My Meal Prep Journey

Growing up in a Southern family, food has always been more than just the substance that keeps me living. Food is love. Food is family. Food is community. So naturally, now that I have my own family, I see cooking for them as an act of love. I think that’s one of the reasons why it took me a bit to embrace meal prepping. I mean, cooking a whole heap (that’s Southern for a lot) of food and warming it up all week, can’t possibly transmit my heartfelt affection to my family as well as a freshly made meal, can it? But what I have learned since then is that meal prepping can be a tool to give me more time with my loved ones and reduce my stress and anxiety during the week…and in my world, anything that reduces stress is more coveted than a whole batch of warm, chocolate chip oatmeal cookies (which is very hard to top!).

Here’s the stages my meal prep went through:

Stage one: cooking every night with leftovers for lunch

So at first I literally cooked every day. Now that I look back on it, I’m like “How did I have the time?”. I did make enough to bring lunch to work the next day, and I tried to loosely plan meals out for the week. However, I still ended up making multiple trips to the store for things I forgot or if I changed my mind. I can be quite capricious in the absence of a solid plan.

  • Pros: variety, flexibility (ability to be capricious), nightly fresh, hot meals
  • Cons: takes up a lot of time each evening, multiple trips to the store when plans change or I forget something

Stage two: cooking some things ahead

After doing a few “challenges” (vegeterian, paleo, etc.), I got used to batch cooking certain things. I’m no good with following meal plans- told you I crave variety- but it did help me realize that having some routines helped me be more efficient. I started boiling eggs ahead of time for breakfast, making sheet pans full of roasted veggies, and having some cooked chicken or freezer bags of soup for faster dinner prep.

Side note: challenge diets aren’t for everyone, but I am a firm believer that if you have trouble staying disciplined or just need a reset, setting a time limited goal can jump start your motivation until it becomes a lifestyle. I noticed that with my husband and me, each time we did a challenge, it got easier to cut out sugar, processed foods, etc. without missing a beat. I suppose that’s because that goal forced us to explore new, healthier options and find new favorites so we didn’t miss the other stuff quite as much.

  • Pros: more time in the evenings, fast breakfast options, shortcuts that cutdown dinner prep time
  • Cons: I was still cooking my protein/entree nightly, which took 30 minutes-1 hour

Stage three: cooking all my meals in advance

One day, my husband suggested that we start getting takeout a few times a week to save time. I was initially shocked and appalled…how dare he request take out when I’m willing to cook fresh food at home?! I also had my reservations about how eating out more would affect our budget, my energy and performance in workouts, and my overall digestive health…I’m used to eating a lot of vegetables after all! But once I simmered down, I heard the gist of what he was really saying. He was giving me permission to take something off my plate, which I desperately needed but have a hard time doing on my own. I suggested meal prep instead, and I was surprised at how receptive he was to the idea. I tried it the next week, and we haven’t looked back since!

  • Pros: no daily cooking! more time after work for time with kids and the hubs and my workouts
  • Cons: several hours of my weekend dedicated to shopping and cooking

Now, if I can get my life in order to the point where I have my snacks packed and neatly organized on Sunday, I will have transcended to the highest level of meal prep nirvana. *Sigh* one step at a time…

Enough of the tips. Here’s what I ate last week:

Surf & turf stir fry with sauteed kale



The mister says this is one of his top three meals that I make. Simple, yet flavorful and done in about 20 minutes! I use turkey kielbasa in mine, but you can use a smoked sausage of your choice. This week, I added carrots to mine and used the veggies I cooked for this as a side for other meals as well.

Honey mustard chicken thighs with mustard roasted Brussels sprouts and cubed sweet potatoes


Don’t be surprised if chicken thighs are on my menu every week. They’re versatile, inexpensive, and so much more tender and juicy than white meat. I used to always default to breasts, but life on the dark side is soooo much better! I love the flavor and texture in this recipe with Dijon and whole grain mustard. The Brussels sprouts tie in the mustard theme and the roasted sweet potatoes add a sweet and savory contrast. For the sweet potatoes, I just peel and cube the potatoes and toss them in olive oil, cumin, paprika, sea salt and pepper. Using a large zip top bags works well for this task. Roast on 400 for about 40 minutes or until soft and desired brownness.


