Sustainable Meal Prep Containers

Meal prep. It’s a noun, a verb and describes what you have been meaning to do but aren’t yet. 

A few common reasons people don’t meal prep: 

  1. You’re tired after work don’t have time
  2. You get tired of eating the same thing day after day
  3. It’s just easier to order food for delivery or carry out

Let’s take care of these concerns (hint….it’s not as hard or boring as you think!) and I’ll give you options for meal prep containers. What’s that you say, you already have containers? As handy as plastic P.F. Changs or Noodles n Company to-go containers are for re-using, they can’t be used in the microwave, are easily breakable, and leak like a sieve. Plus they’re single use and terrible for the environment. Yuck!

Thankfully, there are meal prep containers that are sustainable, microwaveable, strong and spill proof!  It’s time to add them to your kitchen where they’ll be used for many years – unlike those to-go containers that quickly end up in the trash since they’re not even recyclable. 

But first, back to the reasons why you’re not meal prepping.

1. You’re tired and (you think) meal prep takes too long.

A rule of thumb is to set aside 2-3 hours for meal preparation and to add in time for shopping. If you shop online and have food delivered or do curbside pickup at the store, this shouldn’t take too much more time. 

Note: Multitasking on more than one dish at a time is a must to keep the meal preparation time to 2-3 hours, depending on your goals for the week, and how many mouths you’re feeding. For instance, while the rice is cooking, you are chopping and roasting vegetables, then making a sauce or two, and a vinaigrette to make awesome salads for the week.

You can save hours every week if you meal prep, because you don’t have to start from scratch every night after work!

Still feel overwhelmed by meal preparation? You’re in the right place! Katrina can help you see how fun and 100% possible it is for you!

Summer Meal Prep

The Empowered Kitchen offers a meal prep cooking class that includes: 

  • 30 minute phone/video consultation to determine your meal prepping needs
  • Shopping list, equipment list, class preparation list, recipes
  • 3 hours of live, customized cooking class just for you! Via online video!
  • Essential cooking techniques: roasting, searing (meat or tofu) steaming, sautéing, how to make soups, stocks, sauces, vinaigrettes, healthy snacks, dips, and more. 
  • Support over email for up to 6 weeks after for continued advice and tips
  • How to efficiently prep, cook, freeze and store what you make! 
  • Choice of vegetarian, vegan or light meat menu
  • By the end of The Empowered Kitchen’s meal prep cooking class you’ll have all your food prepared for the week!
  • 30 minute post-consultation over phone or video a week or two after class

2. You get tired of eating the same thing day after day. 

You don’t have to! Katrina shows you how to make your building blocks, so not all of your meals are the same!

TIPS: Make sure you have a well-stocked kitchen, so you can add spice and flavor in a pinch to mix up your meals. Use that freezer! Make meals that freeze well, so you can have great food in a few weeks, and you’re not tired of eating it!

In Katrina’s flexible method of meal prep:

  • You make the foundations of different meals you can mix and match. You change them with spices or sauces to keep your meals varied and interesting.
  • You have lots of delicious meals and building blocks in your freezer to eat for weeks and months to come!
  • It’s easy to stick with a healthy eating habit, one week at a time!

3. It’s just easier to order food for delivery or carry out.

Ok, it might feel easier. With a few keyboard strokes or smartphone taps you can order food and arrange delivery or make a carry out trip. But what if that convenience was outweighed by the higher food bill and out of control portions that leave you feeling not so great, because you’ve blown your food budget and eaten something that might be less than healthy? 

So if you’re ready to meal prep, how do you store all your delicious meals for the week ahead?

The Empowered Kitchen suggests giving these options a try if you’re looking for sustainable meal prep containers! Together we can reduce single-use plastics, and help our planet one decision at a time. 

Disclaimer* The Empowered Kitchen is a participant in the Amazon Services Associate Program, whereby we earn fees by linking to Amazon products we use and love. 


Best Meal Prep Container for Salads, Mains and Sides: 

Finedine’s 24 piece set. Containers with 12 lids with various sizes and shapes for meal prep, storage leftovers, and all food storage needs.

Finedine containers have hinged lids that lock shut and the glass is easy to clean, temperature tolerant, and are dishwasher, microwave, oven and freezer safe. They’re stackable and leak proof so sauces and soups stay where they’re supposed to and don’t end up inside of a purse or backpack. These are FANTASTIC for meal prep because they’re different sizes to accommodate various components of meals that you’ve prepped, like grains, sauces, soups, salads, proteins, full entrées, etc. 

