One of the major aspects of staying on track with your nutrition goals is planning, preparing, and prepping meals in advance. A well thought out plan not only ensures you are prepared for those inevitable crazy days when the last thing you want to do is get home and cook a full meal, but having a plan also saves you time, energy, and money throughout the week.
However, if your picture of “meal prep” involves spending an entire weekend afternoon working in the kitchen, you are in for a happy surprise.
First, what IS meal prep? Like it sounds, it involves dedicating some time on the weekend to plan and prepare for your meals in advance. This can range from cooking and dividing up every single meal you will eat for the week, to doing a little batch cooking (cook enough food that can be used for several meals) and ingredient prep.
The focus of this article will be on mastering the basics of meal prep, which will give you a good foundation to grow from later – if you want!
Here are six quick tips to help you get started, and we promise, they don’t involve spending all day in the kitchen.
A clutter free kitchen will make everything else a breeze. When it comes to meal prep. If you know exactly what you have and WHERE it all is, grocery shopping and cooking will go much smoother. Protip: consider investing in some quality glass food storage containers you can freeze, microwave, and put in the dishwasher. We like THESE
Make a plan
This is best to do on Fridays so you can schedule your grocery store trip for the weekend. Write out what you will eat for meals throughout the week (don’t forget breakfast and lunch!). Emphasize high quality, minimally processed, whole foods. To avoid getting overwhelmed, a good start is to think about 1-2 different breakfasts, 4-5 dinner recipes, and 2-3 different lunches – leftovers are also great for lunch – per week. This way you aren’t cooking something different EVERY day. We have an awesome list of recipes to get you started you can find HERE
Create a list and hit the store
To save time and money, go to one or two grocery stores at most, or order online. Many stores now even have delivery or curbside pickup so you don’t even have to leave your house or car! Once you have your meals planned, it will be simple to make a list of items you will need. Then it will be that much easier to stick buying just what you need at the store, not to mention impulse buys of foods that aren’t so great for you.
Prep smart, not hard
If cutting up vegetables or cooking large portions of rice or sweet potatoes isn’t your thing (or you don’t have time), many grocery stores now have pre-cut/pre-cooked items ready to go. It is common to find vegetable blends for stir fries, spiralized zucchini, cut up butternut squash, as well as precooked roasted vegetables, rice, and potatoes. Don’t forget about “easy” proteins like precooked chicken, chicken sausage, and deli meats – just go right to the deli counter for fresher choices without a lot of additives.
Batch cook proteins, smart carbs, and veggies
This should give you plenty of these items to get you through the week to use for lunches or in different recipes. A good place to start is pulled chicken in the crock pot (recipe HERE), sweet potatoes and brown rice or quinoa, and roasted (or air fried) broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts.
Clean and cut up raw veggies
These can be used for “grab and go” snacks, lunches, or in various recipes. We love peppers, carrots, snap peas, cherry tomatoes, and celery. If you’re wondering about fruit, we usually leave fruit alone until we are ready to eat it; otherwise it goes bad quickly when we clean and cut it in bulk.
Regardless of your specific strategies, start small and work on making meal prep a priority. Be consistent! Even if the task seems overwhelming at first, stick with it, and before long you will have a sustainable habit that will help you be more productive, save money, and eat better throughout the week!
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