How to meal prep for success

by Ashlee Harrison

First off, I truly believe meal prepping is the key to success in keeping true to my dietary lifestyle.  I set aside time each Sunday morning to prepare all of my meals (and my husbands meals) for the following week.  This time is my upmost priority.  It usually takes between 2.5-4 hours, depending on the week.  I spend approximately 2 hours grocery shopping (including travel time and time at the store, between two locations, Fred Meyer and Whole Foods).   When I started preparing foods each week I had NO idea how to start or where to begin.  I didn’t consult any other blogs or outside help, this has all been my own trial and error, and figuring out what works best for me.  I slowly purchased more Tupperware each week, based on my needs, and now have a plentiful stock to accommodate my meals/snacks.  I must also give special credit and “thank you” to my husband, Christopher.  He shops with me each week, carries in groceries, and most of all helps with all the dishes!  He is an immense help, and we have both realized that this is our favorite time of the week together.  We listen to music, chat, and get to spend time together.  It really is fun!

My meal plan is custom tailored to my specific goals and needs as I am preparing to compete in my first figure competition.  I am going to do my best to explain what I do in my house for my husband, and myself but please do not copy my exact meals as a guide to what to eat for your own competition diet, if this is your goal.  I ask that you take this advice as a suggestion/guide to incorporate into your own diet plan.

A typical day for me looks like this:

·      Pre workout: green smoothie

·      Post workout: Protein Shake

·      “Breakfast”: cornmeal, almond butter, flax seed, berries, and soymilk.

·      Lunch: large green salad with quinoa, tofu, and oil free dressing.

·      Snack one (leg days): sweet potato, apple, and walnut bake.  Non-leg days: apple.

·      Snack two: protein shake

·      Dinner: Gardein chick’n scaloppini patties, sweet potato, and asparagus with nutritional yeast.

A typical day for Christopher:

·      Breakfast: Banana, bagel, Tofrutti (cream cheese spread) and coffee.

·      Lunch: large green salad, with chips and an apple.

·      Pre workout: protein shake and Larabar.

·      Dinner: large bowl of chili with potato or “other”.

My meal prep begins Sunday morning and I make all meals for that Sunday through Saturday.  I have several “meals” throughout the day, some of which include protein shakes and a green smoothie.  My green smoothie is made two at a time, so Sunday morning I make Monday and Tuesday morning’s smoothie, which is approximately 40-60 ounces.  I divide this into two shaker bottles and refrigerate.   I also make my post workout protein shake and my afternoon protein shake the day before.  I use glasses I purchased at Williams Sonoma for $4.95, they have a plastic lid, which I feel really keeps the air out and keeps my shakes fresh for up to two days.  These are the exceptions to my meal prep in the sense that I make my green smoothies throughout the week every two days, and my protein shakes are made each night for the following day.

When I begin cooking and assembling my food I pull out every item I am going to need and it stays on the counter from start to finish.  The first thing is I choose to do is cook everything that needs to be cooked. This way it has time to cool down before going in containers in the fridge.  I usually have sweet potatoes, asparagus (or broccoli), quinoa, and cornmeal.   I always start with sweet potatoes, as they take the longest.  Then put in the asparagus, start the rice cooker (quinoa), and then cornmeal (stove top).  I do have two ovens in my house, so I can do potatoes and asparagus simultaneously.  However, it isn’t much of a time difference if you only have one oven.   Still cook potatoes first and then cool the oven to 350 and trade for asparagus.

·      Sweet potatoes: peel, then dice.  Place on foil in baking dish (non-stick foil is optimal as then I don’t have to use any oil or spray), cook on 425 degrees for approximately 35-45 minutes.  I like my potatoes slightly undercooked as I reheat them in the oven prior to consuming for dinner.  Remove from oven and allow to completely cool.  I do portion out a container of sweet potatoes to make my snack protein shake in the afternoon (about 3 oz x 6 containers).  The rest get portioned into my dinner containers.

·      Asparagus: rinse, cut off ends, and cut in half (optional).  Season with garlic powder and place on cookie sheet lined with non-stick foil.  Bake on 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.  Remove and allow to completely cool.

