This isn’t going to be a post on how meal prepping is SO easy and EVERYONE should have no excuse but to do it. I am, however, going to absolutely share some of my most favorite tips and tricks that works for me, but let me start out by saying that meal prepping in itself is pretty easy. Meal prepping basically means that you will cook a bunch of food ahead of time and have it ready for you to eat all week long! YAY! They don’t have to be fancy recipes or food, just some healthy options for you to have.
So that is the easy part.
The hard part is finding the time between dropping kids off at school, soccer practice, dance, going to the gym, working full time, having a social life and also wanting some down time to read or watch TV.
I get that planning in advance is NOT easy and I certainly am not going to sugar coat that. It also takes A LOT of practice to get in the mindset of this being a part of your life, rather than get in the way of it.
I think another confusing and discouraging thing worth mentioning here is social media.
The number of times I open up my Instagram and pictures of someones food prep with 40 tupperware laid out , filled beautifully and neatly with their food for the entire weeks makes me immediately feel like I’m never doing enough. see example below
I think I have a pretty good handle on the whole meal prep thing in an way that works for me but when I see these pictures and posts of happy faces next to hundreds of tupperware that is labeled and color coded and perfectly organized in a fridge? Ummmmm yeah. It literally makes me feel like I am not accomplishing anything — and thats a problem. I KNOW that I am accomplishing a hell of a lot and there is NO need for these posts to impact MY life. I think that is something worth mentioning here.
You are doing AMAZING.
If you spend 30 more minutes making your breakfasts for the week, that is more than you were doing before, and what I want to re-iterate here is that taking small steps will lead to HUGE successes.
It is also very possible for those with a healthy handle on meal prep to actually do it less because they can trust themselves out and about to get the right foods for their body.
For instance, if I prep my breakfasts and post workout meals for work, I know that for my afternoon snack, I can run across the street to the convenience store and grab something quick like 2 hardboiled eggs and a kombucha or a single serve container of cottage cheese and a small bag almonds + a banana. If it fits my macros and leads me to not stressing out about packing more than 2 meals, then I KNOW this will work for me.
Its not lie that having solid, healthy meals takes time. Sure, it can be equally as easy to grab something great on the go, however we are may more likely to make good, healthy decisions and thus more likely to see changes in our physique when we really take the time to plan and prepare what we are going eat. The truth? It can take a lot of time and become discouraging. All too often I have seen clients stick with meal prepping for a week or two and then fall off the wagon due to time, work, frustration, or boredom.
The key is to THINK LESS. This is why so many people are so gung ho (including me!) about spending some time with meal prep! If its there, you don’t have to think about “what will I have for lunch” during your busy day. Its there, your mind doesn’t have to think.
This is my second installment of my personal FOOD PREP TIPS. You can find the first installment right here —————> FOOD PREP TIPS TO ENSURE YOU AREN’T LIVING OUT OF TUPPERWARE
I wanted to share some modern day meal prepping ideas to help you actually stick with it for more than two weeks. Even if you take one or two of these tips and stick with it, you are making more progress than you were before!
YOU DON’T HAVE TO PICK THE SAME TIME/DAY OF THE WEEK FOR MEAL PREP!
I have read so many articles that say:
“Okay everyone! I want you to set aside 2 hours on Sundays for your meal prep, then you will have yourself prepared for the rest of the week”
It sounds great in theory but what if I have plans on Sunday with my friends that prevent me from doing my usual meal prep? Do I cancel my plans with my friends?
Or what if I am working this Sunday and my day off is Tuesday but OMG I am skipping my meal prep which means I have failed to stick to my plan and I have failed at meal prep and there goes my week.
These are the thoughts that we go through in our heads when we try to be so rigid about the whole meal prep thing, then we bring it back it back to social media, take a peek on Instragram and see all those other fitness girls with 24 tupperware of colorful food, meanwhile you are enjoying a bloody mary and veggie omelette with your girfriends at brunch. You feel guilt, you feel anxiety, you feel like you will never get a handle on it.
I have a tip for you which may be one of the most important ones on this list. YOU DON’T NEED TO PICK ONE DAY/TIME OF THE WEEK TO THINK ABOUT OR COOK WHAT YOU WILL EAT FOR THE WEEK. Everyone in this world has different schedules, different times that work for them and different preferences.
I was just having this conversation with my fellow fitness friend talking about working out. I am a morning person. If I ever have a 9-5 type job schedule, I would be at the gym at 6am and get it done. My body doesn’t work past 6pm to exercise. She is the opposite and I think its CRAZY that she goes to the gym after 7pm! That would probably never be me unless I had to for some reason. Meanwhile she thinks I’m crazy!
