Top 15 Meal Prep Tips

Meal prep!

When it comes to meal prepping, I have pretty much made every mistake possible. From leaving this raw to scorching that, I have learned a lot about preparing healthy, tasty food in bulk.

Here are some of my best tips:

  1. Plan the right number of meals, leaving some room for fun activities. For instance, I often overestimate the number of meals I need in a week. I think, I have school five days this week, which means five healthy lunches and five great snacks. But what I leave out is the fact that there might be free pizza on Tuesday, or drinks and board games on Friday. I’ve learned to look at my calendar carefully beforehand, or even cook one less meal than I should (and just buy something special one day of the week!). That way, nothing goes to waste.
  2. Write down cooking times! In the words of Shape magazine: Cooking multiple things, multiple ways, and for multiple times without a timer of some sort is a recipe for disaster, and you don’t want to waste time and money on burning up a chicken. Solution: Download a multi-timer app—there are lots for both iOS and Android. You can set, say, 40 minutes for acorn squash in the oven, 20 minutes for barley on the stove, and another 20 for that sauce in the fridge to set up.
  3. Stock up on spices. The bare minimum for me would be salt and pepper, garlic powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, and curry powder.
  4. Avoid pre-cut vegetables like the plague! They are so pricey, and you don’t get to choose the shape of the veggie. I love to cut my sweet potatoes in small cubes so they cook faster. When you buy in bulk, it’s fresher and much cheaper.
  5. Scour your kitchen for things that should be used up, and base your meal prep off of that. Extra lentils? Plan a lentil stew!
  6. Plan when which meals will be eaten. Delicate items like berries, zucchini noodles, and lettuce wraps will go bad sooner, so they should be gobbled up first. Heartier things like potatoes, grains, chili, and stew can last longer, so plan to eat those later in the week.
  7. Whatever takes the longest to cook, make that first. That way, the chili/stew/pulled pork can cook low and slow while you prepare other things, or clean the kitchen.
  8. Use glass containers or BPA-free plastic containers. I have a love-hate relationship with glass containers because they are heavy, but reheat well. Now, I do half in glass and another half in plastic, depending on what else I need to take to school that day (to avoid overpacking and making my backpack into a 10-kg dumbbell).
  9. Leave some freedom an wiggle room. Be sure to prep some treats. For me, I love yogurt with baked goods and nut butter as a satisfying snack or dessert.
  10. Make what you know you love. My favourite things to meal prep include Thai green curries with vegetables and rice or quinoa, bean chili topped with cheese, and sweet potato or pumpkin stew. As a result, I make these all the time and never seem to tire of them.
  11. Find recipes that look amazing, and stick to them, especially when you go to the grocery store. Whenever I go to the store before getting recipes, I end up with a bunch of ingredients that I don’t need, and they spoil. Now, I find recipes first, write out a shopping list, and stick to the list. This also helps with that #studentbudget.
  12. Pack a good balance of healthy carbs, fat, and protein. While plain, buttered gnocchi is absolutely delicious, be sure to add veggies and protein. Also, watch the portion sizes.
  13. Don’t. Dress. Your. Salad. Ahead. Of. Time.
  14. Save your recipes on your computer or write them down. If you love it, you’ll want to come back to it.
  15. Meal prep with some entertainment! Not going to lie, it isn’t very exciting to stand and chop peppers for an hour. Why not put on an upbeat (or sad, if that’s what you’re into) playlist? Or watch a TV show or movie? Or – my favourite – FaceTime a friend or family member to chat?

Hope these tips work for you, and have a beautiful, healthy, rest of the week!

These photos are from Google, and therefore not my own.

The Best Food Court Meal I’ve Ever Had

Hey, hey, hey! Quick update on everything, now that September is coming to a close.

Yes, I know that many of my previous posts were flashbacks to my short time at home in BC. And as much as I wish I was back in BC, chowing on croissants every morning, I’m actually living in Scarborough, a quiet, academic suburb of Toronto. You might remember the little tour post that I did of my room/bathroom/kitchen and my office at work.

Remember my day at SLXCA in downtown Toronto? On the same day, I went to the Kensington Market, where I stopped at Hibiscus Cafe and devoured this buckwheat crepe with brie, roasted apples, pecans, arugula, and avocado. Super beautiful, yes, but the flavours needed a little something (maybe pepper?).

IMG_0694

Most of my eats at home have been simple, but oh-so-delicious. This quiche was from the farmer’s market, and I’ve been purchasing one little one every week. Truly the best crust I’ve ever had.

IMG_0585

Soups have also been making regular appearances, along with scones.

