Meal prep strategizing/efficiency

  • gamble

    Posts: 48

    Nov 29, 2015 7:01 PM GMT
    Apologies if this is worn out topic around here...

    I've been working out for maybe 5 years now as part of an overall fitness plan, but in the last year or so I've been trying to put on muscle. I'm a naturally lean guy and have a pretty active lifestyle (I bike everywhere, love to hike, and am on my feet at my job as a bartender) so definitely don't see any gains unless I'm eating 3200 calories or more a day.

    My issue is that, although it's very easy for me to adhere to a strict gym schedule and easy to remind/make myself eat at intervals throughout the day, I've been failing in being able to cook effectively enough to where I always have food on hand. 6 meals a day comes out to 42 meals a week which just feels really overwhelming. I'm also often out of the house between breakfast and basically bedtime, so I have to pack them out with me throughout the day or buy whatever food is nearby. I've ended up substituting about two meals a day with homemade protein shakes, (protein powder, milk, bananas, peanut butter, oat flour, flax oil) but I feel like that's not ideal.

    Do you guys have a shopping/cooking strategy/schedule to prep all of those meals en masse every week? How do you carry all of those meals around with you every day? Any and all batched meal recipes you'd like to share would be much appreciated.

    (Also, any particular brand of food containers you recommend? I've gone through several shoddy sets but they've all ended up leaking at some point, or warping and discoloring from the microwave/dishwasher)
  • gamble

    Posts: 48

    Nov 29, 2015 7:05 PM GMT
    Sorry, I thought I was posting this in the food forum/nutrition but I guess I did it wrong.
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    Nov 29, 2015 9:39 PM GMT
    Message Eagermuscle.
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    Nov 30, 2015 1:31 AM GMT
    I don't really meal prep. I hate chicken and other foods that are reheated. I usually make most of my stuff fresh. Which is usually only breakfast, and dinner when I get home after work. I follow flexible dieting and it makes living a normal life a lot easier. Especially now that I'm trying to get bigger and need to eat around 4300 calories atm, with that many calories I can be pretty loose with my macros I usually just aim for aound 220-250g of protein and 70-100g of fat the rest is just carbs. As apposed to when im cutting and I only allow for about 5g of deviation from my goal macros. Also I could care less about eating 6 meals a day I think it's been proven that meal timing isn't that important. I just eat when I'm hungry and try to space it throughout the day so that I'm not trying to stuff over 1000cal's down my throat at the end of the night.

    If its one of my long days at school I will usually pack some food into my isolator fitness meal management bag. I would look into a meal management bag if your trying to take food wherever you go. 6 pack bags seem to fall apart after awhile thats why I got an isolator one.
  • gamble

    Posts: 48

    Nov 30, 2015 2:37 AM GMT
    Hey thanks guys!

    I did message eagermuscle and he referred me to some really helpful posts he's made on some other threads which are linked below:

    MrAesthetic: I really like the backpack-style bag IsoPack makes. Thanks for the tip. They're a bit on the pricey side for me, but I just might splurge on one (get your head out of the gutter!)

    In the meantime, I think I'm going to go with some standard foodservice pint containers for storing food as they're cheap so I can buy them in bulk to prep a lot of meals and they're interchangeable. I hate having a drawer full of mismatched/incomplete/non-nesting tupperware and my roommates tend to lose or destroy things like that anyway.

    Otherwise, for something to throw in my bag for the day, what's working best for me are Indian-style tiffin containers

    They're durable and keep all your meals together and organized in your bag. You can get several of different tiers (of the same brand) and all of the internal compartments will be interchangeable between them.
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    Nov 30, 2015 4:07 AM GMT
    You need to talk to RJ member Bacchian. One insight he provided is that certain food, albeit small in size, packs higher calories than other food. You can be more efficient consuming these types of food. Regarding containers, I recommend Klean Kanteen, vacuum insulated food container. The downside is that it is not dishwasher safe.

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    Nov 30, 2015 4:25 AM GMT
    Sounds like you have it covered here. I'll only add one note from this incredibly hot bodybuilder type kid who was my college intern once. He carried a big backpack full of food around wherever we went and ate religiously every two hours...

    Then pulled out a little kit and brushed and flossed his perfect teeth, every time.
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    Nov 30, 2015 8:35 PM GMT
    Paleo diet cuts out most junk food so I roast a organic chicken, grass feed beef roast or turkey on Sunday and use that for meat through out the week. Raw spinach , lettuce and steamed veggies ( 8 minutes) makes a quick meal. When I have time I bake sweet potatoes as other filling side. Snacks are dried and fresh fruits and nuts. Fermented veggies are the latest healthy fad food that are ready to eat from the fridge. You can actually gain weight by making a hefty smoothly is the morning. ( berries, banana, almond milk , whey power, peanut butter , 2 raw eggs ,dates, honey
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    Nov 30, 2015 9:47 PM GMT
    Eagermuscle's meal prep is impressive. Would like to get to that level, and definitely try his chicken stew recipe since I've been experimenting with crockpot meals and the like.