·      Quinoa: I buy pre-rinsed quinoa and cook in my rice cooker.

·      Cornmeal: Needs a little more attention.  Cook according to brand.  I buy in bulk.  Bring to 6 cups of water to a boil with a dash of salt.  Add two cups of cornmeal and simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently.  This makes enough for my breakfast for a little more than six days (at ¾ cup for a serving).

As items are cooking/cooling I begin preparing my chopped veggies salads.  I chop all vegetables and place in dishes so that I can assemble our salads like going through an assembly line.  Salads can be as complex or as simple as you’d like.  I buy organic salad mix in plastic container, this saves a ton of time, as I don’t have to wash and prepare several heads of lettuce.   Our salads usually have carrots, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, peppers, and cilantro.  Occasionally my husband’s salads get pomegranate seeds, radishes, cucumber, beets, and pepper rings.  These items are merely dependent on his mood.   They do require a bit of extra prep time for cleaning and cutting, so take that into account with the more ingredients you want on your salad.  I have also found that cucumber adds extra moisture to the salad, which can wilt the lettuce and give sogginess to it that by day six can be kind of unappetizing. To keep the salad fresh for all six days I add a half sheet of paper towel to the bottom of the Tupperware container, and as I assemble the salads I allow them to “hang out” so to speak on the counter while I am continuing the rest of my meal prep.  This allows the lettuce to dry some if it’s a little wet, keeping the salad extra fresh.  It will take some time and practice to know exactly how much salad mix you will need, as well as how many veggies you should buy.  This is constantly evaluated by trial and error, and I have been doing this every week for six months, and I still don’t always get it right!  Don’t get discouraged if you buy too much/too little food.  This gives you a gauge for the very next week.  If you begin to eat a lot of the same foods over and over again it begins getting much easier to figure out how much of certain items you need to purchase.

My husband’s salads get Beyond Meat brand chicken added, and mine get quinoa and tofu.  I press my tofu for about an hour or so (usually while I am chopping veggies) then I sauté in a pan with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, garlic powder, and some Ms. Dash seasoning.  Allow cooling, and then measuring out desired amount to be placed on top of salads.  I also allow the quinoa to cool before measuring out the desire portion to add directly to my salads.

Prior to actually assembling my salads, I prepare my Crockpot meal for the week, which will be my husband’s dinners.  He usually picks chili, taco soup, minestrone soup, or spaghetti and “meat” balls.  These are EXTREMELY easy and save SOOOO much time during the week.   This week, for example, he chose chili (check out my awesome teammate Bonebreaker Barbell’s recipe!!!!) and each night he will make it a little bit different by toasting bread, putting it on top of a baked potato, or eating with chips to give it some variety.  I also keep chopped green onions, mushrooms and cilantro on hand to add freshness each night.

I then assemble my berries into one-cup size containers.  Pour my allotted amount of soymilk into ½ cup containers, and I bring my almond butter and flax seed in my lunch bag to be measured out and added to my breakfast when I am ready to eat it.

For dinner I line my containers with foil (so that it can be reheated in the oven and easily removed from the Tupperware and transferred to an oven safe plate), and place my measured out, pre-cooked potatoes and asparagus into the container.  Each night while I reheat my potatoes and asparagus I will cook my Gardein chick’n patties and serve at once (I do not pre-cook these patties because they are already pre-cooked and just need to be re-heated on the stove, plus it only takes about eight minutes).

Once my Crockpot dish is done cooking (usually long after meal prep has completed) I portion out into six containers and allow cooling prior to placing the fridge.

At this point, once all my meals are assembled I will make my smoothies and shakes for the following day.  Then viola! Done with meals for the next six days!

Preparing your weeks worth of meals is not hard, but it takes discipline, priority, and most of all practice!  Continue trying new things and new ideas and each week you will learn more and more about what works for you and what doesn’t.


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One Response to How to meal prep for success

  1. LJ January 15, 2014 at 12:23 am #

    Great advice! Straightforward and helpful!

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