Summer Meal Prep

Best if You Love Bento Boxes

Bento boxes are absolutely wonderful additions and not just for parents who always have snacks on hand for their ever hungry kiddos. I LOVE these containers because you can put a full meal in one container and keep them separate, like rice and curry, or salad and fruits, or sliced veggies and hummus. They’re perfect for meal prep, convenient, and last for a really long time! 

Bayco’s 9 piece Bento boxes set are oven, microwave, dishwasher and freezer safe. Just like Finedine’s containers, they are leak proof, easy to clean and have locking lids.

Replacements for Sealable Plastic Baggies!

These are some of my absolute favorite additions to my reusable container repertoire! You never need to use a disposable plastic baggie again! 

These are perfect for storing bits of meal prepped foods or sauces in the refrigerator. Even better, make sauces, shredded meats, broth, or soups to freeze. Lay these flat and fit so much great food in the freezer for down the road, just when you need a quick, healthy, and delicious meal! Your future self will thank your old self for thinking of her…or him!

These stand on their own!

Large bundle! More economical & need to be hand-washed!

These are more economical & dishwasher-safe!

10 Pack of Stand-up Reusable Bags that are dishwasher safe!

Best for Smoothies on the Go!

Although the above options are great for liquids such as soups and sauces, what about smoothies on the go? Each one of the containers below is glass but with a slight differentiating factor, so you can pick what’s best for you

  1. Best container with a flip top, time reminder and a mixing ball
  1. Best container for sipping
  1. Wide mouth and eco-friendly – recyclable, reusable & durable container
  1. 24 oz, silicone sleeve (won’t slip) flip top spout container
  1. Best container for hot or cold beverages, dishwasher safe, 100% satisfaction guaranteed

Now that we’ve addressed what’s holding you back from meal prepping, given you meal prep container options and introduced you to The Empowered Kitchen’s meal prep class, here’s to putting some PEP in your Prep! Go get creative in the kitchen! For more meal prep recipes ideas keep reading our blog.

Big love from my kitchen,

Katrina

A New Old Way of Eating: Let’s Stop Dieting & Start Cooking

Healthy Relationship With Food

How we relate to food matters. In the United States we have a notoriously fraught relationship with food. We’re afraid of it and susceptible to fear tactics waged by companies warning us to be afraid of certain ingredients and that suddenly a food that used to be healthy is now going to harm us. Food is meant to nourish and fuel our bodies. When did we become so afraid of it? When in balanced portions food wants to do the right thing in our bodies if we’ll let it. In many other cultures, food is seen as a way to share time with loved ones, care for yourself and savor the taste and culinary knowledge that has been passed down for generations. Let’s get back to that.

We’re all craving real connection, and that can start with simple, whole food around the dinner table. We can all get back in sync with the rhythms of regular mealtimes and cooking routines. Cooking is a form of taking care of ourselves and our loved ones with healthy, homemade food that tastes good, keeps us sharp and well-fueled, and brings people together. That’s what food has done for generations and there’s no need to fear it or to dive into the next fad diet. We just need to be in charge of what is going into our food, and cooking is the best way to do that. 

It may seem like too much to ask for us to cook scratch meals in our busy 21st century lives, but food is fundamental to the success of our days and there are practical ways to make this a reality. Taking care of this essential part of your life will pay great dividends in both physical and mental health. 

Listening To Your Body

Simply tuning into how you feel after eating a meal will give you all the information you need about how healthy that meal was. For instance, if it fired you up or made you feel sluggish. If you feel vibrant, energized and ready get after your day, then you know what you ate was a combination of foods that your body craves. If you feel off or tired after a meal, that may indicate something you ate was not the best food to fuel yourself for the day. Or perhaps the portion size of a particular ingredient was too large or not enough.  

Everyone’s body is different, so portions and kinds of foods will vary somewhat for each individual. Generally a hearty helping of fresh fruits and vegetables, some grains with small amounts of vegetable or meat protein and fats in nuts, seeds or dairy create the foundation for a healthy, filling meal. It’s all about getting a sense of your mental clarity and level of energy after a meal and making slight adjustments until you intuitively know what your body thrives on. Then you make that your routine and keep adding foods and new dishes to it. 

