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PinkTulip

Meal prep question

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I need to really get a handle on my health and weight since going back to work full-time. I’m thinking that meal-prepping my lunches would be a good thing to save time in the mornings and help me to eat better at work. 

If you prepare your meals on a Sunday, does your food stay good all the way until Friday? We’re not a big leftovers family (4 boys who don’t usually leave leftovers!), and usually eat something by the next day. Chicken and veggies roasted on Sunday stays good until Friday? 

Also, I’m open to any tips or favorite recipes / healthy combinations. Thanks!

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I put some things in freezer (then reheat) to keep them good.  

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1 hour ago, Pen said:

I put some things in freezer (then reheat) to keep them good.  

 

I do the same.  I wouldn't keep chicken from Sunday to Friday in the fridge.  

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I keep roasts in the fridge for a week, but I also keep my refrigerator cold and monitor the temperature with a thermometer.  Here's what I did this past week:

Monday: Roasted two big round roasts, had one with sides for supper stuck the other one in the fridge

Tuesday: Beef and vegetable soup

Thursday: French dip sandwiches with tomato soup

Saturday: Beef and veggie casserole

I find this system of making a roast once a week and using it in meals all the next week much more doable than freezer cooking on a regular basis.  Even when I was working the hassle of cooking for the freezer was not worth it for me.  I do keep a few emergency meals in the freezer but those get prepared once every couple of months.  That said, I do practice save a step cooking making double and triple batches of things on a regular basis.  The beef and veggie soup was a triple batch and served as lunches a couple of days this week.  I needed to chop onions for the sandwiches so I went ahead and sliced up several more and stuck them in the freezer ready to go for another recipe.  If I had had enough beef left I probably would have made two casseroles and frozen one.

I use frozen vegetables a lot when I cook to save time.

 

 

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2 hours ago, PinkTulip said:

Chicken and veggies roasted on Sunday stays good until Friday? 

 

We sometimes buy that on a Friday from the local supermarket and it stays okay until Sunday. Two days is probably the maximum we would go before no one wants to eat it unless buried in sauce.

My husband brings lunch to work everyday. I use an instant pot now but used to use the microwave. I cook a cup of rice with two chicken drumsticks in the instant pot. Then lined his lunch box with vegetables like spinach, arugula, chard. I can do other stuff like make my coffee and do my stretching exercises while his lunch is being cooked. His office pantry supplies fruits for employees. 

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Generally, in the fridge, no.  At least not with fresh stuff.  I have seen blogs where they put together a week’s worth of like mason jar salads, but when I have tried similar, the salads are looking rather wilted by like Tuesday, and by Wednesday, no one warned to touch them.  

Individual components, those usually last depending on what it is.  Lettuce, if prepped properly, lasts close to a week.  Leftover shredded turkey or chicken, at least the same.  Same with hard boiled eggs.  But if I put all those things together for a salad, it won’t last.  

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If I know I need leftovers like shredded chicken or something, as far out as 5 or 6 days, I will freeze that, because I know it will still be good.  If I don’t freeze it, it will probably still be good.   But knowing is better than probably, IMO. 

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"According to the USDA, the refrigerated cooked chicken is safe to eat for 3-4 days if it is properly stored."

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I realize it is not recommended, but my personal outer limit is 1 week on refrigerated cooked meat. I keep my fridge quite cold though, and things in the very back are sometimes frozen. We've never had a problem. I wouldn't give a second thought to eating meat cooked on Sunday for lunch on Friday.  That said, we usually don't have leftovers that long.

 

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4 hours ago, PinkTulip said:

 

Also, I’m open to any tips or favorite recipes / healthy combinations. Thanks!

I love the Skinnytaste website. In addition to individual recipes, she offers meal prep recipes as well as a weekly meal plan. The meal plans have breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Dinners are meant to feed a family while the breakfast and lunch recipes are for one person. Maybe you can find some ideas there. 

Meal Prep

Meal Plans

2 hours ago, happysmileylady said:

Generally, in the fridge, no.  At least not with fresh stuff.  I have seen blogs where they put together a week’s worth of like mason jar salads, but when I have tried similar, the salads are looking rather wilted by like Tuesday, and by Wednesday, no one warned to touch them.  

 

I've made mason jar salads and I find they hold up well. I usually use romaine lettuce though sometimes I'll use spring or baby greens. They don't do as well but they're fine if I mix them with romaine. Spinach lasts well too. I usually eat my jar salads based on ingredients. I eat the ones that might not last as long first, saving the heartier ones for later in the week.

I'm not working but am trying to eat healthy lunches. Though I love salads I hate the prep and often choose something easier for lunch, so even though I'm home I make mason jar salads for my lunches for the week. They all tell you to put the dressing on the bottom but since I'm home I don't do that. I dump the salad into a bowl and then add the dressing. If I was working I'd take the dressing in a separate container. 

Here are some mason jar salad instructions (not really recipes) that I found easy to make and they last in the refrigerator. 

https://www.organizeyourselfskinny.com/the-ultimate-mason-jar-salad-tutorial-and-recipe-round-up/

https://www.robolikesifit.com/post/126672132807/beautifulpicturesofhealthyfood-5-affordable

https://www.organizeyourselfskinny.com/?s=mason+jar+salad

Edited by Lady Florida.
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Well, this is exactly my situation right now. And I am not getting up at 5am to cook lunch. So preparing is essential. Today I cooked quinoa and rice and baked a loaf of bread. I will still roast boneless chicken and we have a few Aidelle links in the fridge. The chicken will be fine in the fridge till Thursday night. The rice is just cooked, not seasoned, and it too is fine for a couple of days in the fridge.

Both, dh and I take a mix of chicken, rice for him, quinoa for me and some veggies. I also always have hard boiled eggs ready to take for a quick protein snack. I frequently take the yolk out and just have some cooked egg whites with whatever else.  For snacks, homemade Sunflower Seed Squares, celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, pretzels / crackers. I also like to cut my bread into cubes and roast it in the cast iron pan and take the cubes for quick snacking.

I find it more difficult to be gone 12 hours a day and still eat healthy. It has been a challenge since my schedule change in July.

Edited by Liz CA
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2 hours ago, Jentrovert said:

I realize it is not recommended, but my personal outer limit is 1 week on refrigerated cooked meat. I keep my fridge quite cold though, and things in the very back are sometimes frozen. We've never had a problem. I wouldn't give a second thought to eating meat cooked on Sunday for lunch on Friday.  That said, we usually don't have leftovers that long.

 

 

A week is my limit, too.  We've not had any problems. 

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4 hours ago, mms said:

 

Saturday: Beef and veggie casserole

 

 

 

19 minutes ago, Liz CA said:

, homemade Sunflower Seed Squares,

 

Recipes?  If you have an easy link, I would love to check these out.

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We did this for years when Dh and I were both working. I made sure I prepped food that was very fresh (cooking a chicken that was at expiration date and then expecting it to last five days seemed like a bad idea, as was using wilted veggies). And I made sure to keep everything very clean and not to touch prepped food w my bare hands. We used pint mason jars that were filled to the top. 

Still, roast chicken and veggies did not taste as good near the end of the week.  Soups and stews and chili were more successful at tasting good on Friday. 

‘My best success with chicken was to grill a bunch and freeze it (I cut it into strips before freezing) and then after dinner I’d make a lunch or two using leftover veggies and starch and adding chicken strips from the freezer. By the next day they had thawed and were tasty. I just added a drizzle of sauce like soy or bbq if it went w the veggies. So it didn’t taste like the same grilled chicken all the time. 

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Thanks everyone - you have overall confirmed my thinking that Sunday to Friday is too long. It’s just frustrating because all of the Pinterest-y websites declare “a week’s worth of lunches prepared on Sunday” but I don’t think I can get 5 days worth and have them hold for that long. Maybe I need to do a meal-prep session on Sunday, and then a shorter one on Wednesday night. 

Sigh - I’m working 55 hours a week, sitting at a desk the entire time. I have gained 10 pounds in the last year because I’m so exhausted when I get home and don’t want to exercise, and yet I eat at work to try to stay alert and focused. Something must change! 

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I can prep on Sunday and the food is good through Wednesday.  Thursday and Friday freezer or a smaller prep Wednesday afternoon.  

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My sons eat a lot of chicken.  They cook up about 18 pounds at a time (just for themselves), wrap it in individual portions in foil, and then freeze them.  They just take a packet out of the freezer each day so it's ready to eat the next day.  

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If you have an instant pot, prep a meal on the night before, leave it in the fridge, pop it in the instant pot while you get ready int he morning. Also, salads for lunch are an easy  option - if you cannot prep them, just grab one of the prepackaged bags of salad greens.

