How to win at meal prep
Meal prepping has become wildly popular these days, and for arguably great reasons. It can be a game changer in your week, giving you back time you’d spend cooking every night, ensuring you have complete, filling, and nutritious meals on deck when you need them, helping you save money on eating out and keeping you true to eating foods that serve you best (aka, a delicious meal vs. half a brick of cheese for dinner. You know it’s happened… I can’t be the only one).
Bulk cooking meals for the week in advance can sound a little daunting at first – so I’m supposed to give up 4 hours on a Sunday just cooking??? I’m not really even good at cooking! I have to eat the same food for 5 days??
Fortunately, no, to all of the above.
Meal prepping is meant to HELP you, so the number one guideline when finding your rhythm with it is to set yourself up for success by fitting it within your existing lifestyle.
Here’s what I mean – make meal prepping work for you (like it’s supposed to!!):
Choose dishes/meals that only take as much time as you’re willing to give
One of the goals of meal prepping is to save you time on cooking by doing it all at once in bulk.
If spending an entire afternoon cooking isn’t something you’d enjoy or have time for every week, look for meal ideas that can either be made quicker (think barbecuing meat and veggies at the same time in half an hour), or with less effort (throwing everything in a pot and letting it cook for hours) like stews, slow cooker/instapot recipes, roasts, etc.
Something like a buddha bowl can seem overwhelmingly complicated at first glance because it always looks like there’s 10 different ingredients plus a fancy dressing, but they can be as simple as getting some brown rice ready in a rice cooker, hard boiling some eggs, and preparing a variety of vegetables/toppings to throw on top. Recipes that have a lot of fresh or simple ingredients with little cooking time often take faster than you think, and avoid dish build up!
Scheduling time for it that works for you
Finding a couple hours all at once to devote to prep can be an adjustment. Try to pick a day where:
- You’d already be cooking
- You are almost always at home for a couple hours
- You usually have recently done groceries or have time to do them
Sunday and Monday are popular meal prep days because most of us want to have food for the weekdays at work, and have time to do groceries on the weekend.
The key here is not to make meal prep a giant adjustment in your life. If your Sunday is going to change from “get some laundry done and putter around all day” to “get up, grocery shop, prep vegetables, cook for two hours, eat, clean all the dishes, portion the food away, then do laundry and relax by 6pm”, guess what – you might struggle to actually follow through each week, at least at the start. When building a new routine, start small & pick recipes that are easy.
As you get more familiar with your recipes and routine, meal prepping will take less time. I love the idea of keeping things moving by setting a timer for yourself – it’ll be easier to stay on task and not let your whole day run away if the time is pre-set and blocked off for you to complete your prep.
Choose recipes you like, and create variety
If you’re not a person who enjoys eating the same leftovers for 5 days after the holidays, you might not be a person who enjoys eating the same bulk meal every day of the week either.
Consider either making at least 3 meal options, or prepping items that can be used interchangeably. For example, if you grill up some chicken breasts, these can be used either on their own with a tasty dressing (Greek yogurt based?), chopped up in a buddha bowl/salad, or added to a sandwich.
Switch things up during the week. If you’re not enjoying the food you’re eating, chances are you’re going to have a harder time sticking to your meal prep routine.
- Find yourself fairly frequently reaching for snacks or quick eats because you don’t have time (or the ingredients) to make dinner at night
- Can’t seem to stick to healthy complete meals for whatever reason
- Wish you spent less money eating lunches or dinner out
- Are a bit lost or uncreative in the kitchen
- Need a little more efficiency in your week
Take a stab at trying meal prep!
If you’re looking to make a new habit out of it and could use a helping hand, check out my Work with Me page: