Summertime, and the living’s easy. Or should I say hot, fast paced, crazy busy and fun!? Summer is probably my favorite time of the year because the days are long and the activities are endless. Not to mention the older I get the more I hate being cold. This probably doesn’t bode well for me since I live in upstate NY, but i’ll make do.
One thing that I have personally struggled with as well as have seen my clients struggle with is meal prep during the summer months. Why? Because it is really, REALLY, easy to put off meal prep when it’s hot out and there are 500 other things you could be prioritizing, like fun in the sun. However, we can find excuses for pretty much anything we want. Why do we always find excuses to not take care of ourselves and not prioritize our health? While, I may be bias, it just doesn’t make any sense to me, if we don’t have our health, what do we have?!
That all being said, I’ve been pretty diligent about my meal prep this summer and I wanted to share some of my essentials for meal prepping this time of year. Hint: sometimes it gets reallllly hot in the kitchen while cooking, grab a sweatband, a fan, and suck it up 😉
Meal Prep Basics
I have talked before on here about how to meal plan like a champ, so I will try not to sound like a broken record. They say you can plain to fail if you fail to plan and boy do I know that feeling. These past few weeks I’ve made a strong effort to plan out the week ahead in order to stay on track and to make sure we were not just spot treating our meals. You know the old “what’s for dinner?” trick/question. If we’re being honest, the answer starts healthy in the morning but by the time dinner rolls around it’s whatever is quickest and sounds the best, sound relatable? (*cough* pizza *cough*)
If you have followed the steps to planning out your meals, the next step is to prep said meals. Now, I’m not going to lie the past few Sundays (my meal prep day of choice) have been so hot it’s like I’m cooking on the sun’s surface. I recommend hydrating, having some type of air flow (fans, AC, etc), and maybe a sweat band. Or better yet, cook in your bathing suit, just make sure you put an apron on when dealing with anything hot, you don’t want burn marks on your stomach! Alright, let’s see what some of my essentials to successful meal prep are.
Stock a Solid Pantry, Fridge, & Freezer
How many times have you gotten back from your grocery trip only to realize you are out of olive oil, canned beans, rice, and at least 59 other items? You may need to just spend 1 week meal prepping your pantry, fridge, & freezer. While I’m not saying become a hoarder, I’m saying you may need to make a list of items that you use alot and need in a pinch. What are these items? Here’s a few:
- Olive Oil
- Canned items: beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce, coconut milk, etc.
- Frozen veggies
- Canned tuna/salmon
- Rice & other grains (like Banza pasta)
- Gluten-free bread (freezer)
Would it be helpful to do a pantry staples list? I might make one anyway that way you can prep your pantry for meal prep days. After all, who has time to run to the grocery store more than they already do?!
Make a List of Easy Dishes
Speaking of staples for your pantry, fridge, & freezer, you should also have staple meals for your meal prep. Why? Because then you already know a. you can make said dish and b. you and/or your family like/will eat said dish. It also can be helpful for when leftovers run out or you didn’t have time to fully meal prep every meal for the week. What are some of my go to easy dishes? Let’s take a look:
- Banza pasta with Rao’s Marinara Sauce with meatballs (either homemade or frozen)
- Tuna/Salmon Salad on Gluten-Free Bread (that I store in the freezer)
- Kodiak Cake pancakes + eggs + bacon/sausage + frozen veggies sautéed with potatoes if I have them
The list goes on but I make sure that I have items that are healthy but also fast/convenient on hand. While I’d love to make every single thing from scratch, sometimes the week gets the best of you and you need convenience. Thank goodness for all these companies creating healthy & convenient products for us to eat. Good on ya, companies!
Do More with Less
I do meal plans for a lot of my clients and the thing that always gets me is when they ask for more recipes weekly. While I applaud them for their meal prep efforts I try to encourage many to do more with less. What do I mean by this? I mean choose less recipes and just make more of it. While, yes, it can be boring and you may be sick of one of the recipes by Friday, it simplifies your meal prep and gets you prepped for the week in less time. Win-win.
