She’s the busy mother-of-two who shed 20 kilograms without exercising after eating her healthy meals on hand.
And Simone Harbinson has been spending every Sunday cooking up large batches of food from scratch and individually proportioning them into plastic containers.
And since mastering the art of meal prepping, the super-organised mother, from Victoria, has managed to feed her family of four for just $2.25 per serve.
Sharing her vibrant creations of food on Instagram under Simone_thebod, Ms Harbinson has been documenting her meal prep to more than 20,000 followers.
Here, she reveals her savviest cooking secrets to meal prepping – and how she keeps her food fresh in the fridge without freezing.
‘I tend to prep double batches of meals, portion and freeze. There’s the convenience of always having fresh healthy meals on hand,’ she said.
‘I will generally keep four to five days worth of meals in the fridge, which are kept well in sealed containers.
‘I also do a top up meal prep on a Thursday which gets us through until the next Sunday meal prep.’
By keeping meals fresh in the fridge for a week, Ms Harbinson said there were some ingredients she avoid using.
‘To save time in the morning, I like to prep three to four days worth of smoothies for my husband and I for a quick on the go breakfast,’ she explained.
‘The smoothies are usually made up with a fruit base such as mangoes or berries. I would avoid adding an ingredient such as banana to pre-made smoothies as it just wouldn’t last.
‘Also if I’m making foods like vegetable frittatas or zucchini fritters, I tend to eat within a day or two of prepping as I find egg-based meals tend to go soggy, plus they don’t freeze well either.’
Four years ago, the mother was forced to stop her rigorous exercise routine after she was left bedridden with a rare appendix cancer.
It was here, she started meal prepping to get her diet plan back on track – and she even lost 20 kilograms without exercising.
Since then, Ms Harbinson said her colourful creations of nutritional meals have saved her time and money as she juggled her busy work and family life.
‘I love how much time and money meal prepping saves,’ she said.
‘I basically turn my fridge into a healthy fast food restaurant. If you always have healthy meals on hand, you’re always going to eat well.
‘And the kids cant complain “Mum, there’s nothing to eat!” Planning ahead and working from lists, ticking things off as they’re done always makes me feel accomplished.
‘Eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring or hard. One thing I often hear is that eating healthy is difficult.
‘I only hope that at some point they realise how easy and delicious it can be.’
Every Sunday, the mother would spend at least two hours cooking her weekly meals.
‘I spend two to three hours in the kitchen each Sunday tops. I can get anywhere from 30-50 meals done in this time including school snacks,’ she said.
Feeding for a family of four, Ms Harbinson said her weekly grocery bill ranges between $250 to $300 because all of her meals are made fresh for the week.
‘I spend anywhere from $250-300 on groceries a week for a family of four with three pets,’ she said.
‘It depends if I need to replenish pantry staples such as nuts, dried fruit and seeds etc. If so, our grocery bill tends to lean towards the higher end.
‘Otherwise its just the usual meat, fresh fruit, veggies and the odd top up of staples such as crushed tomatoes and rice.’
Her weekly go-to meals include chicken curries, pastas, Mexican rice and stir fries.
‘My daughter is vegetation so we tend to have a meat free dinner once or twice a week also which will generally be a veggie burger or a lentil and vegetable lasagna,’ she said.
‘I always have homemade granola, banana bread and protein balls on the prep list each week too. They always help when we are looking for a sweet treat.’
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How long do your smoothies last and how do you store them?
I always make four days worth of smoothies in one hit. I store them in the fridge in shakers. As I’m about to drink I add my protein powder give it a good shake and then enjoy.
Do you store your meals in the fridge or freezer?
I keep five days worth of meals in the fridge and freeze the rest down.
How long do meal preps take you?
Two to three hours tops. I have numerous things on the go & am a bit of an advocate for multitasking in the kitchen. I always have a sink full of hot soapy water and wash dishes as I use them.
Do you eat the same thing everyday?
Generally my breakfasts, lunches and snacks are the same for the week but dinners are different each night as we eat as a family.
For any half used vegetables, Ms Harbinson said she would incorporate the leftovers into another batch of meal planning later in the week.
‘I try to only buy for what we need but should I have any leftovers, I try to meal plan to use up the unused vegetables and then immediately eat or freeze those meals,’ she said.
‘We have recently planted our first vegetable garden which has been supplying us with an abundance of fresh produce so we pick and cook straight from the garden.
‘If we have any leftover fruit or vegetables at the end of the week that have gone too far, we have a pet pig who loves leftovers. We never have any waste in our house.’
To plan her weekly meals, the mother said she prepares her foods around her schedule.
‘I generally take out my diary and work out what we have on for the week ahead and then meal plan based around our busy schedule,’ she said.
‘I then make a list of meals I want to prep for that week. I always check what I have leftover in the pantry or fridge that needs to be used up also.’
So how does she cook up a storm in the kitchen for under three hours?
‘My best advise is to multitask in the kitchen – have eggs boiling, the banana bread baking, while the chicken is being pan-fried,’ she said.
‘If three of your recipes require onion, chop all three onions in one go then split off into each recipe.
‘Have a sink full of hot soapy water and wash dishes as you use them. Don’t let them build up over your prep to then be stuck with a total mess to clean.
‘Buy stackable containers for the fridge and freezer so you don’t run out of space.’
For those who are looking to start meal prepping for the first time, Ms Harbinson said: ‘Eating healthy and meal prepping is simple and easy with the right preparation.
‘Don’t over complicate things and don’t get overwhelmed,’ she said.
‘I promise you will get quicker and it will get easier each week and then it becomes second nature.
‘Make it fun by putting on some good tunes and getting the kids involved. I don’t always have the motivation to meal prep, and I often lack time.
‘But I know if I make the time and dedicate myself to just getting it done, it frees up so much more free time for the rest of the week when I set my intentions right for those couple of hours in the kitchen.
She added: ‘If you still look cute at the end of your meal prep, you didn’t prep hard enough.’