The phrase “meal prep” used to terrify me. I had this vision in my head of spending hours upon hours slaving over the stove cooking all of my meals for the week. As someone who works 8am to 5pm Monday through Friday, the thought of spending half of my weekend cooking didn’t appeal to me.
But you know what they say: “failing to plan is planning to fail.” It’s harsh, but it’s so true – especially when it comes to your nutrition. Although winging it may seem like the best way to handle your weekly meals, it usually leads to unexpected fast food runs, unhealthy eating, and weight gain.
When you’re looking to lose weight or change your eating habits, planning and prepping your meals ahead of time is essential. But if you’re like most people, you probably don’t have the ability to cook your meals at home every day. That’s where meal prep comes in.
What is meal prep?
Meal prep is a lot of different things to a lot of different people. For some, it means preparing breakfast, lunch, and dinner ahead of time. For others, it’s cooking lunches and portioning out fruits and veggies. There’s no right or wrong way to meal prep, but what’s important is that you prep the necessary meals to make your week less stressful.
For me, I meal prep twice a week – on Sunday and again on Wednesday. On those days, I cook up all of the food for my lunches, wash and portion fruits and veggies, and make any food ahead of time that will stay well during the week (such as meatballs, chicken, etc.). I still make some meals during the week, like dinners, but otherwise, I cook in bulk. It’s all about finding what works best for you.
Just starting out with meal prep? Here are some meal prep tips to get you started.
1. Plan, Plan, Plan
Before you even start cooking, it’s important that you have a meal plan for the week. This not only helps you know what you should eat, but it also helps you have a plan of action when you go to the grocery store. Not knowing what you’re going to buy ahead of time usually leads to spontaneous purchases and poor choices.
A few days before you plan on going grocery shopping for the week, start planning out your meals. Do your best to incorporate all of the main food groups (veggies, fruit, protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats). If you need inspiration, a quick Google search of “healthy meal plans” should do the trick!
2. Keep it Simple
I know the idea of eating the same foods every day sounds boring, but if you’re new to meal prep, simple will be your best friend. Instead of coming up with different meals for every day of the week, try creating one or two meal plans that you alternate.
I have one meal plan for Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday and another for Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Or, you could eat the same foods for breakfast and lunch but change up your dinners. Whatever you choose to do, don’t over-complicate it.
3. Don’t Try To Prep it all at Once
When you’re just starting out, trying to prep all of your food on one day can be incredibly overwhelming. Instead of trying to cook all of your food, just focus on what will make your life easier. Maybe that means cooking all of your lunches on one day or doing your meal prep twice a week. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to meal prep, so do what works best for you.
4. Don’t Test Out New Recipes
Once you’re experienced with meal prep, go ahead – try out some new recipes! But when you’re just getting started, stick to recipes you already know. New recipes can be complicated and time-consuming, increasing the amount of time you spend cooking (and leading to unnecessary frustration).
5. Give Yourself Time to Reap the Benefits
Chances are, you’re not going to get it right on the first try. It’s frustrating. But it’s important that you stick with it long enough to experience the benefits, see results, and form new habits. It takes about three weeks to form a new habit – so don’t give up just because it didn’t go as planned. Experiment with new techniques. Keep what works, and get rid of what doesn’t.
It will get easier over time. Just remember to stick with it.