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Plastic-Free Meal Prep Tips

Plastic-Free Meal Prep Tips

Add Delish By Skipping Plastic Tupperware

The popular practice of meal prep is buzzing everywhere. This forward-thinking strategy not only saves time but also promotes healthy eating habits. With a bit of clever planning, one can effortlessly accomplish both goals. Yet, many meal prep routines heavily rely on leachy plastic food containers that aren't healthy for people or the planet.

In our forever goal of helping people say goodbye to plastic, here are some ECOlunchbox recommendations to help you shift to a healthier meal-prep routine sans plastic!

From Prepped Meals to Bowl Preps

Because they make great all-in-one meals and capitalize easily on leftovers, we're going to focus on the ease and yumminess of prep-ahead bowl meals. Also known as a Buddha bowls, they're popular for their simplicity, convenience, and ability to pack a variety of nutrients into one satisfying dish.

According to one of our new favorite cookbooks, Bowls! by Megan Watson, a bowl meal is traditionally made up of:

  • A hearty base be it grains, noodles, or leafy greens
  • Protein whether it’s meat or tofu or anything in between
  • Plenty of veggies (mixing fresh and roasted is yummy!)
  • Something to add texture and make eating fun like nuts or seeds
  • A sauce to hold it all together

We like to prep these components all at once and combine with leftovers. Another time-saver is signing up for home delivery of meal kits that can make integrating a wider variety of flavors into your diet easier and leftovers plentiful.

So long as you have your ingredients handy, it's easy to either pack the bowl the night before or quickly before heading out the door in the morning. Once you plan your bowl, either from a recipe or from your imagination, head to the grocery store. 

 

A Bowl Prepper’s Best Friend

When you head to the grocery store, remember to bring your reusable Blue Water Bento containers to fill up on crunchy, nutritious seeds, nuts or other crunchies in the bulk section. Our containers have tare weights etched on the bottoms so bulk shopping check-out is easy because the cashier can back out the weight of the container and charge only for the foods purchased.

Traditionally, Sunday night is perfect for a weekly meal prep cooking session but everyone’s schedule is different and this type of meal prep works with a variety of schedules. Depending on how many different bowl components you’re whipping up, you can easily store each one in a Blue Water Bento container. These stackable containers come in a variety of sizes with leak-proof silicone lids.

Stainless Steel Bowls To Go Where You Go

Plastic-free food containers are especially convenient if you make a few components on the stove. Allow them to cool in the stainless steel bento while you clean your kitchen. Plastics leach chemicals, like BPA and other unhealthy bisphenols, into food when heated. Just another reason to avoid plastic altogether.

Once you have your beans, dressing, and protein stored in bentos, get some rest! Put together a fresh bowl every morning. You can always add or subtract to give yourself some variety throughout the week. That way lunchtime is always exciting.

As a bonus, food can be safely reheated in stainless steel Blue Water Bento containers in a toaster oven, steam oven or regular oven. Use a pot holder or our Stainless Steel Pot Gripper to get them in and out safely sans burns. Hopefully, you already know that plastics are not safe containers to reheat in the microwave or anywhere else!

A Favorite Recipe

We recently made the Budapest Bowl from Bowls! cookbook. This bowl is hearty with lots of fun flavors and texture. The chicken can easily be substituted for tofu. Try swapping Greek yogurt for sour cream for a healthier alternative you may already have in the fridge. A little bit of microgreens sprinkled on top adds another layer of crunch!

Budapest Bowl from Bowls! by Molly Watson

Order of Operations

1. Cook the chicken

2. Make the pilaf

3. Make the slaw

4. Heat the beans

5. Assemble the bowls

Paprika-braised Chicken

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs

2 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil 2 Tbsp butter

1 onion, thinly sliced

2 Tbsp mild Hungarian paprika

1 tsp hot paprika, or ½ tsp cayenne pepper

1 cup chicken, vegetable, or mushroom broth

Mushroom Barley Pilaf

8 oz cremini mushroom

2 Tbsp butter

1 small onion, thinly sliced

1 cup pearled barley

3 cups chicken, vegetable, or mushroom broth

Sweet Pepper Slaw

3 bell pepper

3 Tbsp canola or olive oil

1 Tbsp white wine vinegar

½ tsp salt

½ tsp freshly ground pepper

Dilled White Beans

One 14 ½ oz can of white beans, rinsed, and drained

½ cups chopped fresh dill

Freshly ground pepper

½ cup sour cream

Chopped fresh dill for garnish

For the chicken: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Pat the chicken dry. In a large frying pan or sauté pan with a tight-fitting lid, warm oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook, undisturbed, until it starts to brown on the underside, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the pieces over and brown on the second side, 3 to 4 minutes longer. Transfer the chicken to the plate. Add the butter to the same pan and melt over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the mild and hot paprika and cook, stirring, to coat the onion. Pour in the broth and bring to a boil

Return the chicken to the pan, cover, and transfer to the oven. Bake the chicken until very tender, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, uncover, and use a wooden spoon to separate the chicken into shreds (that’s how tender it should be). Place the pan on the stove top over medium heat and cook, uncovered, until the sauce is reduced by one-third, about 20 minutes.

For the pilaf: Begin the pilaf while the chicken is in the oven. Trim off the stem ends from the mushrooms, then cut off the stems. Finely chop the stems and thinly slice the caps. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms release their liquid, about 5 minutes.

Add the barley and stir to mix everything well. Pour in the broth and stir again to mix. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to maintain a steady simmer, cover partially, and cook, stirring every few minutes, until the liquid is absorbed and the barley is tender, about 30 minutes. If the liquid is absorbed before the barley is tender, add up to 1 cup water, ¼ cup at a time.

For the slaw: Seed and thinly slice peppers. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Add the peppers and toss to combine.

For the beans: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm the beans until hot (or put them in a microwave-safe bowl and heat them in the microwave). Add the dill, season with salt and pepper, and toss to mix well.

 

 

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