Photography by Amanda Tipton

Meal Prep Techniques

It may seem overwhelming and unattainable to cook every meal for yourself everyday, but with a few new simple food preparation techniques throughout your week, it’s every bit possible to fit into your life. 

Learning a few meal prep techniques will help you make this a regular habit that is as natural as brushing your teeth twice a day. Here are some to get you started.

 

  • Buy 3 or 4 vegetables to roast, along with a whole chicken, some fish or shrimp, pork chops or a chuck roast. If you’re vegetarian buy a block of tofu or tempeh or whatever other vegetarian protein you typically use. 
  • Roast the vegetables and meats. While these are roasting you can prepare 1 or 2 homemade dressings, a sauce or two and cook one or two two kinds of grains. Then chop a few fresh vegetables to have for salads and snacks for the first half of the week.  
  • When the roasted vegetables and meats come out of the oven you can store them to use to create meals later, or make a few dishes right away. Soups are really easy and versatile to make with roasted vegetables. The cooked veggies can also be used in tacos or enchiladas, with eggs for breakfast, in rice or noodle bowls, sliced on salads or sandwiches. Let yourself get creative with it so you’re never bored with your meals for the week.  

 

This will take 2 1/2 -3 hours, depending on if you make a few dishes right away or wait until later. Cooking a couple of dishes immediately may be the most efficient use of time, since you’re already in the kitchen with equipment out and ready to use. Some people like to cook most of their meals once a week, and some do a small batch on Sunday and a small batch on Wednesday. Experiment with which days and how much cooking at one time works for you.

You can use these same principals to prepare smoothie ingredients ahead and freeze them, or other healthy breakfasts, as well as snacks or nutritious desserts for the week.  It’s about finding recipes for foods that will last well in the fridge, or the pantry for the week, or in the freezer for a couple of months.

Use That Freezer

Remember your freezer! It’s your friend. If you prepare one batch of enchiladas, either freeze half of it or double the recipe to freeze one batch. Puréed soups freeze great too. It’s a wonderful thing to pull these out of the freezer to thaw in the morning and have dinner ready to heat up when you get home. Meatballs, falafel, veggie burgers, meat burgers and many sauces freeze well too, so you can save whatever you don’t use in the week for a later meal with no cooking required…just reheating. You’ll be so impressed with yourself that you’ll never go back to cooking one meal every night or grabbing fast food on your way home everyday. 

Photography by Amanda Tipton

Pay Attention To How You Feel

Once you start trying out some new recipes, you’ll start to see what your body responds well to, and tailoring your diet to more of that. You know how you feel, so this is much less about adhering to a new diet regimen and a specific list of foods that someone else has determined. This way of being and cooking is about knowing what you like to eat, how much is good for your body and how to choose food that makes you feel great and fuels you. It may take a little while to get a sense of which foods energize you and which drag you down. Be gentle with yourself as it is a process that will unfold naturally. Enjoy the food you eat and savor it, even the chocolate cake or fruit tart. Yes! Those are parts of the beauty and enjoyment of living this life and eating good food, so hold onto every delicious bite. 

Let’s learn together how to cook simple, whole ingredients from scratch again, so we never have to fear food and are empowered to take charge of our kitchens and our health. 

Let’s Gather & Learn

If you’d like to learn some practical, healthy cooking skills and learn more about The Empowered Kitchen’s meal prep cooking classes, join Healthy Women Leaders for the Summer Evening Farm-to-Table Cooking Class on August 14th!  Details here

You can learn about Katrina’s meal prep cooking classes at www.empoweredkitchen.com

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Honey Lemon Vinaigrette & How to Stock for Dressings

Making a few homemade salad dressings ahead of time is a great way to make it WAY more likely you’ll eat more salads. This recipe is a lovely, fresh and nutrition-packed dressing that will liven up your greens and get you in the dressing-making habit.  I’ve included a few tips for that below.

I like to have a few staples on hand to make different kinds of vinaigrettes and other salad dressings, so I can keep my salad routine interesting, flavorful and varied. 

Here are good staples to keep in mind. You can start with just a few and build your stock over time.

