Have you started a day not having a clue of what you are going to eat for any of your meals? Lunch time rolls around and you either skip it because you didn’t plan ahead or you get the quickest option that usually doesn’t align with your goals. Then diner comes. If you skipped lunched you are starving and by this point and don’t really care about what you eat. You just want food! Or maybe you are feeling a little sluggish from that fast food lunch and worn down from your stressful day so you pick up food from a different place for dinner. It is an easy cycle to get caught up in. Having some kind of plan for your food intake can be so helpful and make your life easier during the week. It is also AMAZING to not have to use mental energy on figuring out what to eat after a long day of work!
You may be thinking, the task of meal prepping is too daunting. May be you’re envisioning a fridge full of food labeled breakfast, lunch, or dinner for each day of the week and the amount of time spent preparing takes a whole day. It doesn’t have to be that way. The important thing with meal prepping is to figure out what works best for you and your family (if applicable). It’s supposed to make your life easier and help set your week up for success!
Deciding What to Prep
Which meals do you want to prep? You may not need to prep breakfast, lunch, AND dinner. Do you wake up early enough to make yourself breakfast? Great! You don’t need to worry about prepping this meal. Do you have a busy work day and have to take quick lunches? Maybe lunch is a great meal to prep. Or it could be that after a long day at work the last thing you want to do it cook dinner. Having it ready to just reheat could be a game changer for you! It’s all about what your schedule it like and what will help you the most. I recommend starting by choosing one meal to focus on. Where will it help you the most? Breakfast? Lunch? Dinner?
Do you need to prep the whole meal or just a part of the meal? Now that you’ve identified which meal you want to prep, how much of it do you need to prep? For example, you could prepare your protein ahead of time and make your veggie the day of. Or, you could have your veggie already cooked and just make your protein the day of. Or maybe just having your veggies cut is the prep work that is needed. If you like making fresh salads each night, you can have your salad toppings like peppers and cucumbers already cut. You can even buy veggies already cut so you don’t have to spend the time doing that. Sure they will be more expensive, but if it prevents you from throwing them away it could be worth the investment. Frozen veggies are another great time saver if you like to make you protein ahead, but not your veggie. You can also roast sweet potato cubes or make quinoa or rice ahead of time to round off your meals.
Another idea is to have items cooked that you can combine in different ways. If you have sweet potatoes and broccoli roasted, onions and peppers chopped up, and chicken cooked you can easily use those to make multiple different items. For example, you can sauté the onion and peppers, add the cooked sweet potato to the skillet and then add eggs to the pan and make a scramble for breakfast. You could then make a salad with the veggies and add the chicken and an avocado for lunch. For dinner, you can add some seasoning to the chicken when you reheat it and pair it with broccoli and quinoa and maybe a little hot sauce! Hopefully you get the picture! The options are endless here!
How long will each meal last you? If you prefer to make large portions and eat leftovers, you may only need to make 2-3 meals to last you the week. And, you don’t even need to make them all in one day. If you have lighter days at work, you can choose those days to cook and your busier days for the leftovers. CrockPot meals are great! You put the ingredients together at the beginning of the day and dinner is ready by the time you are done with work. Another perk is that they make larger portions so you get leftovers! I like making bigger quantity items on Monday night and using the leftovers for my lunch for the week.
Do you have easy go-to options? Do you have options at your house that you can put together for a quick meal? For example, a packet of tuna, mayo, and apple with frozen veggies (or a veggie I made earlier in the week) is a really easy option. All of those times (minus the apple) do not go bad quickly and are items you can just have on hand. I don’t really see this meal as cooking. It is an easy option that I do not have to prep ahead of time, I enjoy, and makes me feel good. This will help to cut down on the meals that need to be prepped ahead of time.
Deciding When to Prep
Do you want to plan your meals, make your list, grocery shop, and prep all in the same day? Or, would you prefer to split it up? I get it, it can seem like a lot. I personally like to plan my meals, make my list, and do my shopping on one day and then do any of the prep work the following day. It can be helpful to tie this behavior to something you already do. For example, if you work out on Saturday morning, your new routine could be to work out and then do your shopping. Or maybe, during your lunch break on Friday you plan out your meals and make your list and then stop by the store on the way home. Again, there is no right answer, you just have to figure out what works with your schedule.
Making a List and Shopping
Make a list! This is so helpful. It cuts down on impulse buys, keeps you from forgetting items, and makes shopping more efficient. A time saving tip is to make your grocery list in order of what you get to in the store first. In most grocery stores, that is the produce. This will make it easier to shop and prevent you from running back and forth across the store.
You can also have your list on the fridge during the week leading up to your shopping. This makes it easy to just write down any items as your run out of them. Then once you plan your meals for the coming week you only need to add the ingredients needed to make them.
In the beginning it does take more time and energy. You may over or under prepare. That’s okay, you can readjust. Start small. It could be making one meal that will have leftovers. You got this!