I have most definitely gained some of that “Quarantine Fifteen”. Stress eating, the sudden abundance of homemade bread, and more drastically in my case, not being as active as I used to be, all contributed to the formation of a rounder abdominal pouch that I was not happy to welcome back.
Many of you will say, “So what, we all got a little plump during quarantine”. True, but honey, I worked too damn hard to lose 30 pounds these last two years that I did not want all that hard work to slip away because of COVID. This pandemic messed up a lot of things, and so much of it was out of our control. My health journey is one thing I can still control, and I’ve recently felt empowered to reclaim it.
Below I’m sharing the three general methods I follow to sustain my meal prepping routine, and five food items I typically prep.
For me, reclaiming control of a healthy lifestyle meant using my old healthy habits that worked in my pre-COVID life, but adapting them to this new lifestyle. So instead of meal prepping lunches to bring to the office, I prep ingredients that I can easily throw together for multiple healthy meals at home. For example, I wash and store fresh fruit to add to my daily oatmeal, I prep a container of egg salad or tuna salad for lunch, and I store washed and chopped veggies to throw in a pan sheet for dinner. These are old habits I used to do, but I’ve simply expanded them into a new environment.
The most effective way to ensure I have all those healthy ingredients ready (and regularly) is by staying organized. In all honesty, that’s the “secret” to maintaining a healthy meal routine. For me, that means a weekly grocery list, a list of meals I want to prep, and having freshly-washed fruits and veggies stored in clear containers stacked neatly in the fridge, and nuts and legumes stored in glass jars in the pantry. The visual appeal of neatly stored healthy food encourages me to eat them, and to continue filling them up once they run low.
Find an Enjoyable Routine
Since I’m currently unemployed, I’ve had a lot more time to try out new recipes for dinner, and more time to prep and store with ease. In my pre-COVID life, I’d squeeze in two hours on a Sunday to meal-prep for the week. Now, I tune into a podcast (currently into Unlocking Us, Goal Digger, Armchair Expert, Big Kid Problems, and Under The Skin, to name a few) while leisurely getting into my meal-prep/cooking mode. A good podcast + a new recipe have become an enjoyable combo for me these days. Key word here: enjoyable. Finding a routine you like will make it a lot easier to stick to.
Now that I’ve laid out the “how’s” and the “when’s” of my meal prepping routine, let’s touch on the “what’s”.
Fruit & Veggies
My fruit haul will certainly depend on the season, but my weekly lineup of fruit is usually blueberries, strawberries (they have been so good this summer), bananas, oranges, apples, pears and avocados. I wash them, dry them and store them in airtight containers in the fridge (I use these stackable ones from IKEA) or I place them in a basket on our kitchen island.
For veggies, my lineup is always something green: spinach, kale, broccoli and cucumbers, and occasionally zucchini and green bell peppers. I’ll also always have carrots and celery for snacking with hummus or peanut butter. Similarly to the fruit, I wash, dry and store them for easy access to throw together for a refreshing salad, a Netflix snack or a pan sheet of roasted goodness. In addition to fresh veggies, we also keep our freezer filled with frozen veggies like string beens, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower that are easy to sautée or roast for dinners.
Where do I begin with eggs? This was my go-to snack before I headed out to my spin class in my pre-COVID life. In this current life, these little guys are so versatile to use for egg salads, to put on avocado toast, to add to a summery potato salad, and of course, to have as a snack all on its own. I mentioned this in a previous post on my healthy snacks, but I’m actually a fan of medium-boiled eggs, so I boil my eggs for 8-9 minutes to get that creamy interior.
Similarly to eggs, quinoa is another versatile protein-packed tool to have in your meal prep kit. On its own, quinoa is very bland but that’s why it’s such a flexible and versatile item; you can create so many flavours, textures and meals with it.
For example, whenever I crave a creamy bowl of pasta, I’ll throw together a warm bowl of quinoa with pesto and garlic, topped with roasted cherry tomatoes, sautéed greens, goat cheese and pine nuts. That usually satisfies my craving for that yummy Mediterranean flavour. Aside from warm bowls, you can add quinoa in salads for protein, or even make spiced quinoa “burger” patties.
Fish & Meat
My fiancé and I are carnivores, but we’ve recently cut down our meat consumption and started eating more fish these days. Our favourite fish to have is salmon because it’s easy to cook, it’s delicious and you can cook a full fillet to have for leftovers, making your lunch and dinner easy-breezy for the next day. I personally love “next-day” salmon, eaten cold, topped on a citrusy salad with spinach, cherry tomatoes, walnuts and goat cheese. So good.
Occasionally, whenever there’s a good sale on meat like a whole turkey, chicken or pork, my fiancé takes charge. He’ll season and roast it, and once cooked to perfection, he’ll let it cool, slice them up and store them in a container to use up that week, or store them in freezer bags for future use. The meal possibilities with cooked and sliced meat is endless: sandwiches, wraps, tacos, fajitas, salads, pastas or even just a plate of good ol’ meat & potatoes.
Hopefully these eight tips are a helpful motivation if you’re seeking to get back on track, looking to try something new, or looking to try meal-prepping for the first time. And if you’re not ready yet, that’s totally fine too.
It’s a weird time for us all. This COVID/Quarantine life has been a shit show of a roller coaster. I went from being unemployed, to employed, back to unemployed in a matter of three months. I haven’t been unemployed since 2006. Like all of us, I’ve had to adapt multiple times to multiple changes, and have had to accept that the vision of our future that used to be clear has now become a little foggy. And for an organized, list-making, project-fulfilling, calendar-scheduling Virgo, it didn’t sit well with me. It felt much better to curl up on the couch and munch on potato chips and pizza, muting all of the crazy shit happening in the world and in our society.
But I don’t regret those weeks, because that’s what I needed at the time. It wasn’t until June that I got out of my quarantine funk and reminded myself how far I got last year. It was a much-needed “snap out of it” reminder to get back to the routine that I missed, and the routine that ultimately changed my life.
I may have gained a few rolls, but I still have my health, my strength and the endless love and support of the people I am insanely lucky and grateful to have in my life. I also have the sun, the breeze and the lake every day. In the end, that’s all that really matters.