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How to Assemble Your Daily Meals

Posted by James on Feb 7th, 2008 and filed under Getting Started. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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This is the eighth article in the Get Started Eating Every Three Hours series that outlines how to start eating every three hours and the benefits of such a diet.

Now that you have your meals planned and your food already precooked, it comes time to actually assemble your meals. Typically, this is done in advance so that you don’t have to worry about it when meal time arrives.

Meal assembly is simply the process of grabbing the precooked portions of carbs, protein and fats that you have on your meal plan and preparing them for either eating immediately or taking with you to eat later. Here is how it is done:

Assemble enough meals to last until you get home 

The number of meals that you need to prepare is going to depend on your situation. For me, I cook my first breakfast fresh and then I’ll assemble three meals to take to work. This would be my second breakfast, first and second lunches. If I suspect I’ll be working late at the office for some reason, I’ll assemble a fourth meal to take with me. At home I will assemble my first and second dinners as needed, I may even cook one of them fresh.

On the weekends I typically assemble the meals as needed. If I’m leaving the house for more than a few hours, I’ll assemble a meal and take it with me. I personally find it easier to assemble a few meals in Tupperware dishes in advance, then I only have to pop open the container and eat, thus saving the assembly time. 

If you work in a place that has a dedicated kitchen, you may be able to get away with assembling your meals as needed. The only prerequisite would be to keep your cooked and/or vacuum sealed food in your work fridge.

Assemble meals that can be easily reheated or eaten cold

When taking meals to work, you probably don’t have access to much more than a microwave at the office. As such, those midday meals should not include anything that must be cooked on a stove-top or baked. For example, eggs might not be a good protein choice for work as you would have not way to cook them (unless you already hard boiled them). The meals you are taking with you should comprise of food that you cooked during your bulk cooking session

Show as little or as much creativity as you like

There are many ways to assemble a meal. For example, if a meal calls for 4oz of chicken, 3oz of red potato and 1.5 cups of steamed mixed veggies, you have a couple of options for assembly:

You can dice the chicken and potato then toss into a Tupperware bowl  and mix it up with the veggies. That would be the quick and easy bachelor-style method of doing things; which is how I like meals on the run.

Another option is to get one of those Tupperware containers that are like cafeteria plates with compartments for each portion of food, but with a sealable lid. You can have your chicken breast, some potato, and a batch of veggies all laid out like a nice home cooked meal.

What I don’t like about the second option is the larger container that must be packed around. You also will need a knife in addition to your fork to cut up the food when you eat it. This option is better when assembling the meal for immediate eating at home since it makes me feel like I’m having a real, i.e. traditional, dinner.

Some meals may need to be assembled when you eat

While assembling your meals, you will discover that there are some obvious combinations that should not be made until you are ready to eat. Your breakfast may include Grape Nuts and milk. Keep these in separate containers until feeding time. Just be sure your milk goes into a plastic container with locking lid that has a rubber gasket to prevent leaks.

I found that high quality lean turkey is very moist. If your meal calls for a turkey sandwich, keep the turkey away from the bread until you are ready to eat. Bread has a tendency to soak large quantities of turkey-juice. Yuk.

Due to the extra separating, you may have seven Tupperware containers for only three meals. This is perfectly fine.

Double check before leaving the house

What I find frustrating is spending time planning the meals, cooking, preparing and assembling, only to forget a critical portion of food such as a serving of veggies or protien.

So, once I think I’m done assembling my meals I will peek into each Tupperware dish and make sure I added what is on the meal plan. There are always a couple times in the month where I catch a mistake. These errors are more common when dealing with vastly different meal plans from day-to-day.

If your meal plans are stored on the computer, it may be worth while to print out the spreadsheet so you can have it in the kitchen. This helps ensure you get the right foods with the correct portions without having to memorize anything. Once you get the hang of assembling meals, you can skip printing it every day.

Don’t assemble meals more than a day in advance

If you have ample portable plastic containers to do so, you may be tempted to assemble two or three days of meals at once. If your meals are the basic mixed bowls of food as described above, I discourage mixing food to early. Flavors have a tendency to mix together over time, firm veggies become soggy, soft veggies become mush, and chicken becomes rubbery. This is not very appetizing. From my experience, I found these “mixed bowls” tend to do okay for a day; don’t assemble your meals too far in advance!

Enjoy a fresh meal every once in a while

There is not much fun in eating reheated food with every meal. As I mentioned before, I always cook a fresh breakfast that includes oatmeal and an egg-white omelette (among other things). Sometimes I cook one of my dinners fresh so that I can enjoy a nice home cooked three-course meal. 

Once you get into the routine of eating every three hours, you may will  become sick of being in the kitchen and just settle on reheated food. This often happens to me. However, I’m a bachelor and can get away with such things. For those of you that have family at home that is not on the same diet plan, they will very much appreciate when you eat the same dinner as everyone else. Hopefully you won’t me making them eat reheated food every day. ;)

What are your thoughts on assembling your meals in advance? Do you have any tips or advice to simplify the process?

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