Tag Archives: food prep

Starting a food prep/cook day with a chronic illness

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Recently I was in a discussion about how I handle food prep and cook day to ensure I continue to eat healthy. It is so hard to function by the end of the day that it is easy to just order take out night after night or to skip eating all together. When my pain level rises I rarely am hungry. Having this day is not easy and it is an all day thing. Don’t expect to function much afterwards. Do expect a rise in your pain levels the first couple times you do it. I promise the more you do it, the more you put good healthy REAL food in you the better you will feel.
I think the best way to start is to go super easy. Lets start with Overnight oats for breakfast , egg and veggie muffins for snacking, Mason Jar salads, and what I call freezer meals. You are going to need a lot of mason jars for this but its the easiest thing to use and for some reason, the salads stay good for over five days in them. Not sure why. Probably some weird science thing.

Breakfast food grocery list

 

14 Mason jars with lids  1 large tub of Greek yogurt( ideally this would be plain but you can get away with vanilla) 1 pint blueberries and I think Blackberries are in season so 1 container of those 2 slightly under-ripe bananas Sliced almonds chia seeds Ground flaxseed Fat free milk(you can use any kind of milk , so almond milk coconut milk those are fine too) Old fashion oats Set out seven mason jars. In each mason jar pour 1/2 cup milk first, then add 1/3 cup greek yogurt, 1/3 cup oats, 2 tablespoons chia, 2 tablespoons flaxseed 1/2 cup fruit( you can mix or just do one fruit in each jar) I like blueberry banana . Bananas need to be sliced. 1/4 cup sliced almonds. Shake and put in fridge.

Snack Grocery list

1 dozen eggs

1 bag chopped kale

1 bag sliced mushrooms

Ground turmeric

ground ginger are a great boosting option to this, add to your taste.

Mix all in a bowl. Grease a muffin tin and pour mix in. Bake at 350 for twenty minutes. When done set aside let cool.  Two “muffins” can go in each zip-lock bag. A really smart friend then put her individual snack bags into a large zip-lock bag so they don’t all get lost and spread over the refrigerator

Lunch Grocery list

1 can chickpeas

1 can salmon or tuna

1 package Deli chicken strips

1 head of romaine

1 bag spinach

2 containers feta

sliced carrot sticks( like the little matchstick ones)

4 cucumbers diced bell peppers ( our store has them diced but sometimes i have to slice and dice them too)

Salad dressings of choice

Line up seven mason jars. In the bottom you are going to put your salad dressing. It is recommended to keep this to no more than two tablespoons Then comes your hard veggies, Carrot sticks, peppers, diced cucumbers(each salad should get roughly half a cucumber) Then comes the chickpeas, This is also where you add a meat choice here to mix it up or even some can tuna or salmon. I personally like the salmon. Then you can rotate Romaine and spinach add the feta last.

The snack eggs should be done by this time. Just set aside to cool.

Dinner freezer meals;If you prefer to use a toaster oven and avoid the microwave you are going to need small glass entree size containers. Otherwise glad or zip-lock entree containers are fine.

Dinner Shopping list

2 pounds chicken

1 pound fish

1 bag quinoa

1 container chicken broth(the less sodium more organic ones are the best option)

1 bag parsnips

about a pound of green beans

Sugar snap peas

1 head broccoli

1 bunch beets.

The easiest way I have found to cook this is on a cookie sheet wrap it in tin foil. Then wrap chicken with whatever seasonings you want in tinfoil. I set the chicken in the middle of a square of tinfoil then fold up and close it up. I typically just use garlic rosemary and lemon zest. Sometimes adding Turmeric as well. You can season each chicken breast seperately if you so choose. They will be cooking in tinfoil in their own juices. Repeat with fish of choice, my family will eat tilapia the easiest so that is what we use but you can use any white fish. Typically I just cook it with lemon and we top with parmesean . Slice the cauliflower and our favorite is to coat in coconut oil add some sea salt and some dill seed and thyme. Wrap it in tinfoil same as chicken folding it up. Slice the beets and add a tablespoon of oil of your choice really Wrap those in tinfoil the same way. Parsnips you can peel if you so desire we don’t normally. Same thing with tinfoil normally i just roll them in about two teaspoons of oil and sprinke sea salt on top. All this goes on baking sheet that was wrapped in tinfoil. Goes in the oven for an hour at 350. The tinfoil helps it all cook evenly and makes it so much easier to clean up after. Set four pots on the stove. Cook enough quinoa in the chicken broth for seven servings in pot one. In pot two go the green beans , pot three sugar snap peas and pot four broccoli. The veggies in the pot you are going to slightly undercook. When the meat and veggies are done in the oven take out and put on table. Well I put it on the table. Then put the pots next to it. Line up your seven entree dishes(gladware or glass) and put about 1/4 cup quinoa two veggie choices and a meat. Put top on and toss in freezer.

