My freezer currently looks like the Single Lady(TM) section of the grocery store. I have about a month’s worth (maybe more) of meals portioned into single-serving sized dishes for easy cooking and baking to cut down on time. To do this, it required several hours of make-ahead time during the weekend, and a fantastic beau to execute the actual cooking of most of this stuff.

Food prep is essential if you’re busy. Whether you’ve got a high-demand career, a bunch of anklebiters running around, or if you’re insane and decided to do grad school full time while working full time, food prep will help your stress levels, save you money, and will help you eat HEALTHY in a pinch. Most importantly for me, food prep helps me eat allergy-free when I’m low on time.

Anyway, I’m not here to convince you to do food prep. Okay, maybe I am a little bit because I continuously hear “I don’t have time to eat healthy”. Listen, if *I* have time to eat healthy, so do you. Also, I have a month’s (or more) worth of meals in the freezer and it cost around $100. I even bought organic and local. So I challenge anybody who thinks it’s too time consuming or expensive to eat healthy. You can do it!

I’ll get off my soapbox now and share with you some of the things I’ve been eating that we made ahead of time.

I dug up my Foolproof Granola Bar recipe and made some allergy-free granola bars with Enjoy Life flax cereal and some of their nut-free trail mix. I used sunflower butter, coconut oil, and honey as well. I put these in a pan, then cut them into single-serving sized bars and then put them in a baggie that I keep in the refrigerator at work.

granolabars

This next entire dish isn’t freezable, but the vegetable hash is. I made two big batches of this sweet potato hash to put in the freezer. What I like best about this recipe is that I can make it with tofu (and then it’s vegan!) and eat it on the go, or I can omit the tofu and have it as a side. This combo works for breakfast, lunch, or dinner too.

hash

This next meal isn’t a make-ahead deal, but it is so easy that it might as well be. I’ve showed you this egg bake before, but I have been eating egg bakes for breakfast like gangbusters. It’s just 2 slices of bacon, a handful of spinach, and two eggs — OR — you can use the hash from above instead of bacon and make it a vegetarian option. Delicious both ways — I’ve done both. Funny story: this weekend Mark made an egg bake for us and our friends Stephanie and Amanda, and we got FIVE twin eggs (click it because I took a vidya of it!). The eggs Mark was crackin’ were organic too. Something must be in the water up north …

eggbake

So, this next thing isn’t super healthy, but you know what? We can’t protein-, fiber-, low-fat-ify everything. I noticed I was eating a bakery item from my local coffee shop pretty regularly. Besides the fact that I shouldn’t spend the money, I really didn’t need to be eating a baked good that might include allergens AND was made with ingredients I probably wouldn’t use at home. Instead, I decided to take matters into my own hands and make MY OWN chocolate chip scones. I used this recipe from Spoon Fork Bacon, and I froze the dough individually on a cookie sheet before putting all my dough balls in a freezer bag. I pop one of these into my toaster oven for a fresh scone. YUM.

scones

What’s a scone without tea? No good, that’s what. Just kidding, but seriously. I like my tea, and I absolutely love chai, but since I found out I’m allergic to ginger, I’ve not been drinking chai. However, Crunchy Betty has a fantastic guide to making your own chai, so I’ve been letting a pot of chai spices simmer all weekend when I’m home. Nothing like a fresh cup of chai! This isn’t really food prep, but I thought it was worth mentioning because one batch of this can simmer spices into several cups of water, so I obviously reuse this until it’s clear and spiceless (because that’s how I roll).

chai

And hey, chai is a great segue into Indian food. I discovered all my stupid food allergies about the time I fell in love with Indian food, which is comprised of most of my allergens. My roommate taught me a quick way to make dhal (which she said is basically lentils, some veggies, and a bunch of spices), so I’ve made several pots of it myself after perfecting my recipe. I’ve even made sag paneer to go on the side. And now my freezer is FULL of Indian food.

dhal

allergy-free dhal

Ingredients

  • 3 T coconut oil
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium to large sweet potato, cut into 1/2-1-inch cubes
  • 1 t cumin seeds (toasted!)
  • 1 t ground coriander
  • 2 t turmeric
  • 1 t garam marsala
  • 3 T curry (I used yellow curry — no onion or ginger powder)
  • 1/2 t black pepper
  • 1/4 t cayenne pepper
  • 5-6 c water
  • 2 1/2 c lentils (RINSED thoroughly)

