Meal Prepping 101 / by lee tilghman

Meal Prepping. It's time consuming. It takes a lot of planning. But it's so worth it. How many times have you been so busy during the week that you find yourself going out for every meal or picking up something fast, not only spending excess money that you work so hard to make, but also compromising your diet?

When you prepare your own food, you are saving SO much money, and you are also giving yourself the gift of homemade, nourishing food and you know exactly what's going inside. 

I am super passionate about meal prepping and have been getting super into it lately, inspired by my fellow friend and coworker Sara Greenfield of The Fearless Fig. Sara and I love to meal prep together. I definitely suggest you do it with a friend, it makes it go by much quicker and then you can also get in that necessary girl time whilst doing something rad for yourself! Today I am so excited to share with you some of my favorite tips, pointers, and recipes when it comes to meal prepping.  

Assorted Salads for the week: roasted purple sweet potato, roasted cauliflower, falafel, black beans, quinoa, peas, grilled eggplant, roasted beets, tofu, massaged kale underneath (kale is a great meal prep trick- it's super hearty and actually tastes better the longer you let it soak. 

Assorted Salads for the week: roasted purple sweet potato, roasted cauliflower, falafel, black beans, quinoa, peas, grilled eggplant, roasted beets, tofu, massaged kale underneath (kale is a great meal prep trick- it's super hearty and actually tastes better the longer you let it soak. 

So, where do you get started? Well, first you need to find out what to eat!

What Do I cook?

That's a great question! Truth is, there is no "wrong" way to meal prep, however, there are a few key aspects of meal prepping that I take into account before menu planning.

What's In Season? First things first: eat with the seasons! I definitely suggest looking up your city/states local agriculture site to find the nearest farmer's market or at least a table to show you what's in season near you right now. Seasonal produce tastes the best and is the least expensive, too. 

What Do I Already Have in My Fridge?  Meal prepping is a great excuse to use leftovers or cook up something that's taking up a huge space in your fridge. Got a huge watermelon? Let's add it to a mint and tomato salad. Need to use up some lettuce? Let's make salad. Got a whole container of leftover brown rice pasta? Think pasta salad. Use what you already have before you go out and buy a bunch of stuff. Your wallet and your fridge will thank you. And your roomies, if you need to save fridge space! Get creative. Try new things. Meal prepping is fun!

What Have I Been Craving Lately/Wanting to Try? Meal prepping is an excellent time to make those new recipes that you've been dying to test. Usually during the week I'll screenshot any recipes I see online or on Instagram and save them to my 'favorites' folder so I can easily find them in my iPhoto library when I'm menu planning. Meal prep Sundays are a great time to try out that jackfruit stew, peanut butter kelp noodles, crispy sweet potato fries, or that crispy sesame tofu you never seemed to have time for. Think of Meal Prep Sundays as a time for you to get creative in the kitchen and dedicate a good chunk of the day to exploring your culinary side. 

Meal Prepping of Sundays Past. From top left: nori/quinoa rolls, sweet potato spiral fries/greens/avocado egg salad, chickpea fritters with cucumber salad

Meal Prepping of Sundays Past. From top left: nori/quinoa rolls, sweet potato spiral fries/greens/avocado egg salad, chickpea fritters with cucumber salad

What's going to last/transport the best to/from work? When meal prepping, it's important to use foods that will last at least 4-5 days in the fridge without getting wilted, soggy, or rancid. 3 days a week I work out of a client's office and the other two days I work from home or I'm running around going from meeting to meeting, so it's imperative I have food that will withstand travel. Plant-based foods are amazing since they don't go bad as fast. Think hearty things. 

Great foods for meal prepping:

  • cabbage
  • kale
  • sweet potato
  • roasted vegetables of any kind (broccoli, beats, cauliflower, carrots, onions)
  • red onion
  • quinoa
  • chickpeas, black beans, lentils, navy beans, peas
  • tofu
  • quinoa
  • oats
  • chia pudding 
  • brown rice
  • cucumber salad
  • soups (gazpachos, pea soup, asparagus mint)
  • soba noodles
  • brussels sprouts
  • microgreens (arugula)
  • baby carrots/broccoli

Today, I share 5 recipes from this past week's meal prep, pictured below. I also share my favorite afternoon snacks, since I am a huge snacker and usually eat every 2-3 hours. Lunch is normally my biggest meal of the day and is always a healthy balance of fats, carbohydrates and protein.

From the below photo I will place a variety of each meal into a separate glass container (I use Glasslock) for a healthy lunch or dinner every day this week. 

Recipes Below!

Recipes Below!

Quinoa Beet Salad

This hearty, please-all-your-friends salad is the perfect not-sad-desk-lunch to bring with you to work. It also makes a perfect dinner accompanied with some fresh fish or salad for a quick and easy dinner. I love bringing this salad with me to work- it's filling, the ingredients are always in season and so good for you. 

Ingredients:

  • 3 beets, roasted
  • 2 cups quinoa 
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans
  • scallions 
  • mint
  • Dressing:
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Wash and wrap your beets in foil and pop into the over at 375F for 45 minutes. While they are roasting, make quinoa, chop your scallions, and prepare your mint.
  2. Remove beets from the oven, peel off the skins then cut them into bite-sized pieces. Mix in with pecans, scallion, mint, and dressing.
  3. Top with avocado (if you are going to eat same day or next...or omit completely if you won't be eating this soon.)