 

I only know how long it takes to thaw and heat in the microwave. If you can remember to take one out of the freezer in the morning and put it in the refrigerator that makes heat up time about five minutes. If you have it in the freezers no worries its about eight minutes. Of course this all depends on your microwave.

The first two times you may want to ask a friend to help you. Then you kinda find your rythm or groove or whatever and it goes faster; None of this is set in stone. Change up veggies for dinners as seasons change, same for fruits in overnight oats. There are tons and tons and tons of overnight oats and mason jar salads on Pinterest. The freezer meals I came up with several months back for my husband so he could have real food when he worked nights. Like I said with the salads they last up to ten days so you can easily do this for two weeks if that makes it easier.

DO plan for this to be a full days project.

It typically takes me from eight thirty am to about two thirty pm to complete and I normally am only capable of resting after that. I am pretty much spent for the day.

Then you can start exploring make ahead crock pot meals that you can freeze. So easy.with the same premise only these everything goes in prepped but not cooked in zip-lock freezer bags freeze it and then the same though of defrosting in fridge then dump the bag in crock pot. This would make it more family friendly. There are so many crock pot recipes on Pinterest I find it hard to believe you can’t make two weeks worth of food without someone getting bored of crock pot.

I did this entire thing for a friend of mine who also has fibro and she noticed a dramatic difference in less than a week.

Research the recipes you want to use and plan it out. I would recommend planning it on a different day than actually doing it. My brain can’t handle that much with chronic pain also going on.

I don’t like it, but I do it.

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It started in an attempt to make sure my husband ate healthier. At the time he had been eating oatmeal for breakfast and often ramen noodles for lunch and dinner. I had a genius idea to cook a lot at once and portion it out and freeze it for him to have better meals with all the work he has been doing to support our family.  Then one night I got home and I was just done. There was nothing in me to cook. We were out of milk so cereal wasn’t an option. I used two of his freezer meals and felt better about what my daughter and I ate for dinner. Soon after this I started working part-time. When I picked up my daughter she had been fed. I just had to feed myself. Cooking for one just does not appeal to me. Some weeks I go really crazy and prep lunches for my daughter and me plus the freezer dinners. One week was going to be really really busy so I even prepped breakfast.

Chronic illness takes so much from us, taking back my nutrition has been one way to fight back. True I do have to plan for most of the day to be spent cooking and prepping and resting. It really does take a lot out of me however, I have found it’s value far out weighs the energy spent doing it. When I first started doing it took me a lot longer. The more I have done it the more efficient I have gotten at it. This is what works for me. When I first started this was almost a six hour process for me.  I really don’t cook using exact measurements. The food you will have to use your sense of judgement of how much your family would eat. Some I know the amounts only because I was able to dig up Farmers market receipts and find the amounts I got. So if you are looking for exact measurements, this is not for you.  However, I do know that the more nutritious meals I can eat the more my body will thank me for it. The easier I can make it to get veggies and fruit in my diet the better I function. When I have complete meals like this ready,the less likely I am to resort to cereal for dinner or other crap, like pizza.

Here is how I do my food prep/cook days.

Grocery store list:

8 pounds of chicken

one head of cauliflower

1/2 lbs Green beans

Baby Carrots

Two sweet potatoes

1 lbs Parsnips

Quinoa

Brown Rice

 1 head of Broccoli

about 1/2 a lbs Sugar snap peas

2-3 Squash(whatever is in season) I normally stay with acorn or butternut squash as they will hold up the best.