Mini Mexiloaf over cilantro rice with veggie mix


My first experience with this was when doing a Paleo challenge with my Crossfit gym. I would deprive myself of dairy and rice all over again if it means getting to know this dish! I didn’t think I cared for meatloaf before my clandestine meeting with the Mexiloaf, but I figured anything with cilantro and tomato sauce couldn’t be all bad. Again, this recipe is easy to make and won’t break the bank…particularly when I can find grassfed beef on sale! I play around with different versions on cilantro rice, but so far this is my fave. The kind a made this week seemed a bit dry to me, so I won’t link that up 😉 I used the veggies from the surf and turf with this.

White chicken chili with Waldorf jar salad

007 026

Depending on how much time I have, I may use shredded rotisserie chicken or crock pot fajita chicken for this soup. Boiled chicken can work in a pinch. If I used boiled chicken, I mix the seasonings in with the chicken and let that sit for a bit to absorb the flavors. No matter how I get around to having shredded chicken, this soup has never disappointed.

My favorite jar salad to date! I love the mix of tangy arugula with the sweet and sour cranberries and creamy feta. Here’s how I layered these

  • About 3 Tablespoons salad dressing
  • 1/4 diced Gala apple and 1/4 diced pear
  • Handful of crushed walnuts
  • Handful of feta crumbles
  • About 1/2 cup of arugula
  • Fill the rest of the quart sized jar with spinach or mixed greens

I like to chop my greens up before filling the jar with them, just because it’s easier to eat that way. There’s nothing cute about fighting your salad and ending up with sprigs of greenery cascading down your chin in the company break room. IJS.

Salmon cakes, cubed sweet potatoes, and veggie mix



I know, I said I make four meals, but this week I made 5. One of my lovely meal prep customers doesn’t eat beef or pork. This gave her another option, and I made enough to have a few salmon cakes to snack on through the week. My mom gave me this cast iron skillet for Christmas, and I love it for stuff like this. Practical gifts are the key to my heart! Added the sweet potatoes and veggie mix with this.



  • 2 cans of salmon, drained
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c. diced onion
  • 1/8 c. diced celery
  • About 1/4 c. cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • Olive oil


In a large bowl, combine salmon with egg, onions, celery, and spices. Add quinoa and 1/2 cup oats. Add more oats, if needed, to hold patties together. Heat a few tablespoons olive oil in your skillet on medium-high. Cook salmon cakes until slightly browned on each side (3-5 minutes)…resist the urge to turn it over before it starts browning if you want them to stay as a single unit!

And as treat, I made Spinach Muffins…because they’re green, and it was almost St. Patrick’s Day, and I like to pretend I’m Irish. I’ve allowed myself to appropriate a culture of my choice until I cough up the money to trace the ancestry of my white ethnic relatives. After all, my hair is kind of red. I have a short temper. Don’t judge me.




Sesame Chicken Salad

Need something to spice up your lunch routine? Try this Asian inspired jar salad with sesame vinaigrette dressing

Sesame dressing:

  • 1T honey 
  • 3T soy sauce 
  • 1/2t sriracha
  • 1t tuxedo sesame seeds
  • 2T rice vinegar
  • 2.5T toasted sesame oil
  • 1T canola oil
  • 1T fresh grated ginger
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes (to taste)

Mix well & pour into bottom of jar 

Layer over dressing-

  • Shredded carrots
  • Minced cucumber
  • Chopped chicken breast 
  • Cashews
  • Shredded napa cabbage 
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Spinach 
  • Cilantro 

Tortilla-less Taco Tuesday

I’ve eaten my share of tortillas (corn and flour) with the best of ’em, but if you’re looking for a fun way to observe taco Tuesday sans simple carbs, this is the way to go! 

Here’s the ingredients I used, but feel free to modify based on your taste: 

  • 4 sweet potatoes
  • 2T olive oil 
  • 1 cup cooked ground beef w/ taco seasoning
  • 1 cup black beans
  • 1/4 cup fresh salsa
  • 1/4 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
  • 1T cilantro 
  • Sliced jalapeño rings 
  • + anything else you like on tacos! 

Directions: preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash and dry sweet potatoes. Rub them with olive oil and poke a few times with fork. Bake for 45min-1hr (depending on size if potatoes), flipping halfway through. Turn oven off and let potatoes rest inside the oven for 10-15 minutes (or longer). I’ve found that this rest period yields softer potato skins. Once cooked, slice and fill with your desired toppings. Enjoy your guilt free #tacotuesday

Better than Starbucks Coffee Smoothie 

I must admit, I’m more of a green tea in the morning kind of gal than a true coffee connoisseur. However, I have to admire the steadfastness of anyone who can do something daily. That’s dedication! I’m a little caffeine sensitive, but when I’m on road trips, I don’t mind an extra dose of liquid energy…so today I made a grande size serving of my favorite coffee drink. No added sugar or artificial sweeteners, but I promise you it will fulfill your frappachino craving! 


