Tag Archives: #mealprep

20-day diet prep plan: Day 3 — Ingredient prep

ingredient prep, + why i like it better than meal prep

how to chop an onion

If you didn’t get groceries yesterday, do that today. Doing ingredient prep before the first day of your new diet is probably the best thing you can do to start off strong. I like it better than prepping full meals, because it opens up more flexibility on a day-to-day basis. And it’s not as time-consuming on the front end, while still saving you time when you fix your meal.

You don’t have to do it all at once; do it over two or three sessions if that works better for you. Do you like company in the kitchen? Invite some! Prefer solitude? Put on your favorite music and tell everyone else to stay outta your way!

Ingredient prep suggestions:

  • Chop enough onions to last you two to three days. If you’re not already adept at dicing an onion, here’s a how-to from SimplyRecipes. Dicing onions would be a good thing to practice and get comfortable with, because this is the first step to just about every savory dish.

cubed roasted sweet potato - whole30, paleo

  • Nuke one or more sweet potatoes, and dice them.
  • If you’ll be using hamburger: Cook up some hamburger, and/or form it into individual patties; store both in the freezer. Divide the cooked hamburger into one- or two-serving baggies for quicker, easier thawing.

bacon-egg-salad-oh-500

  • If you’ll be using cooked chicken, and you didn’t buy it already cooked: Roast some, grill some, or cook some in the crockpot.  Divide the cooked chicken into one- or two-serving baggies for quicker, easier thawing.
  • If you’ll be using bacon: Cook a batch in the oven.
  • If there are any spice mixes you want to make, mix those up. (My taco seasoning mix.)
  • Hard boil some eggs, if you want to use them in your menus. (This handy glass egg timer ensures that your eggs are cooked just right, every time!)
  • Making salads? Make one or two salad dressings. (Scroll to the bottom of this post to find links to my sugar-free dressing recipes.)
  • Chop parsley and put it in a baggie in your freezer. Squeeze most of the air out. It keeps for weeks, and it’s easy to grab a tablespoon or a handful, as your recipe requires. No more chopping, no thawing needed.

Optional bonus task to start your new way of eating: If you’re doing Whole30, going Paleo, or drastically reducing the amount of sugar and carbs you’re accustomed to, you might want to subscribe to the Whole30 Daily – 31 days of support and encouragement in the form of daily emails ($14.95). Every day you’ll receive an email newsletter from Whole30, telling you what to expect at this point in your journey, and how to cope with it. I found it really helpful and encouraging, especially through the first two weeks, which can be rough!

Follow me on Instagram for more quick, easy healthy food ideas.

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ingredient prep, + why i like it better than meal prep

20-day diet prep plan: Day 6 – Plan your first week’s meals (and my flexible meal plan approach)

org-unimaginative-anne-taintor-770x270

Today’s basic task: Plan your meals and snacks for the first week.

And if you haven’t already, you might want to start eating protein with every meal. Just a suggestion.

For meal-planning-haters

Some people love to meal plan; some hate it. If you’re in the second camp, hang with me! I’ve tried having a detailed meal plan in the past, but I love my last-minute flexibility too much to conform to it all the time, so I’ve come up with a method that relieves me of some of the forethought, but leaves day-to-day options open.

NOT like this:

meal planning reality check

Nor can I handle meal prep like this…

#mealprep - lunches

I admire people who can, but that just ain’t me! I need something more flexible.

My sort-of, flexible meal plan

The way I plan my meals provides a balance between me having to figure out what to cook every single day, and providing some flexibility for day-before or day-of adjustments. My weeknight dinner plans look something like this:

Monday: Cook’s choice. I make whatever sounds good or easy that day, or something to use up any weekend leftovers. If I were going to make this more specific on a week-to-week basis, I would say — soup in the winter, salad in the summer

Tuesday: Chicken or pork. This is usually something that just gets stuck in the oven to roast — often with veggies on the same pan. If I were a crockpot kinda girl, I’d use the crockpot, too.

Wednesday: Salmon for me, steak for my husband. He’s happy to grill himself a steak once a week, and I have several easy salmon recipes that I prefer, so this is easier than it sounds!