Eggplant- I often get the baby eggplants as they are easier. I get between six to nine

Tin foil

Olive oil

If you don’t already have them Ziploc or Glad entree containers (this normally does about 12-14 individual dinners)

So then I come home and clean all the veggies. Turn the oven on to 350

Line two trays and two baking pans with tinfoil(this makes clean up simple) (and by the time I am done I need simple)

Place your chicken in one of the foil lined baking pans. Add olive oil and seasonings to your liking. I have found the best combo is garlic rosemary and sea salt.

 Toss the chicken in the oven and set the timer for an hour. It does best on a top rack.

Then in the other baking pan I place the cauliflower and baby eggplants  and sweet potatoes. Cover well with olive oil. We like to use garlic and dill on the cauliflower and garlic and salt on the eggplant. The sweet potatoes I individually wrap in foil and just toss a splash of olive oil and salt in with it.  This normally takes me about fifteen minutes and I toss it in with the chicken.

Next up are the parsnips and carrots. Peel and place on baking sheet. coat in olive oil and season. Again we tend to do garlic rosemary basil and salt.

Toss that baking sheet in.

Half the squash and de-seed it. sprinkle some cinnamon nutmeg and clove on it.  Slap it face down on the baking sheet lined with tinfoil and a bit of olive oil. Toss that baking sheet in.

Now go lay down. There should be about twenty minutes to thirty minutes left on the timer.  I sometimes cheat and just sit down and snip green beans.

The timer goes off.

Take out the parsnips and carrots first and set aside. The cauliflower and eggplants are also normally done. The sweet potatoes if the very center is still firm that is fine. Remember you will be microwaving them so they will finish cooking.

Check the chicken. Most of the time it is done but it could need a bit more.

On the stove you will need four pots.  In one you will mix brown rice and quinoa and set it to boiling. I normally save the kale and spinach pulp in my juices and toss that in with it. I make quite a bit but as usual I don’t normally measure it. I would approximate a cup of each. It will make a lot which is what you want.

Then the green beans and sugar snap peas and broccoli in the others. Cook them to just shy of being done.  This way when you microwave them later they finish cooking the last little bit and are perfect.

Now you can line up the gladware or ziplock containers. I throw about a tablespoon of quinoa rice mix in all of them. A chicken breast. Then two veggies. Mix how you wish.

Quinoa rice spinach and kale mix

Quinoa rice spinach and kale mix

Quinoa mix, chicken sweet potato and green beans

Quinoa mix, chicken sweet potato and green beans

Quinoa mix chicken and caulflower. I believe the carrots got lost under the caulflower

Quinoa mix chicken and caulflower. I believe the carrots got lost under the caulflower

Sugar snap peas caulflower chicken.

Sugar snap peas caulflower chicken.

Quinoa rice mix, parsnips and carrots and chicken.

Quinoa rice mix, parsnips and carrots and chicken.

Top and toss in the freezer.

Take out as needed.

For lunches I normally do a salad with some cubed ham or turkey shredded cheese, hard boiled egg and mandarin oranges. In ziplock bag, fried noodles  or a seed mix(pumpkin and Sunflower) then in small containers dish out a squirt or two of dressing. This keeps it from getting soggy.

For breakfasts we like to do a layer of greek yogurt a layer of granola a layer of fruit drizzled with honey sprinkle on some ground chia and then a shake of cinnamon. These stay good for about three to four days. For the other days I normally portion out oatmeal and mix in ground flaxseed, wheat germ and some cinnamon. Then all I have to do is add water.

Another meal I normally toss in the oven after all the food prep is brussel sprouts mushrooms onions baby carrots, minced garlic a  little lemon zest and olive oil then season with whatever you wish. Toss that all in some tinfoil and wrap closed. Toss THAT in the oven for about thirty minutes or so. Most of the time I just turn the oven off after thirty minutes and leave it in the oven. I normally have a bit of quinoa rice mix left over so I spread that on plates and top with the brussel sprouts mix.

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