Ah, meal prepping. We've seen it everywhere — on blogs, Instagram accounts, even on TV talk shows. It's all the rage right now, and it seems like everyone is doing it. For many, meal prep seems intimidating. But take my word for it: It doesn't have to be a daunting task. In fact, I've found it to be quite simple and efficient.
To test out the craze, I did it myself. I first spoke with an expert to get her take on meal-prepping. Ashley Nichols is the owner of Back2Basics, a local service that focuses on getting more people to eat whole foods through cooking lessons, parties and meal-prep workshops. Nichols knows the ins and outs of meal prepping, so I knew I needed to get some tips from her before I experimented with meal prepping myself. Nichols' main piece of advice for beginners: Plan everything. For a first-timer, she suggested that I roast vegetables in the oven and cook chicken in a crockpot or skillet — an easy beginner meal.
I took this advice and headed to the grocery store. For this first session, I decided to focus on just one meal instead of prepping multiple meals for each day. I bought a pound of Brussels sprouts and one red onion. Because I wasn't cooking a grain, I bought three sweet potatoes to roast with the vegetables and give the meal more substance. There were many chicken options but to save time cutting up the breasts, I bought pre-sliced chicken breast. I spent a total of $15.15 at Lucky's Market. I already had the spices for my marinade, but if you don't, you will need olive oil, balsamic vinegar and Italian herb seasoning. These are common pantry items, which is why I took this route.
First thing's first. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. I started by preparing the chicken so it could marinate while I worked on the other ingredients. I added the sliced, raw pieces of chicken to a ziplock bag with two tablespoons of olive oil and two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Then, I added one tablespoon of the Italian herb seasoning, a pinch of salt and pepper. I put the bag in the fridge, and let it marinate for about an hour.
Next, I prepped the vegetables and sweet potatoes. I chopped everything and put them in a large bowl. I added two tablespoons of both the olive oil and the balsamic vinegar and also 1 1/2-2 tablespoons of the Italian herb seasoning. You can also salt and pepper everything to taste. I tossed the Brussels spouts and onion together and the sweet potatoes on their own. If you have a big enough bowl, though, you could certainly toss everything together.
Cook the vegetables and sweet potatoes on a baking sheet in the oven for 40 minutes, flipping halfway through. To cook the chicken, just dump the bag of marinated chicken into a skillet on the stove on medium heat. Continue to flip the pieces until fully cooked. Mine took about 10-15 minutes.
Overall, the prep time took about 20 minutes, and it took 40 minutes to cook everything. More than anything, meal prepping proves to be extremely helpful when running short on time during a busy week. Instead of resorting to eating out because I didn't have the time to cook, I could reheat my pre-made dinner and be on my way.
Give meal prepping a try. Even if you are skeptical, you just might benefit from it. There are plenty of meal-prepping resources out there, so you are bound to find something that works for you.
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