enamel cast iron thingies - they are so pretty and they make food better! One thing I totally disagree on is the garlic press - I love mine! We make a lot of dips with garlic in it, and having it properly minced is crucial. Buying a pressure cooker or slow cooker would be great, but they're not common here, and thus very expensive. While I'd love to cook more with dry beans, the long soaking/cooking time is discouraging. Does anyone freeze big batches of beans? Is it worth taking up freezer space when you can buy the canned kind? 

Bracken_Joy

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Re: Meal Prep Favorites
« Reply #15 on: May 09, 2015, 06:32:42 AM »
@Nickyd£g, could you tell us more about how you make cauliflower rice? Is it like cauliflower mash in lieu of mashed potatoes?

http://www.primalpalate.com/paleo-recipe/cauliflower-rice/

It works well as a potato substitute or a rice substitute. Much lower carb.

GreenSheep

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Re: Meal Prep Favorites
« Reply #16 on: May 09, 2015, 08:07:47 AM »
I love the ice cube idea!  I just checked my cupboards to see if I have ice cube trays (I never make actual ice - lol)

Thank you for the website recommendations!  My current favorite cooking blog is Beard & Bonnet (www.beardandbonnet.com) (also vegan/GF).

Haha, I never have actual ice, either! I never use it, and I always end up filling the icemaker portion of my freezer with food! (I don't know how entire families survive with just one normal-size freezer. I live alone, and my freezer is perpetually bursting at the seams, thanks to my habit of freezing leftovers to reduce the cooking workload for the next week or two.)

Thanks for the Beard & Bonnet recommendation. It looks great, and I've bookmarked it!

GreenSheep

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Re: Meal Prep Favorites
« Reply #17 on: May 09, 2015, 08:14:40 AM »
I'm not as good with the big-batch-thing as I'd like to - especially since lunch at work is expensive. Most of the food I freeze is for lunch. I love cooking, and I'd rather just cook something simple one night if we're short on time. We love doing the middle eastern mezzo for dinner, and on weeknight, we just make a few simple dips (hummus, muhammara, tzatziki, aioli, baba ganoush..) with bread served along oven roasted vegetables sometimes. I also love the enamel cast iron thingies - they are so pretty and they make food better! One thing I totally disagree on is the garlic press - I love mine! We make a lot of dips with garlic in it, and having it properly minced is crucial. Buying a pressure cooker or slow cooker would be great, but they're not common here, and thus very expensive. While I'd love to cook more with dry beans, the long soaking/cooking time is discouraging. Does anyone freeze big batches of beans? Is it worth taking up freezer space when you can buy the canned kind?

Yes! Cast iron FTW! My less-than-$30 skillet sees a ton of use, and it's better than any "non-stick" pan I've ever used.

http://www.amazon.com/Lodge-Cast-Iron-Skillet-L10SK3ASHH41B-12-Inch/dp/B00G2XGC88/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1431180603&sr=8-1&keywords=lodge+iron+skillet

I do freeze cooked beans, though not in huge batches. I just can't bring myself to spend several times as much on canned beans. I typically write up a list of what I'm going to eat for each meal for the next several days, make a grocery list based on that, and then plan out when I'm going to need to soak beans, defrost stuff, etc. in order to have them ready for cooking on the right day. It sounds like a lot of over-the-top effort, but I find that a little planning makes the rest of the week effortless. I've just never been the type who can come home from work, fling open the cabinets, and go, "Okay! What is there to eat around here!"

Oslo_gal

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Re: Meal Prep Favorites
« Reply #18 on: May 09, 2015, 01:42:02 PM »
Cast iron just has this way with caramelisation that non-sticks just can't replicate. I have some red Le creuset lookalikes, and I just always keep them out (I love them).

But yeah, I know it would get easier to incorporate dry beans if I was a bit better at planning out the whole week in terms of meals. We could definitely improve our meal planning! Still, I like to have some flexibility in my plans, and I think it's just as important to have a good stack of ingredients for quick and dirty meals on days where things don't go as planned. Like tomato soup made from canned tomatoes and whatever's in the cabinets/fridge (I often throw some - canned - butter beans in there). Ideally, we'd have some frozen soup/tomato sauce stashed away, but we don't have a microwave.. And summer is coming up, which means that I need to start thinking about making room in the freezer for fresh berries soon. There are wild berries all over the place here, and I do stock up on those like a crazy person :D

Amesenator

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Re: Meal Prep Favorites
« Reply #19 on: May 09, 2015, 06:29:43 PM »
@Bracken_Joy, thanks for posting the recipe - sounds delicious!