Dry Pantry Dressing Staples

 

  • Balsamic Vinegar (A high quality one is worth the money)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Look for single origin, which means coming from only one country)
  • Sea Salt and Peppermill with Black Peppercorns
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Red Wine Vinegar
  • Rice Vinegar (original)
  • Tamari or Dark Soy Sauce (low sodium)
  • Toasted Sesame Oil
  • Canola Oil
  • Peanut Oil
  • Dried Dill Weed
  • Shallots/Red Onion
  • Anchovies (Canned)

 

Fresh/Refrigerated Dressing Staples

 

  • Lemon/Lime
  • Dijon or other Brown Mustard
  • Parsley
  • Mayonnaise
  • Fresh Ginger Root
  • Stems of Cilantro and Parsley can be Blended in a Blended Dressing
  • Avocado 
  • Leftover Pickle Juice
  • Egg Yolk

 

Honey Lemon Vinaigrette

Yields: 1 cup vinaigrette

Serves: Covers about 10-12 salads.

Ingredients:

 

  • 2 large lemons
  • ⅔ cup olive oil
  • ½ small shallot (optional)
  • 1 or 2 cloves garlic (adjust to taste)
  • 3 teaspoons honey
  • ¼ cup parsley leaves
  • ½ teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)

 

Directions:

Mince garlic cloves. Remove the parsley stems and save for stock. Rough chop the parsley.

Roll lemons under your forearm to release juices before slicing in half. [Tip: Zest them first if you need zest for another recipe. Can keep in a small amount of oil in the fridge for a week or so until use.]

Juice lemons and add to small bowl. Add remaining ingredients and whisk well to emulsify. Taste with a lettuce leaf and adjust ingredients to your taste.

Label and date before refrigeration.

Empowered Kitchen Tip:

I recommend doubling this recipe so you always have a stock of it in your refrigerator.

Local Bar with Mission and a Family Atmosphere

An Interview With Local 46 Owner, Niya Diehl

Local 46 is a bar and restaurant in the Berkeley neighborhood of Denver at 46th and Tennyson.  They are a bar and recently opened up an outdoor grill on their patio! It is a family-friendly establishment and there is free bocce ball and ping pong available in their very cool, rustic outdoor patio area. They even frequently donate a percentage of their profits to education and help with fundraisers to support local schools.  

I recently sat down with owner, Niya Diehl, and learned more about why she opened up this innovative bar and grill.  

What made you open up Local 46?  It was a combination of opportunity, passion and experience.  It came naturally to me and the time was right. Mine and Grant’s (her fiancee) combined experience and passion for fundraising came together really well. 

What is distinct about your bar and restaurant?  I will keep coming back to that community aspect, where we really tried to do something different, and be something for everybody.  They always tell you in business planning that you have to find your niche, but we were wanting to be a little something for everybody, and so there’s the kid piece, the family-friendly atmosphere, as well as the late night scene.  

So we’re open until 2:00 am every night. We have live music almost every night of the week, but then we also do these family-friendly events.  Then I would also say the extensive fundraising for all the local schools, and just doing a lot of involved events with that community.  

And there’s the patio. It’s very unique.  It’s has the same-size footprint as the inside of the building, so it’s a significant size, and it’s kind of rustic and recycled looking, refurbished.  Everything is recycled or repurposed for the most part, and a lot of little spaces, lots of trees and green growth. It’s just kind of funky and different. It feels like coming to your friend’s backyard, and it’s really spacious, so people feel really comfortable here, like they’re at their house.  

How does Local 46 approach sustainability? It’s a part of our handbook. We talk about how important our efforts are to be as low impact as possible in this industry is really hard, because it’s a consuming business.  But we recycle, which actually most of our waste is recyclable. 90% of what we go through is glass bottles and cans, paper and boxes, so we recycle a lot. I really want to start composting, but with the grill being so new I haven’t put together the composting piece yet.  Ideally I’d love to do that, and then have a garden in the whole back area by the patio, and grow as much as we can.  

It’s also about supporting as many local vendors and purveyors as possible.  We have found a way to source almost everything locally. After slowly transitioning, we now have 100% local craft drafts, which is four handles outside and seven handles inside.  All the food is local. We found a couple of companies, such as LoCo Foods. They do a really great job and they distribute, but need a little more warning. It’s kind of limited and depends on the seasons, but there is some stuff that we really count on from them.  Everything they sell and distribute comes from a 250 mile radius of Fort Collins, which is super cool. We base our menu off of what we can get from them, so we try and make it seasonal. Of course there are times when we just have to run to the store and buy tomatoes, because they didn’t have them that week, but they’ve been a great resource.  

