The Importance of Meal Prep

Only a few days in and already I’m bumping into some struggles, but don’t worry, they’re not insurmountable. Problem number one: lunch. There are only so many times that I can order salad, and calling restaurants to interrogate them about which menu items are sugar free gets old really fast. (By the way, a menu item that has a tomato sauce, avoid: they tend to put sugar in it). Plus, the restaurants tend not to appreciate it very much. So, if you don’t want to get stuck with a boring salad for lunch at work then making your lunch at home the night before is key.

Unfortunately, last night was much busier than I thought it would be and getting this blog up and running took precedence. Long story short, I got lazy with my meal prep. I had planned on making myself a healthy, filling and protein high lunch but we were out of chicken and I was tired. What I ended up doing was taking a cup of goats’ milk yogurt (it’s low in lactose, the naturally occurring sugar in dairy), chopped in some of the delicious end of season strawberries (there are some benefits to living in Israel) and sprinkled with oatmeal to make a quick muesli. A great breakfast that I hoped would be sufficient for lunch.

I work in an incredible office where they have a daily breakfast bar containing veggies and assorted cheeses. For breakfast, I took carrots, tomatoes, and cottage cheese (don’t worry I checked the nutrition label and it turns out Israeli cottage cheese does not have sugar in it) and went on my merry. But by lunch time I was hungry, and scarfed down my muesli. While it was nice and it did fill me up, I was left unsatisfied and my eyes started to wander to the cookie table. I held strong but it was sincerely a great effort with the combination of that feeling of wanting something more and the sugar cravings I’m already fighting.

Due to this experience, I’ve had a bit of a belated realization. Meal prep is important. And not just prepping the night before. I’m not saying that every weekend I need to sit down and make all five lunches for the week right there and then. One, that just sounds very daunting, and two, I like having the variety. Eating the same thing everyday while I’m avoiding my favorite sweets is just going to make my pallate crave those sweets even more. But there are things that I can do to make it easier on myself.

The most important thing is to make sure I start the week with a fridge filled with ingredients necessary for meals I might like to eat. (Probably even better if I can get a meal schedule going but I know that I’m nowhere near organized enough for that). And if you’re a meat eater, I think the best advice I can give to  you is one of my budget saving tips from being a college student: buy a whole chicken. That’s right, walk away from that package of chicken breasts and go buy the whole thing, bones and all.

By buying a whole chicken and roasting it at the start of the week, you are saving yourself money and time, and you’re doing half of the prep work for your lunches right there. Best of all, it looks really impressive while being insanely easy! Here in Tel Aviv ,a whole chicken costs between 30-45₪. So that’s 4-6 meals for just under $15! All you need to do is roast one chicken at the beginning of the week, and once it’s cool enough to touch, shred it and save it in Tupperware. Then throughout the week you can take the appropriate portions and add it to your lunches in a variety of fun ways for that boost of protein that will get you through the day. Budget friendly and saves you time during the week when you’re tired and just want to go to sleep. Sounds like a winner to me.

I am sure as I continue along I’ll think of other hacks for making meal prep a breeze and I’ll be sure to share them with you, but for now enjoy my super easy recipe for roast chicken with, as I’m sure you’ll soon come to see, one of my favorite spice combinations.

clark-roast-chicken-superjumbo

Photo credit: The New York Times

What you’ll need:

  • 1 whole chicken
  • Olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon of Butter
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Paprika
  • Cumin

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 225 degrees Celsius (in Fahrenheit that’s 430 degrees) and get  out a pan. Place your chicken in the pan and make sure that the cavity is empty.
  2. Prep the chicken by drizzling olive oil over it and then sprinkle it with salt, pepper, paprika and cumin to taste. Once you’ve done that be sure to rub the spices into the chicken which helps to get the flavors into the meat and spreads the oil all around keeping the skin from burning.
  3. Once the oven comes to temperature put the chicken in the oven and cook it 18 minutes for every pound. (Shout out to Chef John for this timing tip!) Halfway through the cooking time check on the chicken and baste it in the heavenly juices that have accumulated in the pan. Continue doing this about every 10-15 minutes for the rest of the cooking time. To check when the chicken is done poke it with a fork in a very meaty area and if the juices run clear you’re good to go if not give it a few more minutes.
  4. Carve and eat, or shred and keep in the fridge for lunches throughout the week. Bon Appetite!
  5. Optional Steps: If you’re ok with using dairy, break the butter up into tiny little chucks and place on the wings, beneath the skin of the breast, thighs and anywhere that meat is showing. Obviously this is a step to take as part of prepping the chicken before putting it in the oven. If you want to take it a step farther and make it a little fancier place a few of those little chunks of butter inside the cavity of the chicken followed by a lemon sliced in half or quarters and sprigs of fresh rosemary and sage leaves, for a delicious chicken seasoned from within and without!

And there  you have it, a wonderful chicken recipe that is good for prepping meals for the week or for putting on a fancy dinner. Enjoy!

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