When planning for my week (keep in mind I only have to feed 2 people, however we eat A LOT), I try to simplify as much as possible to ensure I have enough food but also don’t spend 500 hours in the kitchen. Let’s take a look at my algorithm and what I made this past week…
- 1 Breakfast option: Peanut Butter Cup Overnight Oats
- 1 Lunch option: Salmon salad on GF Bread + pickles + fresh veggies with hummus
- 2 Dinner options: Spaghetti & Meatballs + Grilled Chicken + Turmeric Rice
- 4+ Side/Snack options: Grilled zucchini, sautéed greens + mushrooms, guacamole, fresh sliced veggies, roasted Brussels sprouts, roasted sweet potatoes & beets, soft boiled eggs
It’s not always the most glorious meal prep and sometimes I wish I had more options, BUT by doing this it frees up my time at night during the week and doesn’t leave me wondering what to make for dinner. I probably spend about 2-1/2 to 3 hours prepping all of this at once. The kitchen turns into a hot mess but once done, we clean up and relax. I also eat out probably 2x per week depending on what we have going on but with meal prep we end up eating out WAY less.
Supercharge Your Kitchen
You cannot be a good craftsman without your tools, errrr a good cook without your utensils?! Eh, anyway, you need the right tools to make meal prep enjoyable, afterall if you don’t have some fun doing it, you’ll never keep it up. Here are some of my essentials as it comes to meal prep in my kitchen (in no particular order).
Dry & Liquid Measuring Cups
I use ALL of my measuring cups when I meal prep. While I don’t always measure everything to a T, it is helpful for at least a guesstimate of what you need. Do yourself a favor and make sure you have all different sizes. These Pyrex ones are my favorite liquid ones, and I use these for my dry ones (amazing because there is a 1-1/2 cup AND a 2 cup)
A teaspoon vs. a tablespoon are VERY different especially when using spices, extracts, and other condiments. Get yourself a complete set already, okay?!
There is so much push for people to go plastic free these days, and I’m all about it. Not to mention they are finding that plastic can be a hormone disrupter. Oh, one more thing, have you ever had a hard time getting the stank and color out of a plastic container? Yeah, me too. I love my glass containers the best and am looking to replace as many of my plastic containers as possible, you should probably too.
I hate going to a kitchen where there are no good spatulas, it’s one of my pet peeves. I have probably more spatulas than anyone ever should but I use at least 3 while meal prepping (if not 6, 7, or 8). I love all different shapes and sizes but I most use this, this, or this.
Knife or knife set
You cannot chop anything if you don’t have a knife, and don’t let your knives get dull. Ugh, mine had been dull recently and it was/is the most annoying thing EVER. I have a knife sharpener at home but I’m probably going to go have them professionally done soon so I can slice everything and anything in the kitchen. Don’t know how to use a knife properly? Do yourself a favor and sign up for a knife skills class.
I have a LOT of cutting boards. However, I only have a few that I actually like. It’s good to have a few sizes, especially if countertops are limited (as they are in my kitchen.)
Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven
I don’t know what I did before this. It sautees vegetables so nicely and is great for soups, stews, meatballs + marinara sauce, and so much more. Do yourself a favor and snag one, they are pretty reasonably priced these days.
This should go without saying, but you need some decent pots and pans to get anything done. If you don’t have some, you will need to start your collection ASAP. I usually use a large cast iron skillet, a large pot, and a medium-ish pot or 2. That’s all you should need in the short term.
I already gushed over this in Monday’s post, and always and forever, but if you don’t have one, you don’t know what you’re missing out on. I don’t even use my slow cooker anymore because of it. It’s a girls/guys best friend in the kitchen, no matter your experience level.
Dish Wand + Stainless Steel Scrubber
Clean up is a witch…I hate it. I mean does any one really love cleaning up after cooking? If so, you’re hired to come do so for me. I have found a few things help with clean up. First, I love my sponge brush, er dish-wand, as it makes life a little easier. I also LOVE my stainless steel scrubbers, they take the toughest crap off of ANYTHING. You know when you cook rice in a pot and it sticks for what seems like an eternity? This takes it off in seconds, you’re welcome.
It is so easy to get off track this time of year, if you keep making excuses, you’ll keep staying off track. I’m just wrapping up a sugar detox challenge at a local gym and I am blown away with their dedication to such a thing in the middle of summer where temptations run rampant. It goes to show if you prioritize your health you can do it no matter the circumstances.
I would love to hear from you! What are your meal prep tips, tricks, and essentials!?