Life a little busy? Looking to save time and eat healthy? Meal Prep!
Doing meal prep of any kind is single-handedly the best way Neil and I have found to survive two full-time jobs, two part-time businesses and a toddler. It also keeps us eating healthier, saving money, and spending as much time doing the stuff we’d rather be doing as possible. If you aren’t meal prepping, you’re really missing out.
I could probably spend HOURS talking about meal prep. There have to be just as many methods to getting it done as there are recipes, but since we receive this question often and know there is no “one-size-fits-all” answer, I thought I’d approach the question with a few tips for those just starting out.
First, a little background (reassurance)
Neil and I have only been meal prepping for a few years. In that short time, we’ve tried a bunch of different methods, and have settled into a nice routine of prepping Sunday-Wednesday and Wednesday through Friday. It works for us. I’m sure I’ll write more about our method soon, but for now, know that we keep our meals extremely simple, shop around seasons and sales and prep twice a week.
So based on our journey, here our top tips for beginners!
How to Meal Prep: Let us count the ways
1. Avoid shopping and prepping the same day (if possible)
KISS = Keep it simple stupid! No I’m not calling you stupid, but the saying is true, keep your goals doable. One of the biggest mistakes we made in the early days was trying to do EVERYTHING for the whole week on Sunday. Sure it might be doable, but you’ll be miserable and burnt out by the end of it. If you’re going to do batch cooking, make it as easy on yourself as possible.
Tip: Stir Fries are an awesome way to use ingredients and they are cheap/easy/fast and make you feel like you are eating take out.
2. Don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be
The second biggest mistake we made in the early days was over complicating the meals we chose to make. Super-involved, ingredient-heavy recipes that didn’t net much food or didn’t keep well for more than a day. Newb mistake. Now, we keep our meals super simple, and “automate” where we can by buying frozen veggies or rotisserie chicken.
3. Double the recipe if you can
Instead of a different recipe for every meal, pick two recipes to get you through the week for dinner. The week isn’t really that long, and you’ll save so much time and money because you always have ingredients left over.
Tip: Meatballs are easy to measure and they freeze well.
4. Don’t attempt too much change too fast
Eager to get started and make BIG changes to their diet/lifestyles, we often see people try to make too many changes too quickly and end up burning out or wasting a ton of food. Identify the areas you want to change and make slower, more incremental changes. That way you can refine and make them habit in a much more sustainable way before moving onto the next goal. For example, start with lunch prep to avoid going out early in the week, or dinners on Friday and Saturday when you would normally just grab take-out.
5. Know your schedule
Building off some of our previous tips, we often see people not planning prep around their schedules well. Look at your schedule and find the points at which you not only meals prepped, but can make 1-2 hours of prep happen. For us, it’s Sunday night and Wednesday (our rest day from the gym). We learned pretty quickly that prep can absolutely not happen on Mondays and Tuesdays, it’s just too busy, and we have no desire to cook on Fridays. Knowing the when is just as important as knowing the what.
Tip: Salad…for days.
6. Think outside the box
Don’t think of meal prepping as only full meals. We create a little salad bar in our fridge every week with chopped veggies and toppings ready for our lunches. If you have a night you’d like to cook a stir fry for example, you can use your prep time to chop your veggies ahead of time. Prep can be as simple as that, and go just as far toward saving you time and keeping you on track.
Tip: Stuffed peppers are simple, cheap and freeze well.
7. Do not compare yourself to others
As I said in the beginning of this post, meal prep is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. We all have different goals, schedules, and lives, and to try to make something fit that clearly doesn’t is just setting yourself up for failure. For example, we don’t eat out of containers for the whole week. Tried it, didn’t like it. Lots of people love it, and that’s awesome for them, we just weren’t happy with it. Try different methods, find what works for you!
I firmly believe that setting ourselves up for success with better planning and preparation ahead of time plays a major part in our ability to accomplish our busy schedule while still eating healthy, homemade meals.
Now it’s your turn!
Do you meal prep?
What are your favorite things to prep?
If not, what’s holding you back?
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