    Still working at creating a solid meal plan for myself, but at the point where I prep foods I know I will eat a lot of. One or two afternoons/evenings are set aside to boil and peel eggs, steam a heap of broccoli, and dice onions and other veggies that'll be cooked later.

    A tip I can give here is to label storage containers with two lines of information. The date the food was cooked, and how much was initially stored. The first is obvious because there is an eat-by date for refrigerated foods, and it'll help you figure if food goes bad early or keeps a little longer. The second has helped me to reduce food waste. If I am not going through the broccoli or spinach fast enough, and it goes bad, I'll make a little less the next time. Or if I go through it too fast, I'll make more.

    While not part of weekly food prep, I have learned overnight (or two day) marinades for chicken breast and steak cuts down on cooking time. And it adds variety. Tried it with salmon and other fish, but anything more than 30 mins turns the texture and doesn't add to the taste.
  • gamble

    Posts: 48

    Dec 03, 2015 7:39 PM GMT
    OK. Update.

    I've been reading up on this stuff and I realize that while I've always been into cooking, I've never actually learned to *run* a kitchen. nNeeding to cook for one hungry dude with the metabolism of The Flash is pretty comparable to cooking for a regular family of four, and the best resources I've found have actually been Midwestern mom-blogs. Here's what I've learned:

    1) Cooked meals with a soft consistency come out of deep freeze the best - mashed potatoes, soups, sauces, enchiladas, lasagna etc, but you can get almost all the way there with everything else by doing all the prep work for a meal - dicing, seasoning, blanching, marinading, moulding of dough into little balls, etc - and then freezing that in 4 to 6-serving portions so that you can just do the final step of cooking/baking at the last minute without doing any cleanup and still have leftovers.

    2) Freezing or storing things in small units is much more convenient than a big block of ice. One trick that's working well for me is freezing food in Ziplock bags laying flat and then organizing them like books on a shelf like this:
    Similarly, if you're freezing biscuits or cookies, freeze them on a baking sheet in little balls and then you can throw them in the same ziplock bag without them sticking together. The same works for chunks of fruit. Also, you can freeze things like tomato paste one tablespoon at a time in cling wrap "pouches" so that you don't have to open a whole can every time you want to use some (recipes only ever seem to call for one tablespoon of tomato paste).

    3) Label everything with what it is, the date, and any cooking instructions, oven-temps, etc. I put up a roll of masking tape and a sharpie on a magnetic hook on my fridge for this purpose.

    4) My freezer can turn into a cryogenic tomb of mysteries, so I'm trying a new system where the top 3 shelves of the freezer (I have an upright) are cleared off and labeled with the names of the three upcoming months. That way I have a clear "inbox" to fill up with new cooking projects and a deadline by which to transfer all the oldest stuff to thaw in the fridge. I'll let you know how it goes.

    5) Cut down on prep time by using a mandoline slicer: ( I have a food processor with a similar function but I never use it because it's too annoying to clean. This thing is faster to use and clean than a knife and cutting board.

    6) has comprehensive nutritional information for all of it's recipes and you can easily scale the recipes up and down using a calculator on the site. This is super useful, but the recipes aren't always the lowest in fat or highest in protein. If anyone knows a site where you can search recipes by nutritional content let me know.

    Welcome everyone, to my crazy mind...
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    Dec 04, 2015 12:10 AM GMT
    nothing is totally reliable for liquids but consider Lock & Lock containers:

    I usually make sure the house is not without Costco baked skinless chicken breast or seasoned boiled pork. I wait for a cold winter evening and spend it cooking en mass. I put the finished food in large containers but wrap the servings in plane paper that separates even though frozen.

    Casein whey protein digests slower:
  • gamble

    Posts: 48

    Dec 04, 2015 9:11 PM GMT
    pellaz: Those are both great links - thank you!

    Here's a pic of my freezer after a cook-night last night - I've already filled up the December shelf and there's more in the fridge. Score!


    I was out of gallon ziplock bags, so I used the industrial pint containers instead. Not as space efficient, but still works great.

    Freezing bananas for protein shakes for the week:


    Also, I did find a website that lets you search for recipes based on macros:

    Just scroll down a bit. It's actually pretty great as far as the power of its database filters, but most of the recipes aren't exactly gourmet.
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    Dec 04, 2015 9:26 PM GMT
    "Deli-Wrap" sheets from Costco (actually just squares of waxed paper) are great for separating portions when freezing them inside a larger zip-lock bag.
  • Oceans_of_Flo...

    Posts: 393

    Dec 05, 2015 4:54 AM GMT
    top of things. My strategy for easy to carry "foods" is to rely on vegetables and fruit, which can be put in a bag. I heard of this thing called The Six Pack Back Pack and its supposed to be a game changer. Look it up.