Meal prep: the most magnificent tool to sleeping longer and eating well. It’s true (at least in my case) that when I prepare my lunch the night before, I don’t have to wake up as early, and don’t go hungry throughout the day. It is also true that eating healthily is much easier to do when you don’t have the added stress of preparing food constantly. While that may be an exaggeration (me, exaggerating?), it is usually the case that when I am eating healthier I am also spending more time in the kitchen. Perhaps this is because you don’t have to prepare a microwave-meal, or mashed potatoes from a packet (yes I know these need a little preparing, but I definitely didn’t peel all those potatoes)! When you look at eating unhealthily, you can also see convenience. On the other hand, you can also (much to my annoyance) see inconvenience when eating healthily. The word ‘chop’ comes to mind, along with blanch, steam and dice – so much cooking!
Due to the time-gobbling nature of cooking healthy meals each day (and the longing to check another Pinterest obsession off my list), I decided to try my hand at meal prep. Standing in a kitchen cooking the whole day over the weekend? Unless you really love to cook, this doesn’t sound like that much fun to anyone. But, I can promise you a few things:
- When you don’t have to set your alarm as early, you feel infinitely better about your adulty lifestyle choices. (Yes, I’m aware adulty isn’t a word).
- When you get home after a long day and all you have to do is assemble delicious food on a plate and buzz it in the microwave, you save yourself from ordering a pizza and you save yourself enough time to do the one thing you ‘haven’t had enough time to do’ in a while. *Cough* exercise.
- When you check your bank after a week of the meal plan and realize you have spent precisely nothing since you stocked up for meal prep.
- You will not know what to do with all the down time. You have fewer decisions to make. Life is easier (and adultier. Also not a word).
So if there are all these pros to meal prep, why has it taken me so long to try it? I don’t know, and trust me I’m irritated that I never have. That being said, I am forever going to prep my meals. (Well, at least my lunches, but please don’t hold me to that because I have this nagging habit of changing my mind). Now enough of the talk, here are some of the important things to know about meal prep. Yes – it requires planning. This is the only downside to it, but will help you to save money, time and maybe even a smidgen of sanity.
Stage One: The planning behind the prep
I whipped up and printed off some handy dandy meal prep sheets. I may have been taking this a little too seriously, but I like to be organized when I go into something new. The first one is a list of ideas for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks so that I will never sit at my desk for an hour trying to figure out what I would like for each meal. This was fantastic, especially when it came to vegetables – it gave me fresh ideas instead of the standard broccoli and carrot sticks.
Next, I printed off a sheet to fill in the contents of each meal. Now the important part is not to get carried away – meal prep is not supposed to provide you with a different meal every single day that is the height of class. Meal prep is supposed to supply your refrigerator with a standard but healthy grab-and-go lunch that looks similar every day. This was my downfall and biggest piece of advice from my first meal prep: DO NOT OVERDO IT. One main part of lunch with different veggies every day is too much – it all needs to be the same. As it all needs to be the same, make it interesting – do a fun rice dish and varied vegetables on the other side. Saute some kale, onions and mushrooms to have with your boring carrots. Please, learn from my mistakes. Please, do not copy the following meal plan:
See all the variation? All it did was give me no time to enjoy the long weekend. I would rather eat the same thing every day than be in a kitchen until 1am again. Meal prep is supposed to be convenient, darn it!
The ideal meal prep should be as follows:
Stage two: Grocery lists and braving the store
After I finish making my meal plan for the week, I make a list of all the items I will need to make everything (excluding salt and pepper). After this, I go through my kitchen and check off items that I already have, leaving only the products I still need to buy. I don’t consider myself a ‘couponer’ even though I can see the benefits – I simply don’t understand the coupon system (although, I would love to learn!). I go to the coupon section of the newspaper and pull out the ones that I have in there and cut out only the ones that are relevant to what I am buying, put them in my walletready to head to the store. As I usually end up going to the store on a weekend, it can be utter mayhem and a little less simple to browse around looking for things (especially if you have to walk back and forth from produce to the regular aisles because you keep forgetting things). I like to split my grocery lists up into four sections:
Shop away! Assemble all of the dishes you plan on making for the week and store properly. Some of the things I most often like to make are:
- Loaded brown rice (aka dirty rice) with ground turkey, peppers and onions.
- Seasoned black beans
- Shredded chicken breasts
- Cherry tomato bake (garlic, olive oil, tomatoes – heaven!)
Once I get into my meal prep rhythm, I’ll be able to share recipes, techniques, money and time saving tactics with you all. Have any meal prep fails or tips? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll be sure to take a look!