I am just using this as an example that different times work for different people and just because SUNDAY seems to be a popular time to cook food for the week, doesn’t mean it has to be YOUR designated time. It is certainly not mine! I have a non traditional work schedule that allows me to have free time during the days and I actually prefer to cook food when I have breaks during my work week.
My advice would be that on Saturday, think about your week ahead and think about the day or time that will work best for you to prepare some food for THAT week. It doesn’t have to be Sunday! Maybe work is light on Tuesdays and you are home by 5:30pm so you can set aside a couple hours then while watching This Is Us (Ugh, love this show!)
Set aside that time and stick to it! If you prefer to break it up into two session, try dividing the work between a an evening and then in the middle of the week! You don’t have to cook everything all at once! If you have the ingredients to make a bunch of roasted veggies and a couple sweet potatoes but no protein, then just do what you have! You will get the protein later. Break it up in parts to make it work for you!
DON’T TRY NEW RECIPES FOR YOUR MEAL PREP
Here me out for this one because you may have read the title of this tip and think I’m crazy (Of COURSE I want you always to be trying new recipes!) BUT, When starting out with food prep, it is best to stick with recipes that you already know. If you’re reading this and you have gotten the meal prep thing DOWN, then for sure try out some new recipes!! I mention not trying out crazy new recipes when beginning meal prep because I want you to become confident in the outcome of the recipe and the only thing you need to focus on is preparing it ahead of time. Personally, I take recipes that I make OFTEN such as turkey meatballs, brown rice with avocado, sweet potato mash, paleo shepards pie, protein pancakes and roasted veggies and prepared them ahead of time as part of my prep! I am able to focus on what I know will work for the week ahead and will allow me to experience the benefits of having food ready to eat! Once you excel at the whole meal prepping thing, then you can start adding in new recipes when you feel confident.
FILL YOUR KITCHEN WITH STAPLE ITEMS
There are many items that are pretty much guaranteed to ALWAYS be in my kitchen at any given time. I use these foods on a regular basis and they are also used as my “shit, I ran out of options” foods because I know they will always be there. Think about foods that you eat a lot. I mean almost everyday or every other day. I can list you 13 right here for me. These foods are pretty much ALWAYS in my kitchen. If I come home from work later than I thought and didn’t have food waiting, I have options. I can microwave a sweet potato while making 2 eggs sunny side up with spinach. Dinner done in 8 minutes. Seriously? it takes longer to order take out.
- Brown rice (I also keep instant brown rice for that “I didn’t have time to plan!”)
- Sweet potatoes (minimum of 2 on hand always and they take 3 min in the microwave)
- Butternut squash (my grocery store sells them pre peeled and chopped)
- Ezekial english muffins in the freezer
- Bananas (quick post workout meal option!)
- Whey protein (using Jay Robb chocolate isolate right now)
- Eggs (cheap! & takes 3 min to make packed with protein & good fat)
- Bags of fresh baby spinach (I go through copious amounts of this!)
- Frozen chicken breasts
- Peanut butter
- Chicken sausage (takes 5 minutes to make!)
- pre portioned 3oz cans of tuna (quick protein option!)
- Rice cakes (have 1-2 almost everyday)
- Peppers (another staple vegetable for me!) I have them frozen too!
- Whipped cream 🙂 (my most favorite thing in the world and will never be without)
Here is a healthy shopping guide that I use when I want to think of some fun, new foods to incorporate. It’s easy to get bored eating the SAME thing every week and if you are totally fine with that then you do you, but personally I need to switch things up! Take a look at the list and think about some ways you can incorporate some new foods into your weekly routine!
CHOOSE WHICH RECIPES WILL HAVE THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON YOUR GOALS AND PRIORITIZE
This, in addition to my first tip listed are one of the most important tips! The point of having some food prepared ahead of time is to make life EASIER for you, not harder. If you can wake up in the morning and have one of your meals already planned and you KNOW that will make your day easier and more likely to stick to your consistent eating, exercise and energy levels high, then you want to focus on THAT meal being pre made.
For instance, If you know that breakfast is one of the hardest meals for you to eat, then I want you to focus on making your breakfast ahead of time. For this, you could get out 5 tupperware or mason jars and throw in 1/2C oats mixed with almond milk, 1/2 scoop organic protein powder, cinnamon, 1/3C mixed fruit and 16 almonds. Let it sit in the fridge and take one out eat morning! Overnight oats success! Now, you have breakfast ready to go for every day of your work week! Another idea could be to make some egg cups! For this I take a cupcake tin and crack an egg in each one with some veggies and sometimes some meat. Place 2-3 cups in a baggie and pair with a healthy pre cooked starch like 1/2 sweet potato (easy to microwave) and breakfast is done!
