“Meal Prep” Doesn’t Have to Be a Bad Word
Alarm goes off.
You hit snooze, hoping a few more minutes of ‘rest’ will have you jumping out of bed with energy.
You rush through getting ready, then realize you need breakfast and lunch for the day. 🤦♀️
At this point you have 2 choices: take the extra 20 minutes to make your meals (and be late for work) or head out and eat out.
Even though you struggle through this pretty much every day, you aren’t sure how to break the cycle.
You want to eat healthier, but you don’t feel like you have the time to make food every day.
This is where food and meal prepping swoop in to save you!
I know putting the words ‘meal’ and ‘prepping’ together can freak some people out.
I’m here to tell you, this process can be as simple – or as complex – as you want to make it! But, I know you want to make it as simple as possible, so I’m going to show you several ways to get your prep done fast.
Before we get into the heat of the kitchen, we have to talk about the single most important part of meal prepping: your grocery list.
The Golden Ticket: AKA Your Grocery List
Staying on track with your health goals starts with the food you buy, and that is why your grocery list is sooooo important.
A trip to the grocery store can be the start of a successful, healthy week, or the beginnings of a long trip down the “I’ll start next week…” aisle.
To create a killer grocery list, you need to first review:
What you want to eat
- Be realistic with the foods you choose to make. Don’t try to force yourself to eat boiled chicken and broccoli for the entire week because you think its healthy when you know by Tuesday you’ll be hitting the drive-through to escape your tupperware nightmare.
- Choose foods you know you enjoy, and you know how to make. If this is your first meal or food prep session, now is not the time to bulk prepare a crazy new recipe you’re not sure you’ll want to eat for days.
What ingredients those meals need
- Break down all the individual ingredients you will need: meats, vegetables, carbohydrates, sauces, seasonings, broths.
What you have in your kitchen now
- One of the biggest wastes of money is throwing away uneaten food. Check to see what you have in your pantry, fridge, and freezer before you head to the store to avoid buying unnecessary items.
Once you’ve done these things, it’s time to create your list. Organizing your list is crucial – it allows you to get in and get out quickly, saving you time and money. The more time you spend browsing around, the more likely you are to make impulse purchases.
Here’s how I break down the grocery list:
- Produce (fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs)
- Frozen (Hint: frozen fruits and vegetables can be a more cost-efficient purchase; they often have more nutrients than fresh because they are frozen just after they’re harvested. Just be sure to check there’s no added sugar.)
- Dry Goods (canned or dry beans, whole grains, sauces, spices, etc.)
Nearly every grocery store has the same setup, with natural, whole foods on the perimeter, and canned and processed foods on the inner aisles. You want to spend the majority of your time and money on the outer portion of the store.
Now it’s time to get into the kitchen!
What’s the Difference Between Food and Meal Prepping?
Meal prepping is when you cook, prepare, and store individual meals. For example, you put together containers of eggs and bacon for breakfast, and chicken, rice, and steamed veggies for lunch. These meals are set, and all you have to do is grab your containers each morning and head out the door.
Food prepping is when you cook, prepare, and store individual ingredients that you later mix and match into a variety of meals. For example, you cook up grilled chicken, ground beef, rice, pasta, roasted vegetables, and chop all your raw vegetables for salads. Then throughout the week, you can create different meals depending on what you want.
I prefer the food prepping method because it gives me the convenience of pre-cooked food, but I also have variety in my meals each day.
Typical food prep for a week:
- Protein: Ground beef (stove)
- Protein: Shredded chicken (Instant Pot)
- Veggies: Peppers and onions (stove)
- Veggies: Roasted brussels sprouts (oven)
- Carbs: White jasmine rice (Instant Pot)
- Carbs: Roasted diced sweet potatoes (oven)
Ready to cook ingredients: I also use this method of meal prep, mainly with vegetables. It involves having things ready to grab and cook. That can mean meat is defrosted and marinated, or vegetables and fruit are washed and chopped, and ready to eat. This cuts down on prep time during the week when you’re cooking dinner or throwing together a salad for lunch, for example. This is one of my biggest tips for making your nutrition life easier! I honestly believe if you do nothing else besides have your fruits and vegetables washed, chopped, and ready to eat for the week, you’re life will change for the better.
Typical ready-to-cook prep for a week:
- All vegetables and fruit are washed immediately when I get home
- Peppers: 3 diced, 2 cut into slices
- Squash and zucchini: 1 each cut into half slices
- Onion: 2 diced
- Small tomatoes: washed, stems removed
- Broccoli: chopped into bite-size pieces
I store all vegetables and fruit in glass storage containers (even mason jars work), which keeps them crisp longer.
Bulk meals: This is one of the easier ways to prep meals for the week. It involves making a large batch of a single meal, that you can portion on throughout the week. It can be something like a pot of soup or a casserole.
Typical bulk meals for a week:
Individually portioned meals: This method takes a bit more work and thought. It involves preparing individually portioned meals that are ready to grab and go. It’s great for someone who has very specific fitness goals, or absolutely no time during the week to even put lunch together before heading to work. You typically bulk prepare the ingredients, then put your meals together in to-go containers before storing them in the fridge.
Typical individual meal preps for a week:
- Egg muffins
- Overnight oats
- Salad in a jar
- Grilled chicken, rice, and sautéed vegetables
It’s Time to Prep
Whether you’re strapped for time during the week, or just want to make healthier food choices each day, meal and food prepping can be the solution for you. Remember to start small and slow.