How To Thrive During The Holidays Part 1: BULK COOKING

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I don’t know about you, but when I am fueling my body with lots of nutrients (even when I’m enjoying treats on the side), it can be my best friend. My energy levels stay high, I can kill my workouts, and in general I am way more motivated to do life. On the flip side, when I am enjoying those treats, but skipping meals to “make up” for those calories, or am in such a rush that I just eat whatever is in sight (usually sugar), my body feels terrible. My energy levels are low, the last thing I want to do is workout, and I’m just in an overall funk. I think many of us know this about our relationship with food, especially if you’ve been around Get Fit for awhile, but if we know this, then why can’t we all walk around feeling on top of our game? That’s because on a practical level, this stuff is stinking hard. It takes WORK. Planning, preparing and making good choices are all things that can feel nearly impossible in life, let alone during the holiday season. Believe me, I GET IT!
Now, imagine this: you wake up in the morning to a nutritious breakfast that takes almost no time to prepare, same with lunch and dinner. You go about your day without a second thought to what you will eat because it has already been prepared for you and ready to go. You’re able to focus on the tasks for the day, and even get your workout in! I know, I know...this seems like a dream world, a day it feels like you could never obtain. But here’s the thing, YOU CAN! I’m going to let you in on a little “health hack” of mine to help you thrive this holiday season: BULK COOKING. That’s it. And it’s waaay more achievable than you think. You only need to do two things to work this little miracle hack into your life:
1. Have a Plan
2. Set aside time to Prep

Let’s talk about planning. In order to be successful at cooking in bulk, you must have a plan. This plan will guide your grocery shopping and prep, and will have these pre-cooked meals in your freezer to go in no time! Here’s some tips to start your bulk cooking planning:
1. Set aside a block of time on a free day (typically on the weekend) to come up with a game plan for your bulk cooking prep.
2. When coming up with your plan, look at your schedule for the week.. Do you have activities some evenings? Christmas parties on the weekends? Take your seasonal busyness into account when making your plan. The key here is to make something that is EASY and REALISTIC for you to follow.
3. Find recipes to bulk cook. The best way to do this is to use recipes that your family loves, tried and true recipes that you know your family won’t get tired of if you have it often over the next couple months. No need to overwhelm yourself, choosing just 3-4 recipes can get you through those days when you don’t have time to prep a meal. Some recipes that work great are soups, meatballs, chili or homemade marinara+meat sauce.
4. Make your grocery list. I typically plan to make 4-6x what the recipe calls for. Take into account how much you will be making and don’t forget to multiply the ingredients to ensure you have enough of everything.
5. Do your shopping. How great is it to know you’re making month’s worth of meals with one trip to the grocery store? Can I get an AMEN!?!

Once you’ve got your plan in place, you’ve done the shopping and are pumped up to get your cooking on, the next step is to prep all of this amazing food you’ve planned for. Here’s your guide to prep:
1. Before you start your bulk prep, make sure you have these supplies on hand:
1. Large pots for bulk soups, chilis, etc
2. Large disposable pans or glass pans
3. Freezer storage:
* Plastic individual size tupperware from amazon(black bottom/clear lid)
* Large tupperware containers for family size meal storage
* Gallon ziplocs (these are a great space saver in the freezer, and stack really well)
* Wide mouth mason jars are great for soups, chilis, or individual portions
1. Clear some room in your freezer
1. Come up with a game plan for how your prep will look… what will you prep first? What can be prepped at the same time? I recommend only focusing on prepping 1-2 meals at the same time. Anymore than that can make your prep more stressful than it needs to be
2. Collect all of your ingredients to have easy access to them as you need them
3. Start with a clean prep space. Not only does clutter distract you from the task at hand, things are bound to get messy and things can get ruined if they’re in the way. (I realize some of you thrive under chaos, so if that’s you, you do you Glen CoCo)
4. Chop all of your veggies/herbs at once, separating them into necessary bowls/containers to be used to prep each meal. This is seriously my nem-e-sis when it comes to prep, so if I can get it all done in one fell swoop then I’m a happy girl.
5. Work through your recipes, 1-2 at a time until all of your prep is done.
6. Once meals are done, package into individual or family sized portions and allow to cool before freezing
7. Voila! Now you have months of back-up meals to make sure that you’re family is getting the nutrition you need during this time of enjoyment and cheer!

Now I realize, some of you perfectionists will look at this and think that it seems so overwhelming. You may even be thinking “what’s the point? I’m just going to eat junk at those parties anyway!” Let me tell you friends, even if you just cook 1 of these nutritious meals as back up, you will be so thankful you did. Prepping in bulk ahead of time has a ripple effect to everyone around you...it means more time spent with those you love because you don’t have to worry about cooking dinner every night. It means less stress during your already busy week because you know you’re coming home to a meal you didn’t have to think about. It means energy to keep up with your kids...it means you can live in whole health this holiday season, not just SURVIVING but THRIVING! My hope is that you can take this and learn a whole new way of doing this holiday thing. One in which you are enjoying those seasonal treats that mean so much to you, while giving your body the nutrients it needs. Before you close this out and move on with your day, I want you to do 1 thing. Look at your calendar and plug in a day/time over the next week or two that you can bulk cook some meals. Don’t let this motivation you have to live differently this season fade away as you go about this day. Use the fresh determination to make this happen so you can THRIVE!

By Jamie Griswold, Trainer at Get Fit Modesto