Shaved Cauliflower Curry Salad

The shaved cauliflower salad is a favorite of mine. You can really get creative here and make all sorts of different dressings for any combination and flavor profile you like. Here, I add fresh farmer's market heirloom tomatoes with basil, and lightly toasted pumpkin seeds to bring in some nuttiness. The dressing really brings it all together. Cauliflower is one of my favorite weekly meal prep ingredients since it is so hearty and satisfying.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 head cauliflower, shaved
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted
  • 1 pint baby heirloom tomatoes, quartered
  • basil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Dressing:
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp lime juice
  • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Blend your dressing together and set aside.
  2. Shave cauliflower and add it into a big bowl with toasted pumpkin seeds, heirloom tomatoes and basil. Salt and pepper to taste.

Healthy Vegan Cookie Dough

You can find the recipe for my healthy cookie dough here.  It's super creamy, addictive and absolutely delicious. It's a perfect addition to yogurt, on top of rice cakes/toast, or just by the spoonful (definitely my favorite way of eating it). The recipe calls for vegan chocolate chips but feel free to omit those and use cacao nibs instead.  I usually eat some with breakfast or in the afternoon or right before bed. 

Soba Noodle Salad with Peas and Broccoli

Soba noodles are so good for meal prepping. Full of plant based protein and fiber, they are a much healthier alternative to pasta and go great in a variety of salads and soups.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup soba noodles
  • 1 head broccoli, chopped and blanched
  • 3/4 cup green peas
  • scallion
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds
  • dressing:
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 knob ginger
  • 2 tbsp coconut aminos
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 tbsp honey
  1. Cook the soba noodles, and when they are done, rinse under cold water and set aside.
  2. Blanch your broccoli. Then, add your soba noodles along with your peas, scallions, and sesame seeds.
  3. Add your dressing and you're peachy!

Asparagus Soup (Warm or Hot)

Ahhh, asparagus soup. This is my all-time favorite recipe, ever. You can enjoy it hot or cold. Lately I've been loving it cold as a mid-morning snack or along with my lunch-it's super creamy, thick, and so darn tasty. You're gonna love how quick it is to whip up!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 white onion
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1 pint veggie stock
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • hemp seeds for garnish (optional)
  1. Saute the onion in olive oil, salt and pepper. Add the broth and add the raw asparagus. Cover and let simmer until nice and tender.
  2. Blend everything in a high speed blender (except hemp seeds) for 1-2 minutes or until thick and creamy. Garnish with hemp seeds and put in mason jars for easy take-away soup!

Chickpea Zucchini Fritters

Ah, fritters. If you follow me on snapchat you KNOW how obsessed I am with these things lately. I make them 1-2 times a week and eat them every day. They are portable, filling and beautiful. You can add any herb combination you want. I always mix and match my ingredients but I pretty much always use chickpeas and zucchini. Feel free to swap out chickpeas for navy beans or black beans even. Also, mushrooms work great in place of zucchini if you are out. 

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz. can chickpeas
  • 1 large zucchini, spiralized (or shredded)
  • 1/4 beet, spiralized (or shredded)
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (I like to lightly toast mine to bring out the flavor)
  • 1 tbsp caraway seeds
  • fresh basil
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 white onion, chopped
  • 3 flax seed eggs (1 flax egg is 2 tbsp flax seed=1 tbsp water)
  • clove garlic, minced
  1. Prep your veggies. Mash your chickpeas with a potato masher or by hand. Or you can pulse them in a food processor for a few seconds. Then add them into a big bowl with your veggies, garlic, herbs, spices and seeds. Mix well, then add your flax egg. Mix with your hands until everything sticks together and you can make little burgers with your hands. If your ingredients are too wet add a 1/3 cup or so of oat flour (oat flour=ground up oats in a blender). 

Snacks

So now that we've got our meals under control, it's time to talk snacks. I am a huge believer in snacking. I know that everybody operates differently, but I am insulin resistant and need to eat every  2-3 hours. I always try to make sure I am prepared with a healthy snack by my side in case I get stuck somewhere and need some energy.

Health Ade Kombucha

Health-Ade is my all-time favorite booch brand there is. Period. They are made and bottled locally here in LA and use really unique flavors like Cayenne Cleanse, Pink Lady Apple, Ginger Lemon and Beet. I love the Ginger Lemon and Cayenne Cleanse.  I have one kombucha a day. It settles my stomach and leaves me feeling all tingly and good. Kombucha has a lot of probiotics which are good for your belly and your brain. I love my kombucha, it's a total addiction but I'd much rather be addicted to booch than coffee! I also just heard Health-Ade is now sold in some 7-11 stores and inside Trader's Joe's.

Go Macro

I'm obsessed with Go Macro bars. This is not a sponsored post, I'm just genuinely in love with them. I first heard about Go Macro last year from a friend who is really into fitness and working out, and recommended them to me because of their clean ingredient list and epic protein. I used to eat Clif bars back in college (2008-2012) and then I realized they were just loaded sugar bars. I recommend getting the Protein Pleasure flavors of Go Macro since they have the most protein. My favorite flavor is Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter and Coconut Almond Butter Chocolate Chip. All of the flavors are good though :) They are very satisfying and filling and I know I'm putting pure goodness into my body. Check out the summer macro bowl I made using a Go Macro bar here!

Carrots with Blanched Broccoli + Hummus

Simple is sometimes best-and you can't go wrong in terms of healthy snacking with simple organic hummus with veggies. This week I used baby carrots and leftover blanched broccoli from the Soba noodle dish. Other times, I use raw cauliflower, red or orange bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, celery, and radish. Sometimes if I am out of hummus I dip my veggies in some peanut butter or almond butter. 


As you can see, meal prepping is something that takes time but is SO worth it in the end. You will feel so accomplished and proud of yourself for cooking such nutritious, thoughtful, lovely and healthy food for your week. 

What's your favorite thing to batch cook?