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A Long-Term Meal Prep Plan That Works for My Chronic Pain

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“I’m 99 percent sure this is something I cooked. If not, I apologize…but I need it,” I say to my bemused flatmate as he walks in on me sniffing at a mystery container of frozen food.

It’s red. It’s been in the freezer for a good few months. I am too drained and sore to cook tonight. I’m going to eat it. These are the things I know.

What I don’t know is exactly how long it’s been there, what the unspecified meat component is and how I’m going to be feeling roughly 12 to 24 hours post consumption.

And yet, I am firmly resolved in my decision that this is a gamble I’m willing to take.

Into the microwave, press a few buttons and 10 minutes later, voila: it’s mystery dinner night. Again.

The unspecified meat component turns out to be chicken and chorizo – a jackpot from the veritable lucky dip that is my freezer.

As I eat a full, hot, meal that I couldn’t dream of starting from scratch on a day like today, I thank my past self for being incapable of sticking to recipes or correct portion sizes. I used to see it as a flaw. After all, when you’re trying to maintain a healthy diet, portion control is key. And I absolutely cannot abide food waste!

In an ideal world, I would advocate meal prepping. Taking one huge chunk of time to batch cook, prepare and organize your food intake for the coming days would definitely make your life easier for the rest of the week. If you can put that time aside on a good energy or low pain day – fantastic.

But let’s be honest, that’s not always a possibility. As many people with chronic pain, depression or limited mobility can attest, our reality is that good days may not come around for weeks at a time. By that point your meal prep buffet has long since been depleted and your mish-mash selection of half wilted perishables would make even the most optimistic chef wince.

Not only that, but even though I genuinely enjoy cooking, why would I want to waste a few hours of a rare “good day” in the kitchen when I could be spending it with my partner, my pet or my often neglected friends?

But there is an alternative, and this is why I no longer try to curb my inability to cook for just myself. I invest in a form of “long-term meal prep” that provides more variety and more extended security than a weekly meal prep plan.

Now every time I have the energy to cook a meal, I no longer worry about throwing in a little extra of everything. Instead of one handful of rice, I throw in two. Recipe calls for half an onion? Add a whole one! It takes barely any extra time or energy to double a portion size and at the end of it you have one meal for you and one meal for the freezer. It’s a small yet incredibly beneficial change in attitude. Building this mentality into your daily routine will help you to stock pile a diverse supply of your favorite meals with very little added hassle.

Then, when those weeks roll around where you find yourself opening tinned spaghetti for the third meal in a row, instead you can open the freezer and feel just that bit more prepared to make it through the harder days without letting your nutrition struggle.

Getty Image by chabybucko

Originally published: July 30, 2018
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