Thursday: Burgers – usually with sauteed onions and/or mushrooms on top. But sometimes with bacon and guac. Or marinara and Parmesan. Minimal dish clean-up! (Because Thursday is the day I get tired of doing dishes.)

Friday: Stir-fry – get it? Stir-Fry-Day? Sometimes this is Asian, sometimes more like fajitas without the tortillas. Might be chicken, steak, pork, or shrimp. If I were working full time, I would probably grab my veggies pre-sliced from the store.

This way, my “what’s for dinner” dilemma is narrowed down, eliminating dozens of options to sift through, but it still leaves me room for adapting to what I have on hand, what’s on sale, or whether I feel more like American, Mexican, or Asian that day.

Of course, you can adapt this to your style. Does your family do meatless Mondays or fish on Fridays? Move salmon to that day of the week. Is Wednesday night extra crazy for you? Make that your soup or burger night, prepping everything the night before.

You can swap out other dish types or themes that suit you: Taco Tuesday, hot dog bar, noodle (or zoodle) night, etc.

I’ve found this approach very easy to live with. Meal planning can be a huge help to sticking with your new way of eating, but it doesn’t have to be restrictive or labor intensive, so I hope you’ll try this out and find it helpful, too!

12 of my favorite easy main dish recipes:

Easy pork tenderloin

Ancho-crusted salmon

Balsamic-glazed salmon

Adaptable fish tacos

Low(er) carb chili

Caesar salad – & 30-second Caesar salad *

Tex-Mex salad*

Quick easy buffalo chicken quesadillas *

One-pan chicken with veggies

Sloppy Joe-tatoes

Brat and cabbage soup – great to make the day or night before!

Salsa verde chicken* – seriously: dump a few things in a pan and put it in the oven!

*Contains cheese and/or beans: forbidden for those on Whole30, but okay if you’re just focusing on eating real food, and/or eliminating sugar and refined carbs.


The Meal Plan for People Who Hate to Meal Plan

I’ve expanded and modified this post, turning it into a six-night plan with links to over 30 easy real-food recipes. I’ve also included tips for adapting meals for people on different diets. Get it for free when you sign up for my mailing list!

Learn more.

 


Featured image source: Anne Taintor

20-day diet prep plan: Day 13 (Part 2) – The soup method

Easy meals; the soup method

 

Here’s another meal template that’s an easy way to get more vegetables in your life — and quick and simple to throw together, and a great way to use up leftovers.

Hopefully, you’ve bought your groceries, and read Part 1 – The hash method. The soup method is somewhat similar.

This time, you’ll need a saucepan. A 1-quart pan works nicely for one person. Scale up as needed.

Like the hash method, the soup method has a list…

Things I always have prepped and ready in the fridge, that are essential to this dish:

  1. Diced white or yellow onion (and/or whole green onion)
  2. Already cooked meat of various kinds
  3. Vegetables: a changing cast of characters – bell pepper, green beans, carrots, celery, broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, cauliflower, spinach… They can be raw, or cooked leftovers.
  4. Zucchini, if you want to make zoodles
  5. Good quality chicken broth
  6. Possible add-ins: spaghetti sauce or marinara, salsa, eggs, lemon juice, herbs

If you haven’t already read about the hash method, please do read the section under the headings “About measurements, part 1” and “… part 2.”

Sorry: I don’t have how-to pictures for this yet, but it’s not tricky — you’ll get it!

Okay, ready to cook?

Step 1:

Heat your saucepan to medium (or medium-low, if your stove runs hot), add just enough fat (olive oil, coconut oil, or bacon drippings) to evenly cover the bottom. Add some onions, about a small handful. Leave that on the heat, stirring every so often, just enough to keep them from getting brown in some places but undercooked in others.

Step 2:

Meanwhile, dice or slice any veggies you’re going to use. A small handful after they’re diced is a good ballpark measurement to use. Add them after the onions have been in the pan for just a few minutes. EXCEPT: For spinach and zucchini noodles, don’t add them in until the very end.

Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are done to your liking. If you think they’re drying out too much before they’re done, add about an 1/4″ of broth to the pan.