Instructions

  1. Rinse your lentils until the water is no longer murky and no more bubbles appear. This is important because there is saponin on the outside of the lentils, which is toxic, and could make you sick (or worse — develop food allergies like me!).
  2. Place lentils in a large pan with 5-6 c water. I like to use more water as I can always boil it out later. Heat on medium-hot until lentils are cooked (water should be mostly absorbed).
  3. Melt oil in a large saucepan over medium.
  4. Add garlic and sweet potato. Cook for 10-15 minutes until sweet potato is cooked and lentils are mostly done.
  5. Add remaining ingredients to the sweet potato mixture. Incorporate thoroughly. Cook for 5-6 more minutes.
  6. Add sweet potato spice mixture to lentils, and stir to incorporate.
  7. Remove from heat and garnish with fresh cilantro.
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Going with the theme of ethnic foods I love but am allergic to, we also made enchiladas. Mark made this sauce from ancho chiles (next time we’re just getting ancho paste because damn that was a pain in the butt!). I didn’t actually make real enchiladas, but stacked the ingredients kind of like a lasagna: sauce, tortilla (instead of noodles), meat, cheese, repeat. I made a bunch of little dishes of enchiladasagna (that’s a word now), froze, and then baked at 350° for 10-15 minutes until the cheese was melted. These work well in the microwave too.

enchiladasSAUCE

enchiladasMEAT

enchiladasCHEESE

enchiladasFINALbeforebaking

enchiladasFINAL

Mark also made me a large batch of my beef and broccoli stir fry.

stirfry

Finally, Mark roasted some turkey and I made this fantastic mushroom wine gravy to go with it. We kind of followed this recipe, but not really. Delicious.

chicken

And that’s it. I’ve been eating quite well even though I haven’t cooked in weeks. :)

//

Have you ever tried food prep?

OR

What do you do when you’re busy to help cut down on stress or time?

Linking up with What I Ate Wednesday over at Peas and Crayons.

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3 Responses to How to Food Prep like a PRO.

  1. Keep these food prep posts coming! I am currently trying to make my food last until Wednesday when I leave to stay at Tony’s for spring break. I am getting SO low on groceries. But, I kinda want to prove to myself that I can get by on the bare minimum. That might mean cereal for dinner one or two nights, but I think I can manage.

    A question: do you buy all local meats, dairy, eggs? What about organic produce? I am trying to buy most of my meat and dairy organic, but it’s expensive. To cut the costs, I have cut down my consumption of meat by A LOT. I signed up for a CSA for the spring/summer, so that will fill in my want for organic produce.
    Kate Emmenegger recently posted..Taking Back MyselfMy Profile

    • chimes says:

      Can’t remember if I responded to you on this or not. Sorry this has taken so long! Blog is at the bottom of my list right now (you know how that goes!).

      I used to challenge myself to get by on the bare minimum when I had my first job out of college. I was getting paid well, but I had a lot of bills to pay. So instead of going to the store for the last week of the month (I got paid monthly), I forced myself to be creative with whatever I had. I don’t do this anymore as I don’t buy a lot of things ahead of time that aren’t for planned meals because I’m afraid of developing an allergy to things if I eat them too frequently. I used to always have tuna, eggs, and a few vegetables that keep longer (carrots, onion, celery — perhaps how I developed an allergy?) as well as some frozen things (chicken, veggies, fruit) and basic condiments in the fridge for that time of the month that I didn’t want to spend $.

      I shop at my local co-op for two reasons: most of my allergy-friendly stuff is there, and I don’t want to go to several places to get groceries (we used to do that and it was a pain). I guess by default all of my stuff is local and / or organic. It’s only 10% more expensive on average for most things I’ve found, but if you’re working on a budget, I don’t think it’s necessary to buy organic and local. You won’t be in college forever, and sometimes you’ll find deals on things. Maybe pick the things that make the most sense to you to get local or organic? For instance, I am picky about chickens and eggs, so even if I didn’t shop at the co-op, I would always buy free-range flax-fed local eggs if I could find them, or go without. On the flip side, I don’t really care where my pork comes from (I probably should, but I don’t), so I just get that from the regular grocery store because it’s super cheap.

  2. […] while back I made dhal, which is probably the easiest and cheapest meal I can think to make. Every batch costs around $5, […]

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