Most people lead extremely busy lives and balancing work, kids, school and everything else in-between can be a challenge. When people are in a time crunch, usually healthy eating and cooking are left behind and replaced by unhealthy convenience food, fast food and snacks full of toxic ingredients and preservatives. It may seem unrealistic to imagine eating home-made meals and consuming healthy snacks each day of the week when there are so many other important things to do. But, with just a little bit of planning and prep work, healthy eating can become a reality for even the busiest people. 

The main idea of meal-prepping is to set aside a couple hours on the weekend and prepare most or all your meals for the following week. The goal is to make eating healthy foods as convenient and accessible as possible for you during the week. This will reduce unhealthy eating and snacking on fast food or convenience foods because you’ll have all your meals and snacks available and ready to go when you need them. Not only will you reduce temptation of eating out, you’ll also save money! When portioning out the cost of a home-cooked meal versus take-out food, you’ll find that you get more bang for your buck when you cook yourself, plus it will most likely taste better too.

The Kalamazoo and Portage Markets are the perfect place to get all your meal ingredients, plus there are plenty of vendors who sell healthy home-made snacks that will assist in accelerating the meal-prep process. Below are some steps to begin your meal-prep journey:

  • Arrive to the farmers market prepared. Pick a couple of recipes and food items you want to eat for the following week, and make a list of all the ingredients. This will reduce spontaneous purchases and keep you focused on what you need, not what you want.
  • Once you have done your shopping, set aside a couple hours sometime that weekend (or during the week, whatever works best for you), and make the recipes you’ve chosen. I personally make all of my breakfast, lunch and dinner meals and also chop up fruits and veggies so I can have those as quick grab-and-go snacks. This will reduce the temptation to eat fast food or get unhealthy snacks during the week.
  • Pre-portion out the meals and snacks you’ve made into individual containers (try to use reusable containers instead of baggies, you’ll do your wallet and environment a favor!) That way you can easily and quickly grab what you need when you need it.

Meal-prepping the first few times may feel long and meticulous, but once you get into the habit of having a specific day to shop and then prep, it will become a routine and won’t seem so hard. Below are some healthy ideas and products that the Markets offer that will assist in weekly meal-preps. Stop by every Saturday and Sunday!

 Tanstaffl Farm Stand veggie box

Tanstaffl Farm Stand veggie box

  • Overstock on fruits from the farmers market and then freeze an assortment of different fruits/veggies in individual containers for a quick smoothie you can throw in the blender.
  • Get a wide variety of colorful raw veggies/ fruits from the market, slice them, and put them in individual small containers (try not to use plastic bags so you can reduce your carbon footprint) so you can easily grab-and-go. If you know you won’t be able to use a certain item before it goes bad, freeze and save it for future cooking.
  • Pick up some dried legumes, make a big batch and top every meal with them to increase fiber and protein intake. Legumes taste delicious in salads, omelettes, wraps and stir-fries.
  • There are many vendors that have farm-fresh eggs. Hard-boil a dozen to have them as high-protein snacks or throw on top of a salad.
  • Make a big batch of pancakes or French toast using market fresh eggs and bread, then freeze for grab-and-go ease.
  • No need to search all over the market for raw veggies, TANSTAAFL Farm Stand has already made assorted veggie boxes to make shopping easier.
  • Making veggie-centric meals such as soups, chili, curry, and fajitas using a crock pot or instant pot is a great way to save time and use vegetables from the market that are in season.
  • Make sure to check out the “What’s Fresh” and “Recipes” page on the Markets Blog. New recipes using produce that is currently in season are posted weekly, so that can give you helpful ideas on what to make.

Healthy Home-made Products from the Market:

 Kalemazoo Chips 

Kalemazoo Chips 

 Kahoona's Ktchen flat breads

Kahoona's Ktchen flat breads

  • Make a big batch of “overnight oats” portioned out in mason jars with oats from The Grainery for a fast breakfast. Top with whatever fruit is in season.
  • Granola can be a great breakfast or snack that’s high in fiber (make sure you choose granolas with a low sugar content though). There are two Granola vendors at the market:
    •  Wiltse Kitchen uses healthy ingredients such as honey, olive oil, and other organic ingredients in their granola.
    • Kahoona’s Kitchen has tons of options for those with allergies. They offer gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, sodium-free, vegan and paleo granola. They also make healthy date/oat bars and flat breads.
  • Get plain yogurt (use Greek yogurt to get that extra protein boost) and top with Wiltse Kitchen jams so you’re able to control the sugar content. Try interesting flavors such as wild elderberry, peach with wine, damnson plum, and marionberry.
  • Kalemazoo Chips has healthy kale chips and kale “Power Bites” with flax, chia, sesame and sunflower seeds so you can sneak in an extra serving of veggies throughout the day.
  •  La Guatemalteca has freshly made corn chips, guacamole and salsa.
  • Young Earth Farm and Otto’s Chicken has chicken sausage that provides a lean protein source (versus regular sausage) and a quick breakfast.
  • Bova Bakery has freshly made pizza crusts and flatbreads. Try to opt for the nine-grain crust to boost your fiber and complex carbohydrate intake.
  • J&J Tortillas are great for sandwich wraps or tacos. Try the whole-grain or spelt flour options.
 Wiltse Kitchen's Jams 

Wiltse Kitchen's Jams