The Power of 2 Hours
How much time should you spend on meal prep?
The bottom line is that your meal prep routine needs to be worth your while. If it takes too long you will start to dread it. If you spend too little time you will get underwhelming results which will produce a “why bother” feeling over time.
Two Hours of Active Cooking, Once Per Week
Having taught meal prep for more than six years, I can tell you that the sweet spot is two hours of active cooking time.
Here's how two hours of active cooking breaks down by "moves" in Kitchen Karate:
CHOP = 40 MINUTES
SPRINKLE = 40 MINUTES
POKE = 40 MINUTES
Setting a time limit and sticking to it is part of the Ingredients-Up Approach.
Rather than saying, "I'm going to make 30 complete meals no matter if it takes me all day," you ask, "what can I get done in the time I'm willing to give over to meal prep?"
At the Black Belt level you can make a spread like this using just two hours of active cooking time. That's 15 completely different, sophisticated meals.
But what about Shopping, Packing, and Cleaning?
Typically there are another two hours of non-cooking activity as well; shopping, packing, cleaning.
All in you are looking at 4 hours, which you can spread over two days.
Hopefully you used the Time-Cost Worksheet in the SELF ASSESSMENT to get a snapshot of how much time you spend on food-related activities each week.
My wife and I save a combined total of 12 hours per week through our meal prep. Enough for us to go to six exercise classes each (not that we do, but we could!)
Meal Prep does not need to be about finished meals!
I know meal preppers love to show off dozens of perfectly proportioned meals in identical containers. I'm guilty of posting those too. It's the most photogenic way to present a meal prep! But it's not the only way to go, or even the best way to go.
Complete one or any number of The 5 Moves and you are prepping.
SHOP Shop only and you have all the ingredients needed for home-cooked meals that week. No need to run to the store again!
SHOP + CHOP SHOP and CHOP to have clean, trimmed, sliced, and diced ready-to-go ingredients for quick meals later in the week.
SHOP + CHOP + SPRINKLE Put these three moves together and your prepped ingredients are marinating in seasonings, awaiting to be cooked.
SHOP + CHOP + SPRINKLE + POKE Combine all 4 moves and you have prepped, seasoned, and cooked ingredients at the ready.
SHOP + CHOP + SPRINKLE + POKE + PLATE Do it all and you have photo-ready meals portioned out in individual containers. Just pull, heat, eat.
Your focus as a meal prep beginner should not be on the finished dishes but on the PROCESS itself.
There is nothing mystical or magical about The 5 Moves. Every task is an easy one. You just need to do them in the correct order. The better you get at each of The 5 Moves the better you will be at meal prep and cooking in general.
Mastering The 5 Moves will allow you to cook with creativity, variety, ease, and joy. And you'll never need to look for another "quick and easy" recipe again. If there is only one thing you take away from this crash course let it be The 5 Moves.
Mastering The 5 Moves is how you are going to build the perfect meal prep routine for YOU, from the ingredients up.
How This Relates to the Cook-Along Lessons
There is a bit of a paradox. On the one hand I'm telling you to use an Ingredients-Up Approach to meal prep, to set your own agenda and make only the meals that make sense for you. On the other hand I'm providing Cook-Along Lessons with shopping list, meal plans, and exact directions which have nothing to do with your specific goals. What gives?
The Cook-Along Lessons are for training purposes only. They are laser focused on improving and expanding your meal prep ABILITIES. I lead you to make Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner for each day we prep not because I think you should always prep all your meals for every day of the week but because I want you to have the ability to do that should the need arise.
At the Black Belt level you will make fifteen complete meals to cover breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a full five days with all the dressings, sauces, and trimming included. Does that mean you should aspire to do that every week? Heck no! Do it once and you can easily subtract from that anything you don't care to do. In contrast, if you don't complete it you will never know what you are missing.
Bottom line: The 5 Moves of Kitchen Karate and The Ingredients-Up Approach are the two big ideas I'm trying to convey to you with this entire course. The Cook-Along Lessons are just a way for you to practice the 5 moves and improve your meal prep abilities.
The Freestyle Weeks
The Freestyle Weeks are part of the course to encourage you to work from the ingredients up and make your own ideal meal prep practice using The 5 Moves. It's what you develop during the Freestyles that will inform how you actually apply meal prep to your real life.
Remember the Two Criteria for Success
Measure the success of your meal prep practice using two criteria:
- It knocks out the bad-apple mealtimes in your week
- You stick with it
Your goals, schedule, and palate are constantly changing. Your meal prep routine needs to flex and change with it.
Having a firm handle on each of The 5 Moves will allow you to adjust and adapt with ease. This is the power of the Ingredients-Up Approach.
Questions and Comments on This Lesson?
Drop me a note in our private forum The Dojo Lounge. I will respond during office hours.