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Meal Prep Menu Planning 101
Tried and true tips for planning a full meal prep menu
If you had a long weekend like I did, I hope it was fruitful in whatever way you needed it to be. We drove north and spent a few lovely—albeit rainy—days in Massachusetts and Vermont with some pals. And even though I had access to a kitchen the entire trip, I barely lifted a finger to cook, which felt so good. Cooking is a joy, but it’s also my job, so I tend to give myself space from it when traveling. Youjin and Jacob stepped in with a number of delicious meals (my first tteokbokki, and some truly satisfying Korean BBQ) and we grabbed a couple meals out at some sleepy New England town haunts.
Now, I’m getting back into the swing of things, which always means thinking about menu planning—for my personal cheffing client, for Q and I for the next few days, for the paid subscribers to this newsletter, and for the cooking classes Abigail and I have just around the corner. Based on the number of questions pertaining to menu planning I get asked over Instagram DM on a weekly basis (Will xx store well? I get bored after a couple days, what should I do? How do I reheat xx? Meal prepping takes me forever, what do I do?) I know it’s a hot button issue that’s holding a lot of people back from getting in their own kitchens.
Today, in an effort to help you get comfy in your kitchen and with the idea of menu planning for meal prep, I’m sharing an excerpt from my e-book, The Beginner’s Guide to Meal Prep.
The comprehensive guide includes two full meal prep appropriate menus with detailed recipes for sides, mains, breakfasts, and snacks on each menu. It also includes shop-able grocery lists, game plans to help you stay organized while you cook, an entire arsenal of the tips and tricks gathered over my years as a professional meal prepper, and the excerpt below about designing your own meal prep menu. If you’re interested in grabbing a copy you can do so here, but in the meantime
Here’s how to design a successful meal prep menu:
Rules of thumb for items that keep very well (or don’t) are as follows:
For salads, cruciferous veggies like kale, shredded cabbage, and shredded brussels sprouts are great. Never dress a salad until you are ready to eat it.
Favor recipes that utilize cuts of dark meat and ground meat that has a high fat content (don’t go above 85% lean). It will stay moist longer.
Meatballs, burgers, soups/stews, and stir fries (plant-based or otherwise) all pack a flavorful punch, keep well, and will keep your palate engaged well into the week.
Store pasta in its sauce, or if storing separately, toss pasta in a bit of olive oil to keep it from sticking.
Fish, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts will always be a bit stinky upon reheating, but it will still taste good. If you have sensitive coworkers, avoid bringing these items to the office, or don’t reheat them.
No- or low-cook items are a game-changer because they’re so quick (think bean salads, grain bowls, and simple green salads). Add them to your menus wherever possible.
Stick to one or two flavor profiles for your entire savory menu, especially if you plan to use the family style approach. Examples of flavor profiles are: Mediterranean influenced, light and bright, Italian influenced, comfort food, and Asian influenced. Things will mix/match better this way.
Don’t be afraid to lean on store bought sauces if they have quality ingredients and are yummy, they can be huge time-savers. I use Rao’s tomato sauce and Gotham Greens pestos for my own and client preps on a regular basis.
Tell me, does this menu planning approach mirror yours? Or do you take a different tact? Are there any menu planning-related barriers left unaddressed here? I’d love to answer any additional questions you might have on this front. And more generally, how are things going in your kitchen these days?
Okay, that’s it from me this week!
With love and a *tip* of my chef’s hat,