  • Equal parts whole milk & cold brew coffee (unsweetened) 
  • 1 ripe banana, frozen 
  • Optional- scoop of chocolate protein powder 
  • Optional- 1/4 cup old fashioned oats (skip if you don’t like the texture) 

Blend all ingredients until smooth, then enjoy! 

Your new favorite dressing

It’s been in the upper 80’s here all week long! These warmer temps have me craving ice cream…but in my more mindful moments, I could also go for a salad with this easy, fruity vinaigrette! Best of all, you can skip the chopping and throw all the ingredients to into a blender or food processor.

Let’s get started! 


  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Fresh parsley 
  • Fresh chives
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1.5 lb strawberries 
  • 3T fresh lemon juice 
  • 1/2 tsp pepper 
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3.5T red wine vinegar 

Blend until smooth. For the herbs, I used about 10 leaves/sprigs each. Adjust based on your taste! I used this dressing with Triple Berry Spinach salads (spinach, feta, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, and sliced almonds) AND some grilled chicken wings, because…hey, its summer! 

#TastyTuesday: Zucchini & Eggplant Lasagna

Usually when I post a recipe, I talk about how it’s simple or quick. This is neither. But it is delicious, and (in my opinion) worth it. So…if you’re up for a challenge, here it is!


  • 1 eggplant
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 2 cups Italian shredded cheese
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese
  • 15 oz. container ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 2T Italian seasoning
  • 4 ounces fresh baby spinach
  • 24 ounces marinara sauce
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1T olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 lb grassfed ground beef or ground chicken (optional)


  • Slice eggplant and zucchini with a mandolin (watch your fingers!)
  • Arrange thinly sliced veggies on paper towels or a cooling rack. Salt lightly. The salt with help the vegetables “sweat” so the lasagna doesn’t turn out too wet. Wait 10-20 minutes, the pat dry with a paper towel.
Sweat it out!


  • While the veggies work up a nice sweat, get to work on your sauce. I was making this in bulk, so I went with a jar sauce with quality ingredients. Feel free to make your own marinara if you have more time! To doctor up the sauce, I started by sautéing onions and carrots in olive oil, adding the garlic in when the onions become translucent. Next, cook your meat if desired, and mix it all together with the sauce. Salt and pepper to taste. Let that simmer while you make the ricotta mix.
  • Mix ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup parmesan, spinach (tear into smaller pieces), Italian seasoning, and egg together until well blended. Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Now it’s time to layer! Start with a layer of sauce at the bottom of the pan. Add slices of zucchini and eggplant. Next, layer with ricotta cheese mixture. Top this with half of the shredded Italian cheese. Add another layer of zucchini and eggplant, and top the veggies with a layer of marinara. Lastly, top with remaining Italian cheese and parmesan.
Layering in progress!


  • Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes or until the cheese starts to lightly brown. Top with chopped parsley if desired. Served with roasted Italian potatoes or a side salad.

After all that work, you’ll definitely have a big appetite. Help yourself to a couple servings!



Tasty Tuesday: Kung Pao Chicken

This is one of my husband’s favorite dishes, but I can’t take full credit! I came across the recipe on Pinterest and tweaked it a bit to our liking. I made Kung Pao chicken this week for my meal prep clients, so we’ll see what the verdict is for them. 054The main alterations I made to the recipe are that I increased the amount of stir fry sauce and added more veggies. I used peppers, onions, and carrots this time, but feel free to get creative with snow peas, zucchini, squash etc. I’ve found that the dish reheats better with a little extra sauce, but use your judgment!


  • 3 chicken breast, diced in small pieces
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 2T sesame oil
  • 3T soy sauce or coconut aminos
  • 1.5 T sriracha
  • 2T honey (optional)
  • 2T chili paste
  • 1 lb. green beans
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced thin
  • 1 carrot, sliced thin
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • salt and pepper


Directions: Heat 1T sesame oil over medium-medium/high. Salt and pepper chicken and sauté until thoroughly done. Set chicken aside. Add the remaining sesame oil and minced garlic cloves, being careful not to burn the garlic. Next, add your vegetables. Add your chicken back in, and pour in stir fry sauce. Top with tuxedo sesame seeds or roasted peanuts and serve with 1/2 c. cooked rice or cauliflower rice

link to original recipe:


#TastyTuesday: Kielbasa Power Bowl

This meal just got me through a super long day today! Power packed with 4+ veggies, legumes (isn’t that the funniest word?!) and your grain of choice, this tasty Mediterranean inspired dish gets the job done. See below for the deats.



To make 4-6 servings:

  • 1 pkg turkey kielbasa
  • kale
  • feta cheese
  • your grain of choice (rice, quinoa, etc.)
  • 1T coconut oil
  • 1T olive oil
  • 1T lemon juice
  • 1t soy sauce or coconut aminos
  • 1/2 c. cooked rice or grain of choice

You will use this recipe for the spinach lentils. The ingredients are:

  • 3 c. baby spinach
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 cups lentils (I used red and green)
  • fresh parsley and thyme
  • 1 onion
  • 2 small Yukon potatoes
  • 4 c. chicken broth or stock
  • salt and pepper


Prepare lentils according to recipe directions. Cut the kielbasa into small rounds and cook over medium-high in 1T coconut oil. Once lightly browned, turn and cook the other side (about 5 minutes each side). Set aside to drain. While cooking, remove the stem pieces from the kale and massage (yes, I said massage!) with olive oil and lemon juice until the kale has softened and is evenly coated with the oil mixture. Place kale in the warm pan you used for the kielbasa and cook covered over medium heat until the kale turns bright green. Add soy sauce, mix, and continue to simmer covered for about 2-3 more minutes.

Get your bowl ready! Fill the bottom of the bowl with 1/2 cup rice on one side and 1 cup of kale on the opposite side. Top the rice with a scoop of lentils, kielbasa, and feta cheese. Enjoy!



#TastyTuesday: Roasted Leg Quarters

Here’s the recipe I prepared for one of my monthly meal prep customers. Smelled so good, I was wishing I made some for myself! 


  • 1 T coconut oil 
  • 2 chicken leg quarters 
  • 1/2 t. Sea salt
  • 1/2 t. Black pepper 
  • 1 t. Dried or fresh rosemary leaves
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 1/4 c. Chicken stock
  • 4 Yukon gold potatoes (cubed)
  • ~15 cherry tomatoes (halved) 


  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees
  • Heat coconut oil over medium-high  in cast iron skillet 
  • Salt and pepper chicken on both sides. Add to skillet and cook 2-3 minutes each side, until skin is golden brown 
  • Pour lemon juice and broth over chicken, sprinkle with rosemary and place skillet in oven
  • After 10 minutes cooking time, add cubed potatoes
  • Cook for 30 minutes, then add tomatoes. Cook 10 more minutes or until tomatoes soften and chicken is completely done (juices run clear)
  • Allow chicken to rest for 10 minutes, then serve! 

Why I Stopped Shopping for Groceries

So glad you’re back! We’ve been talking over some tips to help you get ready to meal prep. So far, we’ve covered purchasing containers, creating a menu, and preparing for your shopping trip. Despite my last tip about making shopping trips more enjoyable, I must confess…I have all but given up on shopping. Let me explain…

I’m a huge fan of online shopping! Seriously, I should own stock in Amazon. If your best friend was the person who comes to your door the most, then my best friend would be the FedEx guy. So I am not sure why it took me so long to try order ahead or home delivery for my groceries. I suppose it was either my trust issues- “What if they pick bananas that are too green or too brown?”- or just not wanting to feel all pretentious as I rang the pick up bell while other shoppers dutifully pushed past with their carts. Either way, I took the plunge, and I don’t want to go back. Why? Glad you asked!

  1. I forget fewer items. I order straight from my list, so there’s very little chance that I’ll miss something.
  2.  I save tons of time that I can use for my actual meal prep.
  3. I save money by buying only what’s on my list instead of getting distracted by sale signs and well-placed displays. Also, some stores offer incentives to online shoppers like free items or online only offers.
  4. I often get “upgrades” when they are out of the item I ordered. I’ve gotten upgraded to a larger package or name brand item before, and they’ve given me salad mixes, yogurts, etc. for free when they are expiring soon.

Many stores offer deals for the first time you try online shopping, so give it a shot. I think you’ll be glad you did.

Southwest egg rolls with jar salad


One of my faves! I have to start making a double batch; because, I am always so sad when they’re gone. Great pre-workout snack or light lunch.

Buffalo chicken stuffed sweet potato with sauteed kale


The only change I made from the recipe was seasoning the chicken with ranch seasoning before cooking it in my Instant Pot. This was perfect with a side of Greek yogurt based ranch (if you missed that recipe, I linked it up here)

Parmesan crusted tilapia with roasted red potatoes and broccoli



Somehow the tilapia escaped being photographed…this is what the finished product looks like, but I made it with different sides this time. The point is, this is a versatile recipe that’s great with made side combinations! lol

Pan fried London broil with roasted veggie mix and sauteed kale



The green stuff is chimichurri. It’s kind of a tangy, spicy sauce made with cilantro and parsley that’s really good with steak/beef. Substituted carmelized salmon for my non-beef eaters.


Stay tuned for next week’s installment and menu with recipe links!

Featured image photo cred: Vibrant Photography

Drama-free Grocery Shopping

Welcome back to Kell’s Kitchen! In the last post, I shared a few tricks that helped me master planning a weekly menu. After the menu comes… (dun, dun, duuuunn!) grocery shopping. Grocery shopping isn’t always dreadful. Sometimes I have a nice leisurely trip to the store at a time when I’m not rushed, the store isn’t crowded, and I can casually peruse the contents of each aisle while comparing nutrition labels and unit pricing for the best value…Haha! who am I kidding?? That happens like once a decade when all the stars align. Usually my trips to the store include varying degrees of crazy from the traffic in the parking lot, to dealing with overzealous, handsy kids (usually my own!), to remembering I forgot the milk when I’m already in line to check out and the subsequent internal debate about whether I should go back for it or tough it out and come back later that week…whew! I’m tired already! Clearly, I haven’t mastered the shopping process yet, but here are a few things I hope will help along the way.


  • The list

Having a physical list (written or electronic) is imperative for a successful shopping trip. Making only one trip to the store is part of what makes meal prepping for the week so much more efficient! Decide how you will organize your list before you start writing to minimize the chance of leaving something off. I usually either write mine from my menu- going through each recipe and writing the ingredients I need- or by department (produce, meat, frozen, etc.). I also visualize my daily routine- what foods do I want for breakfast? What will we have for snacks? What will the kids need for their lunches?

Kelly Iphone 040
When your daughter borrows your phone at the grocery store
  • Plan for drama-free shopping

What makes your shopping trips dreadful? Identify that thing and proactively plan to eliminate the drama. If you’re not be on crowds, try to avoid peak shopping times like right after work or Saturday afternoon. Remember to bring snacks if you have multiple stops to prevent “shopping while hungry”. If you’re shopping with kids, make shopping more fun by giving them a job or making it into a scavenger hunt. Visualize what a great shopping trip would look like for you, and plan to make that happen.

  • Execute the plan

You have your list, you’ve eliminated common shopping annoyances, and now it’s time to get out there! Stick to the perimeter of the store where they stock fresh produce, meats, and dairy. Don’t be lured in by sale signs and flashy displays that lead to buyer’s remorse and throw you off your plan to eat clean. Be confident and mindful as you make your selection. You’ve got this!

Here’s what my latest shopping trip produced:

Mojo pork over cilantro lime rice with plantain patties and roasted asparagus (962 calories)029.jpg


I must say, the plantain patties left something to be desired for me. Still looking for a good way to prepare plantains that produces leftovers as yummy as the fresh version…open to suggestions!

Oven “fried” chicken thighs with mashed sweet potatoes and lemon-garlic green beans (419 calories)024

One of my “go to” meals. Simple, quick, and the skin on the chicken is so crispy and delicious! I add paprika and oregano in addition to the spices in the recipe.

Bang bang shrimp with cilantro lime rice and lemon butter sauteed kale


My husband asked for this two nights in a row. If you knew him, you’d know that this rarely ever happens. This recipe is a keeper!

Quinoa chicken Parmesan bake with roasted asparagus (510 calories)


Another one of my favorites- mostly because you can put all the ingredients in a lasagna pan, kick back for an hour, and it comes out perfectly every time! If your chicken breasts are thick, I would suggest cutting them in half butterfly style to make sure they cook thoroughly.

Maryland style crab cakes with veggie quiche (618 calories)


Made these with almond flour and Greek yogurt instead of flour and mayo. First time broiling instead of pan frying crabcakes, and I loved them this way!