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  • Writer's pictureHarshal

Busting The Myth of Daily Kitchen Slavery

Updated: Jan 16

Experiments And Tips For Tasty, Nutritious, Time-Saving Meal Prep For Your Family


Some common beliefs that I think are wrong and limiting are:

  • Eating healthy takes a lot of time.

  • Healthy food is tasteless and boring.

  • Meal prep removes the soul from cooking.

  • Food once kept in the refrigerator loses its soul or life.


But I'll show in this post that you can eat healthy and save time on cooking, at the same time. Here are tips from what works for me.


I wrote this after discussing on the subreddit MealPrepSunday about creating a variety of foods to eat every week while preparing all in advance on Sunday.


I discussed this on Reddit, but I’m writing this on Substack. I am not a meal prep expert. Your reasons to read my Substack are not about food. So, I’m only publishing 1 out of 6 parts on Substack. I’ll publish the rest only to www.harshal-patil.com.


Following this approach helps me get more time on weekdays to spend with my spouse and kid or work more. Instead of the adults being busy in the kitchen on weekdays, and the children fending on their own.


Some things you can take away from this post are:

  • Example of a precise macro goal-following meal plan that can be prepared in bulk for a healthy, wholesome, balanced diet.

  • Having a variety of diversity in your food every week which keeps meals interesting.

  • Effective meal prep routine, including tips on grocery shopping, food storage, preparation, cooking, and final touches before you eat.

  • Ways to save time and money.

  • Some handy kitchen equipment.

Fully-stocked, busy, overwhelming kitchen.
Fully-stocked, busy, overwhelming kitchen.

Here are all the posts in this series:


Weekday Macro Goals And Sample Foods

Below is a breakdown of our macro and diet plans. I adjust mine by 100 to 200 calories every few weeks, depending on my goals.

stacked bar charts of 2 sample macros split.
stacked bar charts of 2 sample macros split.

I consume between 2,400 - 3,000 calories daily, while my wife's intake is 1,700 calories. Here is a detailed macro split and meal choices for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for my recent 3,000 calorie meal plan.


My macro goals:

breakdown macros table to reach 3,000 cal for muscle building.
breakdown macros table to reach 3,000 cal for muscle building.

After undergoing 3 personalized diet programs each with Fittr coaches (so, total 6), my wife and I have gained an understanding of nutrition, motivation to make a nutritious meal plan, and the habit of adhering to the plan. We have synthesized our learnings and now refine our diets with precision.


What I eat in a day:

breakdown table of a day’s food constituents across each meal and snacks to reach 3,000 cal bulking.
breakdown table of a day’s food constituents across each meal and snacks to reach 3,000 cal bulking.

Here is an example video of one breakfast in a day.


My wife’s macro goals:

Breakdown macros table to reach 1,700 cal in maintenance phase.
Breakdown macros table to reach 1,700 cal in maintenance phase.

While some Redditors on r/MealPrepSunday craft intricate dishes like burritos, sushi, or elaborate stir-fries, we embrace simplicity. Paneer Tikka or Chicken Biryani do not enter our kitchen on weekdays. Instead, we go for plain rice, grilled paneer, and baked chicken. We prepare each item individually for accurate measurement and integration into our diet.


My wife’s daily food plan:

breakdown of an Indian vegetarian meal in a day.
breakdown of an Indian vegetarian meal in a day.

I wrote more about my identity as a fitness fanatic here and my other side as a feasting foodie.


What About Variety In Food Items Or Taste?

column chart visualizing the number of varieties per food category.
column chart visualizing the number of varieties per food category.

Here is how we vary each item in our meal plan. Summarized number of varieties:

  1. Eggs: 6

  2. Vegetables: 17

  3. Fruits: 16

  4. Nuts: 7

  5. Rice: 9

  6. Dal: 8

  7. Cheese: 10

  8. Oil: 5

  9. Chicken: 1

  10. Yogurt: 1

  11. Protein: 2

  12. Dates: 1


Here is a video showing my plates across several days.

