I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while now! It’s been cooking up in my brain as I’ve gradually collected ideas and photos for it. My weekly food prep days (Sundays) have become one of my favorites. I listen to podcasts or music and cook up amazing goodies to eat throughout the week. I’ve also bumped up my workouts over the past couple of months, adding a stable cardio regimen twice per week plus pushing myself to THE EDGE! during my weight training. My metabolism has been bumped up and I’ve recognized that I need to eat often to sustain my physical and brain activity.
So. In case you didn’t know, I’m in graduate school. I have class 3 days per week (in 2 hour 45 minute blocks), and work 10 hours at my research assistantship, plus 10 hours at my administrative job elsewhere on campus. While I enjoy my “on campus” days and relish how busy I am for 3 days out of the week, those days are at least 8 hours each. More like 9-12 hours, really it just depends. Pair that with my financial and health-based needs to bring my own “lunch” and you’ve got a food prep wonderland.
Since I am gone for such large chunks of time, (that often encompass funky hours, my classes are 12-2:45 in the afternoons) taking my own food is a necessity to sustain myself and keep my brain going. The entire first semester was trial and error: brining too little and getting hangry, having something come up and staying late and not having snacks, getting dehydrated because I didn’t bring a water bottle, bringing too much food only to not know what to do with it. After those initial months of learning, I can confidently say that I’ve finally gotten the art of the feed bag down pat. That’s what I call it: the feed bag. It’s more than just a lunch it’s a sustainable sack filled with vegan, organic, gluten free goodness that fuels and satisfies my body and often offers brief respite from the craziness of the day. Above, you see said feed bag. Vegan made out of recycled materials emblazoned with a happy little message, its black background goes with the rest of my wardrobe. Now how about what’s on the inside?
Fairly typical contents: a complete meal encased in tupperware/pyrex, 1-2 sides, 2-3 snacks (Lara Bar not pictured!). Here you have a nice rice bowl (contents below) and veggies for hummus, yogurt with fruit and chia, a banana. Gold fish cat toy not included. And that’s the formula:
In the bowl: brown rice cooked in homemade veggie stock; salad of mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, and sprouts; roasted tomatoes and zucchini (hidden in the upper right hand corner); baked tempeh; topped with tahini sauce, pepper, and diced fermented jalepenos.
Another bowl: gluten free mac; steamed kale; molé chili making a comeback after a couple of months in the freezer; buffalo Beyond Meat grilled strips. The above is my pyrex, aka the microwaveable bowl. I threw that kale in raw and it steamed up as the rest of the goodies heated.
Tri colored quinoa; roasted chick peas; collards; roasted cauliflower; miso ginger glazed tofu; topped with sprouts; served with a blood orange and Lara bar.
So, what’s my bowl breakdown? Pretty basic, really.
Carbohydrates, from a whole grain/gluten free source: brown rice, quinoa, or some form of pasta made from either one (or both!).
Greens! Raw or cooked, I try and mix it up. Often I’ll bring a little salad with whatever I’m eating for the day. For instance today I’m bringing a small pyrex of casserole and a salad. I can eat these separately for smaller mini meals or together for one larger one, depending on how the day goes.
Protein. Legume, tofu, or tempeh.
Additional veggie. Some sort of roasted or raw veggie tossed into the mix for added color, nutrition, and flavor.
Sauce/dressing. Tahini, miso, your favorite salad dressing, you name it. Bowls and salads are so much tastier with some sort of healthy sauce to go with them.
I usually try and keep a balance of fruits and veggies with my snacks. I love, love, LOVE, Lara bars and take them just about everywhere. They’re packed with all sorts of goodies and make a filling snack on their own or a slightly bigger one with a piece of fruit.
Blooming 4 dragon flower tea, over night oats in a cashew butter jar with chia and pomegranate arils, soaked in coconut milk.
An apple (eaten with a handful of raw walnuts) and my 620-something milliliter water bottle.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to take a big ole water bottle with you EVERYWHERE. I have 2: this one for when I’m out and about, and a smaller glass one that I use at home as I can refill it more frequently. This one is just over half a liter — my goal each day is to refill it as much as possible. During class, I fill it up before and refill it at the break. So I drink a liter of water during class alone. This has really helped me feel healthy and just plain GREAT as I move about my day. Occasionally, I’ll slip a bottle of homebrewed kombucha into my feedbag, and often I’ll take a mug and several assorted bags of tea. When you’re gone for large amounts of the day, the best thing you can do for yourself is make things as comfortable as possible. When I’m at home, I drink a lot of tea. I try and do this when I’m away too. First of all, because the buildings I’m in are FREEZING! And secondly, because it does make me relaxed and feel at ease when I know I won’t be home for a while.
Now, this is where my prepping practices come into play. Each week, on Friday, I go grocery shopping. Beforehand, I set out a meal plan for the week ahead. This includes what I’ll be making and when, 1 meal at a restaurant/carry out, and what I’m packing in the feed bag each day, at least generally. I also make a list of what I’ll be prepping on Sunday. All of this listing (first of all, I’m a lister I do it daily.) helps me not only plan accordingly and make sure that I’ve got everything I need but it also helps me budget for the week. This past Sunday, I prepped brown rice cooked in my homemade veggie broth, garlicky collards (I had half a bundle leftover from a recipe last week), and a black bean/corn dish, and a cashew based garlicky avocado dip. (Recipe soon!) You can see all of the above, plus a few cherry tomatoes in the pyrex at work on Monday evening.
I make everything I need to have for a complete bowl, just as you see in the photo above. Then depending on the day and my mood I can make some sort of variation of said bowl using leftovers and fresh fruits and veggies I have rolling around in the crisper or on the counter in my kitchen. On Tuesday nights (after a 7-9 hour day away from the cat and my little apartment) I usually make dinner, and these leftovers often get consumed over the next few days in bowl/small meal format. I love leftovers for this reason: they allow you to really mix things up and create all sorts of different combinations that keep you and your taste buds from getting bored.
I’m also a big proponent of freezing leftovers for quick meals, or for those days when cooking just isn’t in the cards. My Tuesday meals are often some sort of pre-prepared casserole that I slide into the oven when I get home or a simple dish like tofu scramble or pudla. I’m really enjoying the opportunity to get creative with casseroles on Tuesday nights, and I’m excited to explore this way of eating further, along with soups and stews that I can also make in advance. Cooking in this way, even if it means that you get all of your prep done for EVERY meal on your prep day, helps you stay full, happy, and healthy. It’s also allowed me to stick to my goals and just feel GREAT over all about my body as I feel that it’s reaching its full potential and serving me well throughout the day. Don’t crash and burn, make sure you fill up that feed bag and take care of yourself when you’re out of your own kitchen!
So, to sum it all up: bowl/snacks/sides. In your bowl: carb/greens/veggies/protein. WATER, WATER, WATER! Lots of variation, a few casseroles, and a food prep day each week. And more water. Also, I’m hoping to do a few Through the Looking Glass posts to show you more of what my funky days look like. Especially Wednesdays. Wednesdays are my weird timing days. Keep your well-fed eye peeled!