Step 2B – If you’re making zoodles:

How to make zucchini noodles (ignore the cooking part):

Place them in a paper-towel-lined bowl, to help absorb excess moisture.

Step 3:

Add the meat. A good guideline is for your meat to approximately equal the size and thickness of the palm of your hand. Then add enough broth to cover all the meat and veggies; it should come about halfway up the pan, in a 1-quart saucepan. Bring it up to a boil, then turn down to a simmer.

Step 4:

Now you can add anything else you want in it. Stir in a big spoonful of spaghetti sauce or salsa. Add a few pinches of your favorite herbs. If you want a mostly-clear soup, you can thicken and enrich it by first whisking a splash of lemon juice into one egg yolk, then slowly whisking this mixture into the soup.

Step 5:

Add the spinach and/or zucchini noodles (if using), and simmer for three or four minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Does it taste bland? Add salt and/or black pepper a little at a time, taste, and add more as needed till it tastes good. Sometimes a little splash of lemon juice helps the flavor, too.

And your soup is done!

Here are some soup combos I’ve enjoyed…

Simple chicken soup, with diced carrots and green onion.

healthy lunches: chicken soup

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Sausage or hamburger, green beans, carrots, and marinara make for a minestrone-inspired soup. A little shaved Parmesan on top!

quick easy minestrone

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Here’s a great example of using up leftovers! Leftover french onion soup from one day’s restaurant lunch + half a large burger patty from the next day’s restaurant lunch + a little diced squash + chopped spinach = one quick, easy, hearty soup.
easy lunch: onion soup + burger

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One day, I was lucky enough to have a little leftover steak; threw it in at the last moment so as not to overcook it. There’s also bell pepper and diced zucchini in there. The green blob is from a Wholly Guacamole mini — another thing I keep on hand for easy lunches.

easy lunch: leftover steak soup.

Some cooked, crumbled sausage, chicken bone broth, and assorted veggies; I don’t know what you call this soup, but it’s delicious!

easy soup: sausage and veggies

Follow me on Instagram for more quick, easy healthy food ideas.

20-day diet prep plan: Day 13 (Part 1) – The hash method

how to make breakfast hash

 

A few months ago, I did a cooking demo for some friends of mine, and the theme of the class was, “Easy ways to get more vegetables in your diet.” Because the only other thing that ALL diets agree on (beside eat way less sugar, and no trans fat), is that we should all probably be eating more vegetables!

This sweet potato hash was the hit of the night! They all loved it, not just because of how great it tastes, but also because it is SO easy to put together. (One mom of three little ones said she made it for breakfast the next two days!) Another great thing about this dish is that it’s a great way to use up leftovers.

And it’s a simple, tasty way to get three or more vegetables on the table, in one dish!

About measurements, Part 1

The pan I’m using here is an 8″ nonstick frying pan. A well-seasoned cast iron one would work, too. Also, it’s important to note that I’m cooking for one here — as you probably should while you’re experimenting. But once you’re cooking for real, and if you’re cooking for more than one, just scale the measurements I give you up accordingly. Double them for two people, triple for three, etc.

About measurements, Part 2

I used to not EVER cook anything without a recipe, and always measured everything. Baking definitely requires that you stick to some important ratios, but dishes like the ones I’m going to show you today are a lot more forgiving. And part of what makes these dishes so quick and easy is that you don’t have to pull out the measuring cups/spoons, then scoop, pour, and level. You just get an approximate amount in the pan and — trust me — it’ll come out okay!

You may have some mishaps as you learn. But as my childrens’ first grade teacher Mrs. Maxwell often said, “It’s okay to make mistakes!”

That’s why you’re doing this food lab today. You’re going to test this method in small batches and get a feel for what works with your equipment, and for your taste buds. You may singe one batch or put too much salt in another; that’s okay. There are no food police patrolling your neighborhood. Make the mistake, learn from it, and move on! (Good advice for life, too!)

Okay: you ready?

So, you got your groceries bought, right? And you have your two or three already-cooked meats. And if you didn’t dice your onions up already, go ahead and do that. (How-to here.)

Also, prep one or two sweet potatoes according to my method here. But you can go ahead and cut all the way through the skin for a complete dice.

