A food prep influencer shares 6 of his favorite cooking hacks: Life Kit: NPR

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Close-up of a man in his 20s cutting peppers at home in the kitchen and participating in food preparation.

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When Kevin Curry was growing up, he never had to think about cooking food for himself. His parents were responsible for dinner. Lunch was also provided at school.

As he got older, he realized, “Whoah. I have to feed myself. How do I do that?” he says. What’s more, he wanted to eat healthy food without spending hundreds of dollars a month eating out.

Kevin Curry is the founder of FitMenCook, an online community that shares healthy meal prep recipes.

Kathy Tran

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Kathy Tran

So Currie turned to food preparation as a solution. This is the concept of cooking food ahead of time to eat later. This could mean making a meal on Sunday and eating the leftovers throughout the week, or preparing the ingredients and freezing them to eat at a later date.

Curry, who is now the founder of FitMenCook, an online community with over 1.6 million followers on Instagram that shares healthy meal prep recipes, says there are benefits to prepping your meals. It can be more nutritious because you know exactly what ingredients you are putting into your body. It can save you money. And it solves the age-old question: “What will I eat?”

He shares some of his favorite tricks for preparing food with the Life Kit.

1. Prepare individual ingredients to mix and match throughout the week. Curry says she cooks on Wednesdays and Sundays. On those nights, he’ll spend 45 minutes cooking five dishes to mix and match over the next few days—chickpeas, chicken, jasmine rice, roasted vegetables, and a green medley of spinach, chard, and kale, for example.

“With those five foods that I prepared, I made about ten different meal combinations,” he says. One day you might want chicken, rice and veggies, another day you might want chickpeas, veggies and chicken. Transform the flavor of any dish with different condiments such as tahini dressing or barbecue sauce.

2. Avoid perishable foods, such as dairy products, fresh berries and anything that can get wet after being in the fridge for a few days. If you want these ingredients in your meals, “plant-based options [for dairy products like oat milk] store really well,” as well as fruit that’s already frozen, he says.

3. Cook ingredients you really like. This might seem like a no-brainer, but if you think lentils taste like cardboard, you probably shouldn’t be making a big batch of them to eat all week.

4. Think beyond brown rice. It’s an inexpensive, nutrient-dense staple for many prepared meals, but it’s not the only grain in town, Curry says. “I discovered black rice, forbidden rice, jasmine rice, basmati rice and quinoa” while preparing food. And lately, he’s been loving farro, a whole wheat high in protein and fiber.

5. Consider making “hero food.” Make a big meal, like a whole lasagna casserole, eat several portions during the week—then freeze portions for later. Curry calls this a “hero dish” because you are a hero for making this entire recipe. “It’s a big lift,” he says. “It’s also like, ‘Oooh, look what I did.'”

6. Figure out your rewarming strategy. Some items will reheat best in the microwave, while others require sautéing on the stovetop or some time in the oven. Curry shares his favorite way to reheat a pizza: “Put it in a pan and brush the bottom, and it’s like you’ve got it brand new,” he says. Then cover the pan to melt the cheese on top.

For more food preparation tips, listen to the full interview with Curry.

The audio portion of this episode was produced by Claire Marie Schneider with engineering support from Stacey Abbott. It was edited by Megan Keen. The digital story was edited by Malaka Gharib. We’d love to hear from you. Leave us a voicemail at 202-216-9823 or email us at [email protected].

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