Edited by mathnerd
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My favorite ‘prep on sunday to eat for five days meal’ is salad. But, I make them really yummy and filling! I use fresh, washed and chopped romaine. (I think this is crucial bc the prepared mixes don’t stay good thru Fri ime).  My favorite is to add chopped cucumbers, halved cherry tomatoes, a couple of kalamata olives, and feta cheese.  That’s always my base salad. My varying possible add-ins would be chickpeas, hard boiled egg, avocado, or a few walnuts. I put the salads in five containers with lids and stack them in the fridge. I add a touch of dressing when I eat them. 

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Oh, another last a week thing is soup! I like that weight watchers-ish cabbage soup with a tomato base. It has ground beef in it, but I’ve found that if I cook it on Sunday, we can still eat it throughout the week, definitely through Thursday and maybe Friday too. 

https://www.wholesomeyum.com/recipes/how-to-make-cabbage-soup-with-ground-beef/

Edited by mmasc
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4 hours ago, Serenade said:

 

 

Recipes?  If you have an easy link, I would love to check these out.

Can't remember where exactly it came from. Here is the recipe:

2 cups of rolled oats

3/4 cup of sunflower seed butter or almond butter

3/4 honey

1/2 t salt

1/4 cup chocolate chips (I omit these occasionally when I feel I don't need more chocolate 🙂 )

1/4 cup coconut flakes (unsweetened)

Put seed butter and honey in a saucepan and heat gently until you are able to combine the two into a creamy consistency. Pour into mixing bowl, add oats, salt, choc chips and coconut flakes. Mix well and press into a 8 x 8 pan. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours. But while it's refrigerating for a few hours it does not hurt to nibble a little on the edges.  🙂

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I do a lot of wet/soupy food over rice in a thermos.  I make batches of foods that I like and the rest of the family doesn't like (lunch at work is my chance to eat the beans and legumes that they won't touch!). I cook a batch of lentil curry, or spicy black bean soup, beef and lentil stew, pea soup etc.  Usually in the instant pot, sometimes in the slow-cooker.  Portion into silicone muffin pans and freeze.  When frozen, pop the food "pucks" out into a gallon zip lock and store in the freezer.   In the morning I take out a puck of whatever I fancy that day and warm up in the microwave.  Put into thermos over hot rice (there is always hot rice ready in out rice cooker).  I find soupy, saucy, wet foods work well in a thermos.  Foods that are dry get cold too fast.

 

ETA - I use the puck system for pretty much any home made wet frozen food - chicken stock, apple sauce etc.  I like being able to thaw just as much as I need.

Edited by wathe
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10 hours ago, Liz CA said:

Can't remember where exactly it came from. Here is the recipe:

2 cups of rolled oats

3/4 cup of sunflower seed butter or almond butter

3/4 honey

1/2 t salt

1/4 cup chocolate chips (I omit these occasionally when I feel I don't need more chocolate 🙂 )

1/4 cup coconut flakes (unsweetened)

Put seed butter and honey in a saucepan and heat gently until you are able to combine the two into a creamy consistency. Pour into mixing bowl, add oats, salt, choc chips and coconut flakes. Mix well and press into a 8 x 8 pan. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours. But while it's refrigerating for a few hours it does not hurt to nibble a little on the edges.  🙂

 

Thank you!

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21 hours ago, Serenade said:

 

A week is my limit, too.  We've not had any problems. 

My dh will eat meat a week old.  He has never gotten sick, but I do worry.  My 'comfort' time is about 3 days.  But we usually have eaten it all before a week anyway.

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I’d be putting aside my leftovers before I even served dinner. My favorite thing is the Lunch Crock. It looks like a baby crockpot but it reheats cooked foods nicely. It tastes way better than a microwave and it’s nice to have hot, real food. 

I even freeze leftovers so they’ll fit this gadget. 

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I bought some inexpensive bento boxes, and have a big batch of black beans going in the Instant Pot right now. I’ll freeze a bunch of those into single-serving sizes, and use that as a base for a lot. I’ll probably make a bunch of other stuff this weekend and freeze it, too. 

Luckily, my work has a refrigerator and microwave, so that opens up a lot of options.

Thanks everyone, for helping me think this through and get the ideas flowing!

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