Well, the whole newer, healthier lifestyle thing I posted about a while ago is going swimmingly, thanks very much for asking, S and I are feeling much better and in the last 2 months, it's been habit forming. I won't lie, it wasn't easy in the beginning - I'm not used to consulting recipes and measuring portions for a start, and also we both love comfort food. Plus, winter is not exactly the easiest season to commence a fitness regime in (this I say on behalf of S, with my back issues there's no jogging for me whatsoever)!
After a few weeks though, we've settled into a nice rhythm and have found ourselves at the supermarket gleefully buying mostly unprocessed foods, actively craving vegetables and fruit more, and happily, S looks incredibly fit (yayy for him being handsomer than usual).
One of the nice habit forming activities is that every weekend now, we buy a heap of food and prep it all for a week. I've got this particular recipe down pat, and its been adapted from one of Michelle Bridge's Losing the Last 5 Kg recipes to suit what's in season, and to last a week of prep.
Here's how I prepare a week's worth of healthy lunches for S and I (that's 10 lunches) in less than an hour.
(Shopping list: 2 zucchinis, 1 large eggplant, 1 head broccoli, 1 large head cauliflower, box of cous cous, dried mixed herbs, 600g tuna in springwater, 3 tins of beans/bean mix.)
This week, I started off by preheating the oven to 180 degrees celsius, then whilst waiting for that to heat up, I chop all the veggies up into 1 inch cubes, and lay them in baking pans. I also set the kettle to boil (you'll see why later).
Then, I spray them all with olive oil, and sprinkle fresh ground salt and pepper all over (this is the only salt you're going to have in the lunches to keep them healthy, so I don't skimp here). Also a liberal sprinkle of dried mixed herbs all over it. Fresh herbs would be better I'm sure, but I also try to keep these meals cost effective and pantry supplied.
Give them a good shake, and chuck baking pans in oven. The quickest to cook will be zucchini (10 min), then broccoli and eggplant (12 min) then cauliflower (15 min) so I set the timer for 10 min to start with.
Whilst the veggies are cooking, I measure out 1.5 cups of couscous, and pour over it 1.5 cups of boiling water that I thoughtfully prepared earlier. I cover the bowl with a saucer and leave it.
Then I take out a bag of carrots and cucumbers and start slicing them up and putting the slices in ziploc bags. We go through about 1.5 - 2kg of carrots and 4 cucumbers between us in a week, and so I do this all in one hit.
BEEP! The zucchini is done!
Take the zucchini out and place the tray on a trivet. I like my zucchini caramelized to the hilt, as you can see.
The cous cous will be done by now, so I uncover it and fluff it up with a fork.
At this stage, I like to stir through a bunch of mint (either fresh or the kind in a tube) for great flavour, and sometimes lemon juice if my lemon tree has been kind to me.
BEEP! The broccoli and & eggplant are done!
I didn't take a picture of the eggplant so you'll just have to use your imagination.
Take those trays out and place on trivets. Then I go get all my other food items together whilst waiting for the cauliflower.
I took 3 standard sized tins of beans (kidney, chickpeas and lentils in case you're wondering) and drained and rinsed them, then combined them in a bowl. Then I searched in my pantry till I found tins of tuna totalling 600g, opened and drained it all.
BEEP! The cauliflower is done.
Take THAT out too. Sigh happily at the amazing smells filling your kitchen.
Then, you lay out your 10 containers/bowls/pyrex dishes/tupperware.
From here, you can do 2 methods. You can layer each ingredient, or mix it all up. I've shown you both below, coz I'm nice like that.
If layering, you divide your couscous up between all the containers, then divide your beans up, then the tuna. Like so:
OR you can mix up the cous cous, bean mix and tuna, in a big bowl, THEN portion it out, like so:
Then, I layer up the roasted vegetables over that.
AND YOU'RE DONE.
Behold the beauty:
The containers are for S, the bowls are for me.
Now, if you're feeling addedly Martha Stewart-sh, these meals are meant to be eaten with a dollop of natural yoghurt. We like Jalna. It tastes rich, despite being fat free, and come in big tubs which are reusable, which means we aren't earth killers, because I said so.
For S's containers, I tuck a little muffin cup in, and plop a dollop of yoghurt in there. That way at work, he can just take it out, microwave the rest, and then pour on the yoghurt before eating (and throwing out the muffin cup) - saves us an extra mini-container he would otherwise take. I learnt this trick from ogling Bento lunchbox sites.
S and I have rated this lunch system the best so far, for its combination of ease, yumminess and nutritional factor. Portion control IS important too - the measurements and amounts I give above are for 10 lunches for one very big man and one generally hungry girl. They are reasonably filling, I don't feel hungry for a good few hours after I eat these!
They're SUPERBLY yummy, and infinitely changeable - sometimes I drop a handful of spinach on top of it all to wilt in the microwave, and in summer I can replace the vegetables with salad type condiments. Cous cous is super quick and yummy and full of fibre, but I can also change it up with a small amount of brown rice or even buckwheatsoba noodles. We also vary the protein - this works well with lean cooked chicken, tofu, salmon, and amazing with lamb strips.
Once I've packed it all in the fridge, I then finish chopping up our vegetable sticks and fruit salad for the week - it's a no brainer to grab it out of the fridge in their ziploc bags each morning.
All in all, the entire process takes 45 minutes (after a few weeks practice), maybe an hour including cleanup (though I'm lucky to have a dishwasher AND an enthusiastic handsome pan scrubber). Our grocery bills have gone down significantly, and we can see the difference in our bodies - especially for S who has been diligently exercising as well! It's food that is yummy enough to keep eating, but certainly not so yummy that it's bad for the waistline. In fact, I've found myself roasting up vegetables when I'm after a savoury snack, and craving fruit and veg all the time.
And the best part?
You only have to do it once a week, and then you're all set, all week long.
Do you have any packed lunch favourites? Have you been practising a healthier lifestyle? Share your tips with me!