There’s also a farm called Everett Farms, which is actually run by an old high school friend. It’s up in Lakewood, and they’ve done all of our greens and a bunch of different veggies for the season. They’ve been a great resource. My grill guys go up there and actually pick all the food for our salads, and we do different seasonal farm salads based off what the farm has available.  

That’s how we really try to be sustainable, is to keep our money reinvested in the community and be local.  We are Local 46!  

How have your customers responded to the sustainability piece?  Not until we opened the grill, did I really start to see peoples’ appreciation for that.  We knew it was important. I don’t know how many people look, but when I’m out at a bar I look, and I notice if they’re recycling their bottles, or if it’s all going in one thing.  

You know, it’s little things that people look for, and we’re kind of blatant with our recycle bins, and the local thing is kind of in your face inside with the Colorado flag, and all our local spirits lined up and 100% local drafts. So, they see it, but I don’t think in their mind it’s translating to sustainability necessarily, and I don’t know if it’s just the environment, like local is in, which is great, but I think people see it more as Colorado pride.  

But when we started to do the food, and when we really promote the Everett Farms piece, and that it’s farm-to-table, and we talk about our connection to Continental Sausage, who does all of our sausages.  They get all of their meat from local producers, and then we just tap into these other proud, Colorado businesses. Then people start to recognize it, because they see that branding. We have to talk about it, so that people know we care, and that it’s something we’re wanting to share.  Then they see. Oh, they’re proud that they actually know the farmer and they went and picked all of this. That’s when our customers make the connection.  

What else would you like people to know about Local 46? 

I think that there’s probably a lot of people, and even a lot of regulars that don’t necessarily know quite how supportive we are of the local schools, and maybe sometimes that doesn’t get translated, and sometimes people can get frustrated. They’ll say, “What are you trying to do?” “Why are there kids here?” It’s really a bigger vision. We trying to show that we can make everybody happy, and we want this to be a space that can be enjoyed by families, and trying to balance it is going to be tricky, but we’re doing our best, and it’s fun!  

For the most part people have been really receptive, and we have such a great group of people that come in here and we’ve made a whole family with them. It’s really great. I feel like people know and that it really people speaks for itself when people show up here. I think you kind of get the feeling of what we’re really trying to get across.  

It’s 21 and up after ten o’clock, and we pretty much and say kids before dark.  Music doesn’t start until 9:30 and for sure they need to be gone by then. Our patio has to close at 10:00 during the week and by 11:00 on Friday and Saturday.

Let’s Get Started

(Originally posted February 2014)

Hello Friends and Wonderful Supporters!  

I am delighted, and a little giddy, to announce the official launch of The Empowered Kitchen!  🙂 Thank you all for your support thus far. It has meant so much and kept me going through these beginning stages.  

The idea behind The Empowered Kitchen is to renew our relationships with food and cooking to support vibrant lives, good health and bring us together around the table.  I want to put the fun back into eating and help people enjoy spending time in the kitchen, whether they’re cooking for one or a football team.  

The goal of this kind of cooking is to encourage us to savor our food, but we all know our lives can be busy and sometimes we just have to grab something and eat on the run or (heaven forbid) at a desk.  I’ve done this more times than I care to remember. We can all do better, even if we’re in a hurry, and take the time for ourselves to eat well. It’s good for our physical and mental health. Besides – we deserve it! These classes will teach how to cook efficiently, so everyone can fit the time into their busy schedule and eat well.  

My other passion is food waste, and raising awareness about the problems it poses for our society and our environment. We waste at least 40% of our food in the United States, posing serious ethical and environmental questions about how we use one of our most important life-giving resources. This fall my original idea was to create a behavior change campaign to teach people how to reduce their food waste. Then the lightbulb went on and I realized that teaching cooking classes was a lot more fun than preaching to people about not throwing away their food. Thus the seeds of The Empowered Kitchen were born! Thanks, Mom.

One of the most significant places we can reduce food waste is through more thoughtful cooking and menu planning, which often leads to tasty results, and money savings! That’s where these classes come in! Come learn how to make it happen. 

All classes will focus on how to prepare enough to have food left over to freeze and have ready to eat throughout the week and to re-create into new meals and snacks.  

There are a few classes scheduled in the coming months and more will be available soon. Remember that I can teach personalized classes for groups!  

Looking forward to cooking with you and discovering what delectable dishes we can create in the kitchen together. I don’t know where this journey is going to lead, but I am sincerely eager to watch it unfold.

Warmest regards on this cold, snowy, and beautiful Colorado evening!

Katrina

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