By you focusing on that ONE meal that you know is hard to find or get in, then you will be setting yourself up for success by KNOWING that you have it ready for you to eat! If post workout is your downfall, you could measure out or grab 1 serving of plain greek yogurt and 1 piece of fruit with 1 serving of whole grain cereal and there you go! Post workout meal success! If you are always running to the vending machine at 3:00pm, then put together some veggie packs, almonds. What is going to make it easier for you to eat healthier during the week? Ask yourself this question which is much easier to attack than prepping all of your meals for every day of the week! Baby steps will make a HUGE impact on your week! Once you master this one meal that makes your day easier, you can add in another one!
THE LITTLEST BIT OF FOOD PREP MAKES A HUGE DIFFERENCE
I used to think it was all or nothing with food prep. If my fridge wasn’t bursting with food, then I should forget it about it all together–this thinking is the opposite of how you should be going into it. There are always going to be weeks my time is limited. If I wait for the right time or more time then I would never do anything. It is important to make the most of the time you have and do what you can. I have since learned that any food prep is better than no food prep at all. Some weeks I might not get any dinners prepped ahead of time but if my mason jar salads mixed with roasted chicken are done then at least I don’t need to worry about lunch!
YOU DON’T HAVE TO MEAL PREP
I also want to make a point here that you can still eat exactly the way you want, when you want and how you want for your choices to fit your lifestyle WITHOUT meal prepping. I certainly don’t do it all of the time and thats because my schedule is super flexible so I am home at least 2x during the day (to walk my pup) If you don’t have a 9-5 schedule and also have some places nearby that you know will have options you enjoy, then you don’t HAVE to stress about meal prepping, and again, looking at all of those pictures on instagram, yes they can be inspiring but they can also be frustrating because you will look at those pictures thinking this is what you NEED to do and you absolutely do not need to.
There are some times that I don’t want to meal prep for other reasons.
I love to cook. I enjoy finding new recipes and if I have the time to make them and experiment, then that is what I spend my time doing! I find it therapeutic and look forward to cooking! I know it goes against one of my other tips “don’t try new recipes” but the difference here is that I am not trying a new recipe in hopes to have it for the remainder of the week for lunches. I am making it that night to eat that same night and maybe the next day.
I also get bored easy. There are some people out there who are totally fine with having chicken, spinach and brown rice 2-3 meals a day. I am not one of these people. If I am making a big batch of brown rice its usually only one of my starches a day. I can’t have that for two meals in a row, thus my meal prep of brown rice lasts me the whole week, using 1/2-1C per day. I like having different proteins, starches and veggies so I would rather take the time to buy and cook a few different kinds every week (keep in mind that I am ABLE to do this because of my work schedule and because a grocery store is right next to my work)
I crave stuff . There are some days that all I am thinking about for dinner is roasted shrimp and bok choy with jasmine rice. Other days I want a burger. What if I crave the shrimp on a day that I already had prepped chicken, potatoes and spinach?? Do I not go get the shrimp because I had dinner planned and then never have what I TRULY wanted. I get that this isn’t a big deal, its food…but food is a big deal!! I want good food when I can have it and I want to make sure it’s something that I want!
THERE IS NO RIGHT OR WRONG WAY TO MEAL PREP
The options are endless when in comes to prepping food ahead of time so there really is no right or wrong way to do it. Basically, it comes down to just making time and getting it done. However, just like any weight loss strategy, to be sustainable it needs to fit into your lifestyle. Basically this means do what works for you. If the only thing you want to prep each week are hardboiled eggs then that’s fine. Or maybe you find it helpful to make mason jar salads, turkey meatballs and a big vat of brown rice. Whatever will meets YOUR needs. Don’t get bogged down in thinking it has to be done a certain way. Also, it is very important to remember that when you see these posts on Instagram and Facebook about people meal prepping with 40 tupperware, they have been doing it FOR YEARS with a lot of experience and like anything, you have to stick with it a while!
You have to make this work for you and there is certainly no right or wrong way to do things when it comes to eating the foods that will support your goals. The ONE universal tip that I would want everyone to follow is to ENJOY WHAT YOU’RE EATING. Life is too short to eat cold white fish out of baggies if you don’t have to, and when you see people eating that and posting things like #goals #dowhatyougottado just remeber that they are making themselves look so hardcore and attention seeking otherwise they wouldn’t be putting that out there to the public. YOU DO DO ALWAYS