  1. Eggs: We now stick to scrambled eggs because of the ease of bulk preparation and reheating. Over the last 3 years, we’ve tried 6 varieties - boiled eggs, scrambled eggs, egg bhurji, omelets, shirred eggs, and baked eggs (whisked eggs in a cupcake tray). I can also substitute 1 egg with 25g cheese.

  2. Vegetables: Any of these 17 vegetables cooked in a hybrid European / Indian style. We vary across Asparagus, Aubergine, Bell Peppers, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, White/Red Cabbage, Cauliflower, Courgettes, Curly Kale, Green Beans, Green Cabbage, Fine Beans, Mangetout, Mushrooms, Pak Choi, Savoy Cabbage, Spinach, Sweetheart Cabbage. I did an analysis of vegetables to shortlist these. Once in a few months, I eat Potato, Sweet Potato, Beetroot, Carrot, Radish, Butternut Squash, Sweet corn, Green peas, or Parsnip.

  3. Fruit: We eat 16 fruits, including Apple, Blackberry, Cantaloupe Melon, Cherries, Galia Melon, Honeydew Melon, Kiwi, Nectarine, Orange, Pear, Persimmon, Plum, Pomegranate, Raspberry, Strawberry, Watermelon. Here’s my analysis of fruits to decide on these. Once in a few months, I eat Pineapple, Banana, Blueberries, Grapes, Kiwi, or Mango.

  4. Nuts: We eat 7 varieties: Almonds, Chia seeds, Milled flax seeds, Peanuts, Pistachios, Pumpkin seeds, and Sunflower seeds. Sometimes, I substitute nuts with avocado. I don’t consider Walnut, Brazil nuts, or Cashew nuts as replacements because these two are higher in fat and lower in protein than the other options.

  5. Rice: We eat 9 varieties: Barley, Basmati rice, Brown bread, Brown rice, Buckwheat, Bulgur wheat, Couscous, Quinoa, and Roti (flat bread). Once, I substituted rice with baked sweet potato.

  6. Dal (Lentil): We usually make Toor dal. We make it in a few different styles. But across the weeks, we vary across 8 lentils: Chickpea (Chana), Kidney Beans (Rajma), Masoor Dal (Red Lentil), Moong Dal (Split Green Gram/Mung Beans), Moth Beans (Matki), Red Chowli (Cowpeas), Toor Dal (Split Pigeon Peas), Urid Dal (Split Black Gram).

  7. Cheese: My wife prefers a Cheddar cheese slice with her bread and cottage cheese (Paneer) for other meals. We vary across these 10 cheeses: Cheddar, Edam, Emmental, Greek Feta, Gouda, Halloumi, Mozzarella, Paneer, Parmigiano Reggiano, and Ricotta.

  8. Oil: We cook with Extra virgin olive oil. Sometimes we substitute it with Coconut oil, Clarified butter (Ghee), salted butter, or Sunflower oil. So, 5 options.

  9. Chicken: I eat diced chicken breast. Although on weekends, I eat other meat options, I have stuck to the one simple and lean meat option for my diet plan.

  10. Yogurt: We make yogurt from organic full-fat cow milk at home.

  11. Protein: I take whey protein in the morning and casein protein in the evening. Both are from Optimum Nutrition or other equivalent brands based on deals available during purchase.

  12. Dates: I eat soft pitted dates.

sample of home food consistent with one diet plan but with a variety in taste and texture.
sample of home food consistent with one diet plan but with a variety in taste and texture.

Apart from these 12 categories, there are a few small low-calorie, low-effort items we consume most days, which include:

  1. Unsweetened almond milk

  2. Vegetable or chicken stock as a soup

  3. Decaf coffee

  4. Decaf tea

  5. Herbal tea

  6. Apple cider vinegar with warm water in the morning

  7. Cucumber as salad

  8. Zero-caffeine zero-sugar Coca-Cola, Sprite Zero, or Fanta Zero


Four Foundational Principles For Our Meal Prep

4 principles for meal prep.
4 principles for meal prep.

I identified 4 base or foundational principles for my meal plan and prep.


