“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”
All across the fitness industry you will hear people say this mantra over and over again. When you have set up specific goals for yourself whether it be fat loss, muscle building, or maintaining your current physique, meal prep is a sure fire way to keep you on track. Spending a couple of hours at the beginning of the week to to plan, buy, clean, prepare, and portion out meals will not only reduce the temptation to mindlessly snack , but it can also help you save quite a bit of money since you won’t have to buy food on the go! Not only that, you will save a ton of time and heartache NOT having to worry about what you are going to eat each day… no more standing in front of the fridge to decide what you need to prepare, no more wasting time racing to put something together for work, and no more driving around to settle on a fast food place to grab a bite.
Sounds great right?
The problem is many people don’t know where to start and/or they over complicate the process. They do some research on meal prep, food prep, or meal planning and are bombarded with a ton of options and recipes with foreign ingredients. Some are immediately intimidated by the entire process so they give up before they even begin. Or they give it a try and feel like it takes them far too long to continue doing. It feels like a daunting & tedious task, but I promise after a few prep sessions it gets easier and easier! If you are serious about reaching your goals or simply wanting a healthier lifestyle, eventually it will become routine and a part of your weekly rituals. Remember, this is a lifestyle and in order make nutrition a priority in your life, changes will need to be made. You will set up a system that works for you and the time spent prepping will get shorter and shorter as the weeks pass. Eventually, you will wonder how you ever got through your weeks without prepping food.
When I first started my own meal/food prep, I was totally lost also. I had no plan, no system in mind, no clue what to tackle first, and zero idea how to store everything. However, as I got deeper into my fitness journey, I knew that eventually I would need to jump into the pool head first, especially when I not only had my own nutrition to worry about… I had two kids and a husband in my household to take care of. After a few attempts, it DID get easier and once I developed a little system and routine, it was all a breeze! When I first started doing this, it took me a couple of hours on my first attempts, but now I can easily have it all completed within an hour or so (with no distractions).
Here is a little peek of what my process was like when I first got started:
- Friday= write down ideas, possible recipes, meals, grocery list
- Saturday= Costco and grocery store shopping
- Sunday= wash, chop, prep, store
Sunday’s are always the longest leg of this ‘race’ for me. I like to do all of my food and meal prep first thing Sunday morning, so I can get it all out of the way and relax with the family the rest of the day. I like to come downstairs before everyone is awake, put on some quiet music, drink a cup of coffee, and use the time to think about the week ahead. I swear, that time alone doing all of this is like therapy for me. Alone, surrounded by food, quiet? It’s heaven.
Now let’s get down to business:
First thing I do is fire up the stove and my indoor grill pan! Proteins are going to be a must so having them ready to go saves a TON of time each day! I like having a few options available for mine and my husbands lunches, snacks, salads, etc. I ALWAYS do chicken breasts (simply seasoned with salt, pepper, olive oil, & garlic powder), hard boiled eggs, and then will also throw in a few other things like turkey meatballs and/or freshly sliced roasted chicken (purchased at Costco). Also, I usually prep a batch of some type of grain like rice or quinoa or both! All of this can portioned out into meals, eaten separately, thrown in salads, and quick stir fry’s.
While that’s all cooking behind me, I grab my veggies and produce we had bought the day before and throw them into the sink filled with water, some baking soda, and some vinegar. These sit in the sink for 5-10 minutes while I wrap up the proteins & grain/s. Because I buy a lot of frozen veggies (broccoli, kale, green beans, etc.) and the bulk of the fruit I put in smoothies (mango, pineapple, and sometimes mixed berries) from Costco, I never have too much fresh produce to wash. I find that buying frozen in bulk is cheaper in the long AND I am assured that nothing will go bad and have to get thrown out. I HATE buying all this gorgeous produce and then have to throw 1/2 of it away a few days later! However, every now and then, my daughter and I will also visit our local farmer’s market when we are craving SUPER fresh, delicious, local California produce! We normally only end up buying a couple of favorites and 9 times out of 10, they will be eaten by that night!
Next, everything gets rinsed, dried, and either stored on the counter (apples, oranges, etc.) or chopped and put into containers or zip lock bags. Herbs and bunches of greens will also get a paper towel stored with them just to soak up an extra moisture.
I always do my produce prep/chop next to the sink which serves as my temporary trash can. I chop and simply slide everything I don’t need to my left! Once the sink gets filled up with the discards, I can grab it all and toss it into the actual trash can. I find this method just saves me from having to grab a bunch of stuff after each cut I do, reach down to open the trash can, and hope my full hands don’t drop anything!
This is usually what my counter looks like after all of my washing, chopping, and storing! Now, I realize that using zip lock bags probably isn’t the most ‘eco friendly’, but they are definitely my preference when it comes to storage! It’s so nice being able to simply toss out the bag once its empty VS having to wash it all AND put it away! I guess it saves water though huh? That’s a nice trade off especially here in Southern California where we are on serious water restriction haha! See, I’m doing part in one way or another 🙂
Once my sink is clear, burners are turned off, and I have a little coffee in me, I fire up my oven! Time to get a few more items ready for weekday lunches/meals. My choices usually vary week to week depending on what I’m craving, what I’m sick of, and what looked good at the market that weekend. Ultimately though, these are the things I will go with 95% of the time simply because they are versatile, reheat well, and work great as meals with the proteins & grains I make: roasted squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and beets! Sidenote: I had NEVER even eaten a beet up until a couple of years ago, but I adore them now! I rarely eat them reheated, but LOVE them on my daily salads! They taste so amazing with a light vinaigrette dressing and give the salads a sweet little interesting punch of flavor! Roasted anything is the BEST though right?
Some people will weigh out and portion full meals for the week in containers, but since I work from home, I can just mix and match everything I have prepped! If my husband happens to be working days, I will put his meals completely together though. He can just grab his containers from the fridge, put them in his meal bag, and head to work! This alone saves quite a bit of money since he doesn’t have to spend $10-$15 on eating out 4-5 days a week!
Last, but not least…
The final piece to my Sunday food & meal prep puzzle is having a batch of desserts/snacks ready to go! There is nothing better than immediate gratification when my sweet tooth kicks into high gear! Most of the time, it will end up being new recipes that I’m testing out, but every now and then I simply have to go back to some favorites of mine such as…
* THESE * mini cake batter cheesecakes:
* THIS * Snickerdoodle Hummus:
Or * THESE * Chocolate Chip Protein Blondies
Mmmmmm. Dessert. The most important meal of the day!!! Just kidding… eat your veggies and protein first and then you can enjoy a treat!!!
So, once everything is said and done, it all gets put away in the fridge/s (we actually have three in our house lol… yes, we like to eat)! Prepped veggies and fruit are ready to go for breakfasts, school lunches, snacks, and my salads. Proteins & grains are ready for quick meals.
Having a fridge FULL of nutrient dense, whole foods alone will help you stay on track for your goals. Instead of reaching for calorically dense foods all day long, you can reach for things that will fuel your body a bit better and keep you fuller longer. And instead of driving around wasting gas and money at restaurants, you are able to enjoy a nice “home cooked” meal! Food & meal prep… it works!!!
NEXT UP: “Prepping Kids Breakfasts”. Taking advantage of preparing breakfast at the beginning of the week will not only allow you to sleep in a few extra minutes, but it will also ensure your kids are getting the proper nutrition in to start their day off properly!!!
And stay tuned for more meal prep ideas, my favorite recipes, as well as more tips & tricks I have found useful!