Before I get started, I’d like to confess something: I’ve been slacking on my meal prep lately. That’s just not cool, considering last year I was so passionate about the necessity of meal planning and preparation I wrote a guide to make the process more manageable for others. It’s not like I haven’t been eating – I’ve just been doing a lot of my cooking “on the fly” and when I started looking at the impact that has on how much time I have available at the end of the day, I was shocked. It wasn’t exactly saving me any money buying smaller quantities of food either…
As they say in Japan, “Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.” and you can bet your ass that I won’t let my vision for strength and athleticism be undone by a time management nightmare!
Through the process of getting back on a meal prep schedule, I realized how important it is to have all of the right equipment at hand. So I put together this list of 6 essential tools you should have in your kitchen that will make your meal prep game a million times easier and more efficient.
1. Slow Cooker/Rice Cooker
Without a single doubt, my rice cooker is my most valuable ally in the quest for gains. Full disclosure, I eat a lot of rice and being able to cook up to 20 cups at a time means I NEVER run out! On the occasion, I’ll substitute rice for potatoes and it’s just as easy and fast.
Most rice cookers nowadays double as slow cookers and steamers as well, so you can handle everything! From 10 pound chuck roasts and whole chickens to veggies galore. How about stews, soups, and chilis? You got it. Heck, you can even make cheesecake and brownies in a slow cooker – the list goes on! If you don’t have a slow cooker/rice cooker, do yourself a gigantic favor and get one NOW.
2. Food Storage Containers
Being able to cook several pounds of food at a time won’t really be all that helpful if you don’t have anywhere to store it when it’s done cooking. That’s obviously where food storage containers come into play! I recommend getting a set with varying sizes. My bulk preparations go into gallon-sized containers and individual meals go into 4 cup containers.
3. Food Scale
If you follow ETP, you know that we put a big emphasis on developing an awareness of how much you’re eating rather than simply letting food choices be your sole guide as to whether or not something fits into your diet. A good food scale will allow you to quickly develop an eye for what you need to eat each meal to hit your macros. This accuracy will translate into more consistent portions, more consistent food intake, and more consistent results!
4. Measuring Cups and Measuring Spoons
A no-brainer for anyone who likes to cook, especially if you like trying new recipes. Never again will you have to eyeball a teaspoon of coconut oil and get it completely wrong. Again, accurate measurement translates into consistent results.
Don’t make your meal prep into a workout. Save your energy for the gym and get a set of high quality knives. I recently bought myself a nice ceramic carving knife and holy crap, it’s night and day vs. grabbing a dull old steak knife out of the drawer and struggling to get things done. When you’ve gotta chop up 8 pounds of chicken breasts and steak for the week, a dependable blade is a Godsend. Cut down on prep time, slice your frustrations into tiny bits, and rend more visually appealing food with a new set of kitchen knives!
6. Meal Management Cooler
Demanding schedules can make it hard to eat enough. I’m lucky enough to work from home, but I still leave the house once in a while – usually overnight – a solid meal management cooler is incredibly valuable. Having meals packed and ready to reheat and eat means you don’t have to waste money on fast food, expensive room service, or frozen dinners. You can actually stick to your plan if you want to!
For those of us who essentially live in the gym (coaches, trainers, elite athletes…I’m looking at you), the excuse not to eat is ever-present. Snacks and shakes are a start but nothing beats popping open a tupperware full of sweet potatoes and brisket, giving it a quick run through the nearest microwave, and slamming it as you kick your feet up and wait for your next obligation. It will also make a great impression on your clients because they’ll see that you don’t make excuses and live on meal replacement shakes.
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