Meal prep is a great way we get a head start on our meals, save money, and avoid last minute meal disappointment.
We've asked our man Dez, a member of the Cook Culture team, questions about his solid meal preparation planning and he told us about some of the things he's learned along the way.
Dez is a master of “batch” cooking - when he’s not on his bike, he’s in his kitchen building meal foundations that will sustain him for days or weeks.
- Why did you decide to start meal prepping?
Because of my dietary restrictions from many food allergies, I realized the only way I could nourish myself and truly enjoy eating was by learning to cook and becoming self-sufficient. When I relied on external sources to prepare my meals, I was never truly in control of what I ate and I was almost entirely disconnected to a very important daily ritual. By being in control of my diet, my level of understanding of how food affected my health, life, and worldview increased dramatically, which in turn led me to greater happiness.
- How did you get started?
I took small steps. Seven years ago I started by preparing 1 or 2 of my meals each day. It wasn’t hard, since one of the meals I prepped were instant oatmeal packs.
Learning basic dishes helped too - how to cook rice, make pasta, fry chicken breast; really simple stuff. By being in the kitchen cooking it really doesn’t matter what I’m making; putting in the time is what matters most.
As I began to see patterns of tasks that occurred regularly appear, such as cutting onions and bell peppers, parting chicken, husking garlic, squeezing citrus, knife skills, I would go online and find videos of people’s preferred techniques. These were like mini-hacks that made the process much more direct, and allowed me to find what worked best for me.
I also realized the importance of good tools somewhere around this point too, as it became clear quickly if a tool wasn’t pulling its weight.
Also important to my learnings was the early introduction of spices and seasoning, learning how to guess amounts and remembering flavour profiles. It worked really well for me to get comfortable with a few and then slowly increasing my comfort with more flavours, by always keeping my favourites close to hand.
As my comfort level and understanding for food and cooking increased, as did my ability to prep more ingredients, make larger quantities of food, think ahead, channel creative intuitions, and explore more recipes. I learned what worked for me and what didn’t. From there, designing how I wanted my cooking process to look like in order to achieve a specific outcome was pretty easy.
- What do you use for meal prep?
I use the Miyabi Kaizen santoku knife and keep it sharp with a diamond steel for weekly maintenance, and a sharpening stone (like the minoSharp) to resurface the edge angle a few times a year. For cooking, I use a 3 quart saucepan, a medium-large deep skillet or wok, and a 13qt Staub oven (it’s massive!)
I also use many other basic kitchen tools including a vegetable peeler, silicone and wood spatulas, paring knife, large and small sieve, large mixing bowls, elastics/clothes pins, a 4 cup measuring glass, parchment paper, and plastic wrap.
- What do you wish you had learnt earlier?
I am generally really content with the process I went through, though for others there would be 4 things I’d mention:
- If meal prep is something you want to move towards, it’s ideal to invest in quality pieces that you can grow into, compliment your goals, and are a pleasure to use.
- Don’t let food photography, trends, and beautiful instagram photos taint your perception on what the results of your meal prep should be. It is a business and industry like many others, and although romantic, it lacks practicality. Let your own intuitions and preferences be your guide, and absorb information that assists you with those things.
- Always have snacks (ideally not processed food) to fall back on or extra food available (frozen or otherwise) in case life throws you a curveball and your food prep has to suffer briefly. Fruit is great for this. Not being prepared for a day or two of fluctuations can leave one feeling scattered
- Never stop learning, improving, and being excited. That’s a recipe for success.
- Any additional tips?
Be clear with why you want to improve your meal prep, and the benefits this will provide you. Talk to friends, family and coworkers about food. Watch videos and read blogs instead of dissolving into Netflix or drowning yourself in facebook’s newsfeed. Learn about your preferences. Shop through grocery store flyers (“reebee” is a fantastic mobile app for this). Let it permeate your life. Don’t be too hard on yourself when getting started, allow your enthusiasm, appreciation, and excitement to stew :)
Follow Dez’s journey on Instagram and learn more about what he does: @dezcuisine He’s happy to answer your questions via private message!