If it’s not already in bite-sized pieces, you might also want to chop your already-cooked meat. (Optional, if you want this to be a side dish, or you’re vegetarian.) Sausage, ham, pulled pork or carnitas, grilled or roasted chicken, cooked seasoned ground beef, smoked salmon — all legit candidates!

Things I always have prepped and ready in the fridge, that are essential to this dish:

  1. Diced onion
  2. Diced cooked sweet potato
  3. Already cooked meat of various kinds (optional)
  4. Baby spinach
  5. Other vegetables: a changing cast of characters – bell pepper, broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms…

(See what that looks like in my fridge here.)

So, once you have those ready, you’re ready for the method.

Step 1:

Heat your pan to medium (or medium-low, if your stove runs hot), add just enough fat (olive oil, coconut oil, or bacon drippings) to evenly cover the bottom. Add some onions, about a small handful. Leave that on the heat, stirring every so often, just enough to keep them from getting brown in some places but undercooked in others.

hash-1-onions+spinach

(Sorry for the fuzzy pictures. I was actually cooking my lunch for this, and the dish goes fast, so there’s not a lot of time for second shots.)

Step 2:

Meanwhile, coarsely chop one or two handfuls of baby spinach, and dice any other raw veggies you’re going to use. (A small handful after they’re diced is a good ballpark measurement to use.) Bell peppers are a nice addition, and one quarter of a good-sized bell pepper should be about right. If I were adding other uncooked vegetables, I would add them after the onions were in the pan for just a few minutes. But if the only vegetables you’re adding are spinach and already-cooked sweet potato — as I am in these photos — wait until the onions are fairly translucent before adding anything else.

Step 3:

Add the coarsely chopped spinach. Salt it lightly — this helps break down the cell walls, and also flavors the spinach, which is sort of bland. It will begin to cook down quickly. Once it’s about half-wilted, add your meat. A good guideline is for your meat to approximately equal the size and thickness of the palm of your hand.

Today, I had one leftover chicken thigh, and one taco’s worth of carnitas, so I diced those to bite-sized pieces and threw them both in. Stir that around and let it warm for a minute or so.

Step 4:

Add your sweet potato, and leave it just until the potato is heated through, stirring once or twice, gently. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper — or another seasoning mix or herbs according to your taste. On this day, I added a little taco seasoning.

sweet potato hash

I often make this dish with sausage and/or bacon for the protein. In those cases, you really don’t need any other seasoning besides a lighter sprinkle of salt (since there’s a lot of salt in the meat) and black pepper to taste.

Another thing I like to do is serve this with a Wholly Guacamole Mini on the side. (This isn’t a sponsored post; but hey, WG, if you’re reading, let’s talk! 🙂 )

sweet potato hash - the hash method

Now, what makes this dish so versatile is that you can add any number of veggies and use various meats, and come up with numerous combos. Here are just a few I’ve done…

breakfast on vacation - eggs + hash

With diced breakfast sausage for the meat, chopped avocado, and a couple of fried eggs, this makes a hearty breakfast — or any meal, really!

 

hash with broccoli

Broccoli, broken into small florets, is another yummy addition. Chopped asparagus would be another nice option.

 

Is fat healthy? Yes - eggs + bacon for breakfast!

Here, the hash is in the background, and includes some bacon and mushrooms!

 

Whole30 Paleo breakfast: easy with make-ahead prep!

Sometime, I scramble an egg or two, chop that up and add it to the hash.

 

hash with chicken apple sausage

And yes, you can make it without sweet potatoes. In the photo above, chicken apple sausage is bringing a slight sweet note to the mix. Sliced avocado (in the background) adds some healthy fat.

 

hash with a side of green beans

As you can tell by all the eggs, I’ve made this for breakfast a lot, but with enough meat and maybe another side, it’s also hearty enough for dinner. Sausage and mushroom, show above. (Find this simple green bean dish here.)

I also sometimes make this with just the onions, bell pepper, and sweet potato; season with taco seasoning (or just a bit of cumin and ancho powder); and serve it as a side dish when the main dish is Mexican-ish.

So, I hope you’re inspired! Get out your frying pan, and start experimenting! I’d love to hear your comments or questions.