1 - Alignment with Diet Goals: I should be able to align my food with the macros outlined by my fitness coach, ensuring the meal's nutritional integrity.


2 - Efficiency Through Bulk Preparation: Time is a valued asset, so I want to do every step in bulk. 1) I should not visit the store daily for vegetables or milk. I should be able to limit myself to 1 grocery run a week. Even better if the groceries come to me, instead of me going to the store. 2) Rather than making a single cup of rice, I prepare three. 3) Rather than putting the food on my plate for today’s dinner, I should also portion it out for tomorrow’s breakfast and lunch at the same time.


3 - Separation of Cooking and Consumption: I should make process choices that allow me to decouple the process of cooking from the time of eating. I'll cook when convenient and eat when hungry. So, I want to ensure my meals are ready in advance.


4 - Minimize Cooking Time On Weekdays: I should not spend several hours each workday preparing food. I should minimize the daily time commitment towards food preparation, and prioritize my professional and personal commitments. I want to spend weekdays on two things - my family and my work.


Our Weekly Meal Prep Routine

weekly visual guide for efficient meal prep, with multiple parallel processes.
weekly visual guide for efficient meal prep, with multiple parallel processes.

My week kicks off with a bulk order of vegetables and fruits, delivered every Thursday night. On Fridays, I leverage my work-from-home status. I hired a house help service to wash and chop the produce. I've previously relied on their help to make shirred eggs, but now that I’ve shifted to scrambled eggs, I don’t take help to cook any food item. During the week, I transfer food from the freezer to the fridge to ensure it thaws and is ready to consume.


Our overarching objective: reduce the cooking frequency to get more quality time with family and for work. For example, cooking 2,000 grams of a food item doesn't quadruple the effort compared to cooking 500 grams of it. So, we opt for larger batches of individual items.

  1. Cook 2,000 grams of one item instead of 500 grams of one item.

  2. Cook 2,000 grams of one item instead of 500 grams of each of 4 items.

stages of meal prep.
stages of meal prep.

For batch cooking and meal storage, I have a few optimizations at every step. There are 5 stages in the chart:

  1. Grocery shopping - Understanding what to buy.

  2. Pre-cooking storage and preparation

  3. Cooking: scaling up quantity while maintaining quality.

  4. Food storage practices for longevity and ease.

  5. Final touches and consumption to make every bite count.


Let’s discuss using 2 examples - chicken and vegetables. I've made a flowchart detailing my modifications to traditional preparations of chicken breast and vegetables. My modifications helped me cut down both cooking frequency and pre-cooking prep time. Thanks to Flaticon for the icons.

Examples of chicken and vegetable cooking approaches. Flowchart of traditional vs meal prep approach.
Examples of chicken and vegetable cooking approaches. Flowchart of traditional vs meal prep approach.

I’ll explain the modifications:

  • I buy diced, skinless chicken breast instead of carving and dicing whole chicken or breasts myself.

  • I marinate and cook chicken (or paneer) in large batches for two weeks. I use big oven trays, then freeze portions by weight to eat over two weeks. These steps save me from the need of marinating and cooking daily.

  • I choose pre-chopped frozen vegetables, saving time on washing and chopping.

  • I hired a weekly house help to wash and chop vegetables to save my time in preparing vegetables.

  • Traditional Indian cooking of vegetables rarely includes boiling. Most Indian recipes happen in the Indian wok (kadhai) as a stir-fry dish. To use less oil and cook faster, I boil vegetables before stir-frying them.

  • I store part of the cooked vegetables in the fridge or freezer to eat over a week. So, I do not spend time everyday cooking vegetables.


My Shopping, Cooking, And Meal Prep Criteria

My criteria for optimization, in descending order of priority, are:

  1. Precise-macros food

  2. Save time

  3. Save money

  4. Quality (texture, taste, nutrition) food

  5. Minimize food waste

5 criteria for optimization of shopping and cooking for meal prep.
5 criteria for optimization of shopping and cooking for meal prep.

Here are all the posts in this series:


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