How to Bulk Prep for Healthy Meals (+ Easy Thai Spring Rolls Recipe)

Easy

Why Food Works

Awhile back I connected with Registered Dietitian, Sarah Waybright.  She loves food as much as I do and like me is passionate about teaching people how to find and cook the best foods to fit their lifestyle.  Today, she talks here on my blog about bulk prepping for health meals.  Why?  Because life is crazy and eating healthy can sometimes feel like a chore without these time saving tips.  Read on to find out her top tips for bulk food prep for groups or weekly meals.  Plus, she included a yummy recipe for Easy Thai Spring Rolls that I know you all will just love.  Thank you, Sarah!

How to Bulk Prep for Healthy Meals (Groups or Weekly Meals)

When you’re cooking for a crowd, it’s hard to please everyone!  Between food allergies, flavor preferences, different eating patterns, and texture aversions it’s almost certain that someone isn’t going to be happy.  Unless…there’s some flexibility in what’s offered, and folks can make their own choices about what to include in their meal!  I’ve used the concept of a “build your own” bar for yoga retreats, corporate seminars, and homemade meals for big groups, and it hasn’t failed me yet.

The concept is simple: bulk prep the individual ingredients, and let people put their own plates together.  This also works well when cooking for yourself – spending a few hours on the weekend chopping, roasting, and boiling gives you the makings of fast and healthy recipes all week long.  The same carrots, peppers, and quinoa you had with salsa and cilantro on Monday can become a ginger stir fry on Wednesday.
Here’s the food framework:
  • Roast – veggies, meats or meat alternatives
  • Boil – grains, noodles, eggs
  • Chop – veggies to have fresh or for cooking later, fruits for snacking
  • Stock – nuts, seeds, dried fruit, dressings, cheeses, yogurt (or non-dairy yogurt), canned beans

Five Easy Steps for Bulk Meal Prep

  1. Choose 2 grains, 3 vegetables to roast, 2-3 vegetables to chop, 1-2 meats/proteins, and what you’ll have on hand for breakfasts and snacks for the week (oatmeal? Eggs and toast? Nuts and fruit? Veggies and hummus?).  Assume you’ll need 6-8 servings of each food, per person.
  2. When you’ve grocery shopped, get your kitchen clear and clean, preheat the oven, and grab a cutting board to start prepping the roasting elements.  Season with salt and pepper, use oil when indicated (see links for more info on how to prep each item).
  3. Pop your items to roast in to the oven at the same time as you begin to boil your stovetop items (keep in mind that a fuller oven make take longer to cook food; use a thermometer for meats).
  4. While cooking those elements, chop the fresh fruits and veggies you’ll have on hand for the week.
  5. Sort or pack any items that need to be divided – nuts, dried fruit, veggies
Remember: only store cooked foods in containers after they cool off, otherwise cooking will continue and foods will be overdone!
Now you’re ready to feed yourself for a week – or a large group! I prepped a noodle bowl and spring rolls for a group of 26 with just that strategy.  The buffet for the noodle bowls included:
  • gluten-free spaghetti noodles
  • shredded carrots (purchased this way, but easy to do with a grater)
  • water chestnuts (canned; drained)
  • spinach, roughly chopped
  • red bell pepper slices
  • shelled edamame (defrosted, can substitute green peas)
  • pan-roasted tofu (chicken or steak would work too)
  • sauteed mushrooms
  • sesame seeds and red pepper flakes, for garnishing
The spring roll options were:
  • shredded cabbage
  • bibb lettuce
  • shredded carrots
  • rice vermicelli noodles
  • long-cut cucumbers
  • fresh cilantro
  • roughly chopped salted cashews

Thai Rolls Ingredients

Which people wrapped in rice wrappers – they just need about 10 seconds of a soak in hot water and they’re ready to roll and eat!  And since the group was so big, I encouraged people to smear the dipping sauce inside the wrapper as a base; no bowls sitting around or danger of double dipping, and sauce in every bite.  Here’s how I built mine, in pictures:
Thai Roll A

Thai Roll B

Thai Roll C

Thai Spring Rolls D

Thai Spring Rolls 1

Thai Spring Rolls
The cashew sauce:
  • 1/3 cup cashew butter
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp GF soy sauce (see this post for soy-free soy sauce options in the ingredients list)
  • hot water to thin to desired texture
  • red pepper flakes and chopped cashews to garnish
Cooking for yourself for a week or a group definitely requires planning and prep – but if you do it all at once you can reduce clean up time and enhance efficiency by layering tasks together (like chopping veggies while you’re boiling grains and roasting meat).  Spend 30 minutes a week planning a few meal options and you’ll be pulling together dinner in 10 minutes all week long!
Want more recipes and nutrition info?  Join me at www.whyfoodworks.com and follow on TwitterPinterest, or Instagram – and many thanks to Elaine for hosting this post!

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