(Follow me on Instagram for more quick, easy healthy food ideas.)

20-day diet prep plan: Day 14-B – The grocery list

grocery list for quick easy meals

Two weeks to New Year’s!

Okay, Saturday and Sunday, you’re going to be doing some more experimenting in the kitchen, to help you prepare for the new, healthy way you’re going to be eating starting January 1!

I’m going to walk you through a couple meal templates (the soup method and the hash method) that will open up new possibilities for you, for healthy meals that are easy to throw together in a matter of minutes. So today, tonight, or early tomorrow, you’ll need to go grocery shopping.

grocery list for easy healthy meals

The grocery list

  • 3 medium white or yellow onions
  • 1 large or 2 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1 large bell pepper – red, yellow, or orange
  • 1 large or 2 smallish zucchini
  • 5 oz. (or more) pre-washed baby spinach (or pre-washed and chopped kale, if you like kale)
  • 1 or 2 32-oz. cartons of good quality chicken stock. Don’t buy the cheapest option: read the labels, and buy the one with the most protein.
  • salsa of your choice, preferably sugar- and corn-syrup-free
  • spaghetti sauce of your choice, preferably sugar- and corn-syrup-free (or homemade marinara, if you have it on hand)
  • eggs
  • taco seasoning mix (or make your own)
  • Italian seasoning mix (or make your own)
  • olive oil or coconut oil
  • already-cooked meats of your choice (see below)

for the grocery list; wholly guacamole minis

 

optional:

  • Wholly Guacamole minis
  • any other vegetables you especially like, that come frozen: green beans, carrots, etc.
  • spiralizer, if you want to make zucchini noodles. I like this one, which you can also get at Bed, Bath & Beyond, but there are other brands.

Meats

Get two or three of these meats that you’d like to experiment with:

  • Already-cooked chicken. Make your own, or pick up a couple roasted chicken breasts or several thighs from your grocery store deli.
  • Diced ham; buy one thick slice and dice it yourself if you can’t find already diced.
  • Sausage, whatever flavor(s) you like. They can be pork, turkey, or chicken. Bulk sausage cooked and crumbled; link sausage cooked and diced.
  • Cooked, seasoned hamburger
  • Pulled pork, if that’s something you normally make and have in the freezer
  • Bacon; cook up a pound in the oven. Then chop into about 1/2″ pieces. No need to break out a ruler!

If you want, go ahead and cook/prep all your meats.

how to chop an onion

You can also dice up the onion and put it in an airtight container in the fridge. (If you want to save that for later, that’s fine, too.) If you’re not already adept at dicing an onion, here’s a how-to from SimplyRecipes. Dicing onions would be a good thing to practice and get comfortable with, because this is the first step to just about every savory dish.

Tomorrow, we start cookin’!

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grocery list for quick easy meals

The grocery list shown in the image above is available as a printout at designsponge.

How I stock my kitchen for easy, healthy meals: 30 ingredients

paleo meatballs, marinara, roasted cauliflower

Are you thinking about starting to eat Paleo, do a Whole30, or just eat cleaner, healthier, real food? If you’re going to change the way you eat, you’ll probably need to change the way you stock your kitchen. This can feel daunting, but I hope this list will help.

There are certain ingredients that I always keep on hand to make meals more doable. You know those articles in women’s magazines and blogs, where they show you eight articles of clothing that can be combined into 40 different outfits? This is the same principle! I’d guess that at least 90% of what I make for everyday meals can be accomplished with only these ingredients.

Your list doesn’t need to match mine, of course, but hopefully this post will serve as inspiration. This list is mostly Paleo, almost Whole30 except for a couple items, and completely whole, real foods!

And be encouraged: once you look over this list, you’ll probably realize that you’re already well on your way to a well-stocked kitchen.

10 things I always have in the fridge:

1. Chopped onions. I chop up yellow onions a couple times a week, enough to last two or three days.

2. Eggs. Always enough for a couple days worth of breakfast, at least, plus a couple to spare.

3. Good quality hot dogs or fully cooked sausage. Quick, hearty lunch when heated up with some sauerkraut!

whole30 paleo dinner; pork, sweet potato + cauliflower

4. Already-baked sweet potato. Add to scrambled eggs, soup, salads, hash; top with pulled pork or other meat. Or spread with butter or bacon fat, salt and pepper; or mash with butter and cinnamon for a quick, nutritious side dish!