I found out recently that the uwaterloolife Instagram account featured me! I’ve seen my paragliding photo from Nepal 2016 used in several University of Waterloo Study Abroad advertisements. I was thrilled to see this post, shared with me by a friend, since I don’t have my own Instagram.

Pumpkin seeds, guys! Why did it take me so long to fall in love with them?

IMG_0620

On a tragic note, I finished all my sunflower butter. I suppose that merits another trip to Trader Joe’s once I return to BC? 😏

IMG_0640

Life at the college has been good, too. My students, for the most part, have been incredibly dedicated, well-prepared, and ready to learn and work hard. Thank you ❤

IMG_0631

Check out this stunning stretch that I walk down, each time I go to the Dollarama, Bulk Barn, and Food Basics plaza. Gorgeous, right? I had no idea that Scarborough would be so dramatically different from downtown Toronto.

Dollarama is a lifesaver. I love my soft slippers and the Halloween decorations that I purchased for my office. It’s never too early for Halloween, if you ask me.

Now this! O-M-G (part 1). On Saturday, I visited Scarborough Town Centre, the local mall, where I enjoyed this amazing lunch from Naan&Kebab. You see, I was expecting a greasy, sticky mess with dry, hard pieces of chicken, and perhaps a couple limp leaves.

Nope, nope, nope. What did I get instead?

  • two generously-sized pieces of piping hot, toasted naan bread
  • a large helping of basmati rice cooked in savoury beef broth, mixed with shredded carrots and plenty of plump, juicy raisins
  • six large, tender, flavourful and spiced chunks of chicken
  • a creamy, rich, and spiced just-right chickpea stew
  • romaine lettuce, red cabbage, mixed vegetables, and two types of salsa, with a creamy spiced yogurt on top

For less than $12. I tried to save half for a future meal, but I knew after my first few bites that it wasn’t happening – it was too fresh and tasty, so I happily finished it all. Next time, I’m going to try the paneer version!

Sweet Jesus is pretty much a legend in Toronto. Everyone knows about it, and most people have tried it. Well, on Saturday, I got to see what the hype was all about. I chose the vanilla and chocolate swirl ice cream. A generous drizzle of Nutella was artfully drizzled on top of the soft serve, and the entire thing was coated in crunchy chopped pistachios and cornflakes. The soft serve itself reminded me of Costco ice cream. My only complaint is that it was physically hard to eat, simply because of the size of the ice cream compared to the size of the cup. It got pretty messy, but I should have asked for a larger cup, or at least some napkins.

IMG_0728

The same day, I cooked up a vegetarian chili for dinner.

Vegetarian Chili

Serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS

  • 1.5 tsp oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup chopped carrots
  • 1.5 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/3 cup chopped celery (I omitted since I didn’t find any)
  • 1 scant tbsp chili powder
  • 3/4 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes with liquid, chopped or crushed
  • 10+ oz kidney beans
  • 10+ oz black beans
  • 5+ oz whole kernel corn
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • black pepper
  • cayenne
  • cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 3/4 tsp dried basil

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Heat oil and saute all vegetables with chili powder. Add salt.
  2. Stir in tomatoes, kidney beans, black beans, and corn. Season with remaining spices. Stir in pumpkin.
  3. Boil, then reduce heat to medium.
  4. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally.

The chili itself was a winner! These are some of the topping ideas that I’ll be using next time. This time, I kept it simple with some shredded cheddar.

TOPPINGS

  • cheddar cheese (personal favourite)
  • sour cream, creme fraiche, or thick plain yogurt
  • lime
  • avocado
  • cornbread
  • rice

IMG_0739

I saw some kind of list about Top 10 Fall Soups (or something!), and had the urge to create a big pot of chicken and wild rice soup. Since I didn’t want to buy and cook chicken, I subbed in an entire carton of white mushrooms. I really enjoyed this soup, especially on the second day with extra salt.

Creamy Mushroom Wild Rice Soup

Serves 5

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 tbsp butter, or oil
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup diced carrot
  • white or cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • shallot
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup AP flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup cooked wild rice
  • 1/2 tsp dried parsley flakes
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • black pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat.
  2. Add onions, celery, and carrots. Cook until tender, about 7 mins. Add mushrooms and shallot.
  3. Stir in garlic clove. Cook for another minute, until fragrant. Add flour until dissolved.
  4. Slowly stir in milk, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring frequently until thickened. Add broth, wild rice, parsley, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Bring to a low boil. Reduce to simmer, cook for 30-40 minutes.
  6. Remove bay leaf.
  7. Serve!

IMG_0867

And that’s pretty much it for today! I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend.