How to Meal Prep and Not Be Boring (Even When You're Burnt Out)

We're the Instagram generation. Ergo, we love meal prep.

I learned to cook when I was young, and I kind of loved it. Why? Like all children, I believed in lies, particularly when it came to useless and incorrect things, like the Tooth Fairy, '90s toy commercials, or how to boil an egg.


When I was in my early 20s, a friend taught me the very basics of Korean cooking, which revived my interest in eating well and heartily, and enjoying the satisfaction of preparing good food for my closest friends.

Then I started grad school, worked two to three jobs in order to pay for grad school, and felt my future become less about #goals and more of a fuzzy theoretical possibility. So I stopped cooking. Why? I am too f*cking tired.

Of course, I'm not alone. "Millennial burnout" is that contentious but measurable phenomenon whereby my entire generation was raised to "optimize" ourselves and our time and our productivity 24/7—to the point that technology is rewiring our brains to think like machines, until we'll inevitably have to forfeit some of our humanity just to become viable members of the work force one day (okay, that's an exaggeration, but I did read it on the Internet). And with millennials earning an average of "20% less than boomers despite being better educated," it's not like we're ordering takeout every other night of the week. Surveys suggest young people ages 18 to 29 are staying at home to cook more than previous generations. You know, because we're broke as sh*t and stuff.

So with all that in mind, we, the Instagram generation, love the concept of meal prep. Accounts from all over the world and all levels of experience, from professionals to adventurous amateurs, share their tips and easy recipes. You don't have to have energy or motivation or faith in the future to prepare interesting and tasty snacks ahead of time; you just have to follow directions.

Start with Snacks

When you can't muster the energy to prepare a full meal for that moment, let alone meals for the whole week, focus on preparing filling snacks to consume throughout your day. Many nutritionists recommend eating 5 small meals rather than 2 or 3 large ones, anyway. So small but filling snacks, like Michelle Tam (@nomnompaleo)'s matcha pudding recipe, give you the most energy for your time and effort.

Warning: This is not a quick and easy recipe, necessarily. But it's fun, and it's dessert, so that can be enough motivate you to give this recipe a try. We recommend it because it's the kind of recipe with enough steps to lull you into that near-meditative state that cooking- and baking-lovers get hooked on. If nothing else, it's pudding. How can you go wrong with pudding?

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons matcha
  • 1 can (13.5 ounces) full fat coconut milk, divided
  • 2 teaspoons gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons honey (or more to taste)
  • ⅛ teaspoon Diamond Crystal brand kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 12 raspberries (optional garnish)

Preparation

  • Measure out the matcha into a small bowl.
  • Shake the can of coconut milk well, and whisk ¼ cup of it with the matcha. (It's okay if the coconut milk has some clumps—you'll blend them smooth with an immersion blender later.)
  • Stir in the gelatin to bloom/rehydrate. Set the bowl aside.
  • Next, heat the remaining coconut milk, honey, and salt over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sweetened milk is steaming, but not boiling.
  • Once the flavored coconut milk is hot, take the pot off the heat and add the gelatin/matcha/coconut milk mixture to the pot and stir well.
  • Pour in the vanilla extract.
  • Use an immersion blender to whisk everything together, or transfer the matcha milk to a blender and mix until uniform. No matcha chunks, please!
  • Pour the matcha mixture into a medium bowl. Chill the pudding in the fridge for 30 minutes uncovered. Then, cover and chill for an additional 1½ hours or until solid. You can keep the pudding in the fridge for up to 4 days before serving.
  • When you're ready to serve the pudding, grab a hand mixer and beat the pudding until it's nice and fluffy. Be patient—it will go from chunky to smooth, I promise!
  • Divide the pudding into four bowls or cups.


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