5. Already washed baby spinach. Beyond salad: chop and add to soup or eggs.

6. Maple syrup. For glazes, sauces, and salad dressings.

7. Condiments: tamari (gluten-free soy sauce), mustard, sriracha, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (or just a jar of adobo sauce), pickles

stock my kitchen - coconut milk

8. Full-fat coconut milk. A good sub, in many cases, for heavy cream. If you’re not avoiding dairy, stock real, unadulterated cream.

9. Lemon juice. I juice a couple fresh lemons once every week or so, keep it in a small jar in the fridge. For salad dressings, deglazing a pan to make pan sauce, adding to tea, etc.

10. Flours: almond, coconut, flax. Substitutes for wheat flour in various uses. Keeping them in the fridge helps them last longer. Info on almond and coconut flour.

Additional things that are usually (but not always) in my fridge, or are seasonal:

Sauerkraut, bacon, rendered bacon fat, avocado, hard-boiled eggs, carrots, celery, green onions, zucchini (to make zoodles), bell peppers, cabbage, apples, bone broth, homemade mayo, romaine (used for wraps in the summer), already-baked russet potato

10 things I always have in the freezer:

1. Chopped parsley, stored in a baggie with most of the air pressed out. It’s easy to scoop out a tablespoon or a quarter-cup as needed, with no additional chopping. This is more than a garnish; it adds a fresh, peppery zing and some bright green color to the party!

2. Hamburger; some cooked, lightly seasoned, and crumbled; some raw in 1/4 lb. patties. Sometimes, also fully cooked meatballs.

balsamic salmon, 3 pieces

3. Salmon & mahi-mahi, individual portions

4. Shrimp, deveined & deshelled

5. Bulk sausage, Italian and/or breakfast, stored in individual portions

paleo meatballs, marinara, roasted cauliflower
Paleo meatballs with marinara, and Italian cauliflower

 

6. Homemade sugar-free marinara, stored in 1-cup portions. If you don’t want to make homemade, go for the most sugar-free brand you can find or afford.

7. Chicken thighs or breasts, prepped and frozen individually

8. Berries: sometimes mixed, sometimes single varieties

9. My veggies of choice: currently green beans, broccoli florets

10. Bone broth or plain chicken stock, stored in 2-cup portions

(Also: leftover chicken bones, onion ends, and parsley stems for my next batch of broth)

Things I always have in the pantry:

1. Bag of yellow onions

2. Head of garlic

 

3. Extra coconut milk

4. Vinegars: rice, balsamic, red wine, unfiltered apple

5. Oil: olive, coconut, and usually sesame for Asian dishes

taco-mix-montage

6. Homemade seasoning mixes: taco, chili, Italian, burger (and of course other individual seasonings)

7. Nuts: cashew to top an Asian stir-fry; almonds, pecans, and walnuts for salads & snacks

8. A little wheat flour or rice flour for pan-frying fish

9. Honey

easy lunch; tuna salad with tomato, avocado + peppers

 

10. Tuna in foil packets. I make this simple tuna salad several times a week in the summer. Here are more tuna ideas.

See? Not such an exotic list, for the most part. You probably have most of this on hand. It’s just a matter of learning to see new ways to combine these basic “wardrobe” pieces to create an infinite number of quick, easy, tasty meals!

Here are some menu idea starters.

Follow me on Instagram for more quick, easy healthy food ideas.

stock-my-fridge-600x1280

Meal prep: Beef and sweet potato freezer burritos – with diet-specific options

meal prep: freezer burritos

meal prep: freezer burritos

Freezer burritos are one of the handiest things you can have stashed in the freezer, for easy meals or snacks any time! They were my go-to lunch last year while I was on my way to losing 33 pounds. Back then, this was a plain ol’ beef, bean and cheese burrito recipe, but I’ve since modified it to accommodate Paleo and other diet restrictions. I’m providing notes here so you can make it as traditional or as Paleo as you like it. It’s very customizable!

First, a few notes about the ingredients…

The tortillas. If you’re not gluten-restricted and you want the easiest option, just pick up your favorite brand of soft wheat tortillas from the store. Or better yet, stop by your favorite locally-owned Mexican restaurant and get a to-go order of tortillas.

If you’re eliminating gluten and/or grains from your diet, pick up your favorite ready-made gluten-free tortillas, or try this crepe-like recipe from Stupid Easy Paleo (this is the one I use), or this egg-free, cassava-flour based one from Eat Heal Thrive.

Beans vs sweet potatoes. There’s some debate as to whether beans are really good for you or not. The Paleo/Whole30 camp says that the proteins in legumes may mimic some of the body’s proteins, potentially kicking off auto-immune issues. To make a Paleo version, I swapped out mashed sweet potatoes for the same texture — and I ended up loving the sweet note they bring to the dish.

Here’s a nutrition comparison of the two (their fat and calorie profile are similar, so I left those out):

nutrition; sweet potatoes vs refried beans

Note that the sweet potatoes are higher in sugary carbs and lower in protein, but that they have tons of Vitamin A, while beans have none. (If you’re using the crepe-like tortillas, you’ve omitted a good deal of carbs right there, so it’s still not a carb-heavy dish.)

Feel free to use whichever you prefer for taste or nutrition — or maybe get crazy and use both!

The cheese. Feel free to include cheese if it fits into your healthy eating style. Omit it if it doesn’t.

The bell peppers. These are here to add fiber and Vitamin C. There’s really no downside to them, unless you just hate them (or can’t eat nightshades).

The meat. I believe that hormone-free, antibiotic-free red meat is a good thing. (I am from Kansas!) If you have an aversion to beef, feel free to sub ground turkey or another protein of your choice.

The salsa. Use your favorite. To keep it healthy, check the label to make sure there’s no sugar or corn syrup.

The taco seasoning. Sure, you can buy some ready-made. But check the label to make sure there’s no sugar, maltodextrin, corn starch, or other unnecessary fillers. Cheaper and healthier: make your own.

The guacamole. While not essential, it makes a nice visual finish, as well as adding flavor and healthy fat! If you happen to have some homemade, by all means use that! However, I usually just keep some Wholly Guacamole single-serve packs in the fridge; one is the perfect size to spread over a couple burritos.

Finally, a note about servings: Because there are so many variables in this recipe, I can only give you an approximation of how many burritos it will make. I get six or seven; your mileage may vary. Also, once you’ve made it once or twice and tuned into how you like to make it, you can certainly double or triple the recipe to really stock up.

Beef and sweet potato freezer burrito recipe

1 or 2 T. olive or coconut oil

1 small (or half a large) yellow onion, diced

1/2 large red bell pepper, diced

1 pound ground beef

1 medium sweet potato, already cooked and diced

(or sub half a can of refried beans)

1 cup of your favorite salsa (or more, to taste)

2 teaspoons taco seasoning (or more, to taste)

3/4 cup shredded cheddar or monterrey jack cheese (optional)

several 6″ tortillas

 

Dice peppers and onion, and saute in olive oil until they are soft. Leave in the pan but push them off to the side.

freezer burritos in the making

Brown the ground beef, drain excess fat if you want, and add in the taco seasoning; stir it all together till spices are distributed. Then add sweet potatoes (or beans) and salsa, and stir till evenly combined. Taste, and add salsa and/or taco seasoning till you’re happy with the flavor. Remove from heat.

Lay out several squares of waxed paper or parchment. These should be two or three inches wider than the diameter of your tortillas, and long enough to wrap around one two or three times. Lay a tortilla on each. Spoon the desired amount of filling down the center of the tortillas, in about a 2″-wide line from one edge to the other. Sprinkle with cheese, if using. Roll the burrito into a tube; no need to fold in the ends. If your filling isn’t sticky enough to hold the tortilla closed, secure it with a toothpick.

freezer burritos - roll 'em up

Then wrap the paper around it. Again, no need to fold in the ends. Repeat till filling is all used. Place wrapped burritos on a cookie sheet or other flat surface, setting them down in such a way that the weight of the burrito holds the paper in place. Then place this in the freezer till the burritos are firm.

freezer burritos, ready to go in the freezer

Then put them all into a large plastic baggie and return to the freezer.

To reheat a burrito, remove the wrapper and place seam-side-down on a plate, and microwave for 30 seconds. Then turn it over and microwave till heated through. I use the “reheat” button on my microwave; every machine is different, so experiment to find what works for you, and make a note of that. Be sure to remove the toothpick before topping with guac!

Make up a batch of these on the weekend, and you’ll have healthy, easy lunches — or dinners, or snacks — on hand for a quick, few-minute meal!

 

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beef + sweet potato freezer burritos

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Mealprep: 40 recipes to stock your freezer and free your mind!

Tacos-1

One of the best ways to eat healthy is to eat at home more. But for any busy person, this becomes a real challenge when it’s 4:30 and you have no idea what to make for dinner. Prepping some ingredients and/or dishes ahead of time to stash in the freezer can save the day. Not only does it save you cooking time, it also saves you brain effort at the very time of day your brain is most overtaxed!

Sure, these mean a little more work on the weekend — but you can do it at a leisurely pace, when you’re rested and not rushed. Which I’ve found makes cooking so much more enjoyable! 

Mealprep: taco kit from The Kitchn
A week of dinners in the freezer, from The Kitchn. Recipes for: Baked Manicotti – Freezer Taco Kits – Twice-Baked Potatoes – Chile & Sausage Oven Frittata – Cranberry Pork Chops – Chicken and Wild Rice Bake. (Also includes side dishes, not listed here.) You can also find this same list of recipes with additional notes on how to turn prep day into a Freezer Meals Party.
Mealprep: stocking the freezer

Here are tips for stocking your freezer with precooked and seasoned meats, which gives you more versatility than already-assembled dishes. Includes instructions (but not exact recipes) for twice-baked potatoes, two different ground beef mixes, a teriyaki marinade that you can use on any meat, poultry or seafood (lots of sugar in it, though), and shredded chicken plus broth. Also has a few nifty tricks for neater packaging.

ingredient prep, + why i like it better than meal prep

For the past several months, I’ve gotten into the habit of ingredient prep. This works really well for me! It’s less labor-intensive on the front end, and more flexible at go-time! (I was originally inspired by this post by Mel Joulwan at Well Fed.)

Mealprep from Pioneer Woman

Here’s Pioneer Woman’s freezer cooking post. Not a lot of healthy stuff on the list, but I do love her tip for grilling whole chicken breasts and freezing them to have on hand for dozens of uses. I count about 11 main-dish recipes on her list, skipping the carb-laden ones.

Mealprep: chicken breasts
I also like this method for an easy way to cook boneless, skinless chicken breasts, from Small Home Big Start.
Mealprep from New Leaf Wellness

Eight healthy freezer crockpot meals in 75 minutes, from New Leaf Wellness. Well, really four different meals, double batch of each. Beef Roast and Carrots – Chicken Fajitas – Mexican Chicken Soup – Garden Veggie Soup with Ground Beef.

Mealprep shopping lists

10 meals in 1 hour – super organized and detailed; even includes shopping list! Really just five recipes; double batch of each. Honey Lemon Garlic Chicken –  London Broil – Quick Taco Soup – Orange Glazed Pork Chops – Creamy Italian Chicken

Mealprep - more shopping lists

10 meals in 1 hour, take 2; the no-bake version; includes five warm weather recipes that are cooked either on the grill or in the crockpot—no oven required!

More about the method…

Here are a couple resources that aren’t recipe lists, but more of a how-to go about mealprep and make it work for you.

From Mealime: Meal Planning: The Definitive Guide to Planning Your Meals Stress-Free. This is an exhaustive collection with tons of tips — how to plan, how to shop, how to cook, etc.

Mealprep - the non-planned approach

A planned/non-planned approach. No recipes here, but some pointers for stocking your freezer with ready-to-go meat and cheese portions, then how to plan meals the weekend or night before, taking into account your schedule, the weather, and what’s in your fridge that needs to be used up.

 

And here are a few ingredients to have pre-cooked and ready in the freezer:

And a few things to know about food safety and quality:
Mealprep: freezer recipes