Lately, I’ve gotten a lot of inquiries or concerns from friends who claim that eating healthfully is too difficult, too time-consuming, too costly. While I know everyone has their own unique set of challenges they are dealing with at any given time, I also know that there are few priorities greater in life than your own health and wellness. Perhaps none. With that said, if you have two hours per week to dedicate to healthy eating – one for grocery shopping, and one for cooking – you can effectively batch-cook and freeze a month’s worth of chicken without breaking the bank or your busy schedule. (Note: parents cooking for a hungry family might need to adjust the numbers upwards, but the same protocol works!)
For the record, I don’t endorse eating EXCLUSIVELY chicken; however, I recognize that it is often the most inexpensive or easily accessible form of clean protein, which is why I chose to highlight it for this post. I highly recommend protein from a variety of other animal sources AND I also highly recommend a hefty serving of veggies!
- First, choose your chicken. At The Wild Ramp, I purchase:
- 2-3 pastured, free-range whole chickens
- whatever parts (sometimes legs, sometimes wings, etc) are available that week
- Next, I check my pantry/fridge for these staples and stock up on whatever I don’t have. They all make excellent “toppings” for the plain, pre-cooked chicken, although I’ve yet to roast a plain chicken that wasn’t delicious on its own. None of them are essential, but the more you buy, the more choices you have to work with! My favorite selections:
- Two days in advance, I take the chicken(s) out of the freezer and move them to the fridge.
- On cooking day, I preheat the oven while I let the meat come up to room temperature, and spend about 10 minutes doing minimal (optional) meat prep, which usually includes salt, pepper, and ghee. If you’re a true gourmand with extra time, I recommend bumping this step up a day and marinating the chicken in advance – it makes a delicious difference.
- Next, I put everything in the oven and set the timer. (I use Nom Nom Paleo’s adaptation of Julia Child’s guidelines for timing). While the chicken is cooking, I will usually prep bulk veggies to go in next (oven roasted peppers and onions! a dozen sweet potatoes! ghee-soaked broccoli!) and/or a large pot of sauce (tikka masala! marinara! BBQ!) that I have on hand to consume with the copious amount of chicken
- Take out the the chicken to let it cool, and pour the sauce into ice cube trays. Then, put the trays in the freezer.
- Carve the whole chicken(s) and transfer the pieces into safe fridge and freezer storage containers (I use glass Pyrex for the fridge, and BPA-free ziploc bags for the freezer).
- Depending on how efficient your freezer is, your “sauce cubes” might be firm enough to transfer to a bag after 30 minutes or so. I usually leave mine for a few hours and then move them.
- For the rest of the month (or until your chicken runs out), your excuse to eat fast food, take-out, or whatever other garbage might temp you has evaporated altogether. Why? Because your meal prep is as simple as this: grab chicken, grab sauce of choice (any of the above pantry staples OR your homemade condiment), apply heat.
*I always buy at least one whole chicken because it is usually the cheapest per pound and I can use the carcass for bone broth later.
What About the Cost?
“But I can get a (insert chemical-laden food-like item here) at (federally-subsidized fast food locale) for $5.”
Aha, nice try. I’ve done the math; this argument falls short, too! Assuming that a whole chicken lasts me for roughly 7 meals (one per day each week), if I buy four whole chickens at roughly $15 apiece ($60), PLUS the entire list of condiments above (~$20; less if I make them from scratch), PLUS a mix of fresh and frozen veggies (~$20), my total is still only $100. Split over 28 meals, that amounts to $3.57/meal.
And that’s a RAW comparison – before you account for the federal wheat, corn, and soy subsidies and the poverty-rate wage of the employees that make fast food so cheap, AND before you consider options for making organic food even more affordable: bulk purchase of the pantry staples, making sauces from scratch, using home-grown garden food, and more.
Eating well can be easy, affordable, and delicious.
Long story short:
1. Buy chicken.
2. Bake chicken. Let cool.
3. Make sauce. Let cool. Pour into ice cube trays.
4. Transfer everything into freezer storage bags.
5. Choose chicken piece and desired condiment.
6. Defrost in microwave, toaster oven, or saucepan.
Boom: food prep hacked.
This post was originally published on readysetwellness.com.