Meal Prep: Simplified!
Meal Prep: Simplified!
I know the idea of meal prepping can be intimidating. Searching through 100s of recipes, scouring the grocery store for obscure ingredients, and spending hours in the kitchen every Sunday “Funday” doesn’t sound all that appealing. I get it.
But what if I told you you don’t have to do any of those things? That meal prep doesn’t have to be time consuming and overwhelming? That it can, in fact, be quick and easy?
Hopefully I’ve piqued your interest for meal prep. Because it can completely change the trajectory of your fitness and weight loss journey, for the better.
**Disclaimer: This post may contain Amazon affiliate and other affiliate links. Any purchases made through these links may result in a small commission for me (at no extra cost for you), but all opinions are my own. Thank you 🙂 **
Benefits of meal prepping
There are so many benefits to preparing your meals ahead of time! They are ready-to-go at mealtime, portion controlled, and can be as healthy or light as you want to make them. Not to mention they can be tailored specifically to your nutritional needs, taste preferences, and personal goals.
Having a filling, well-balanced, tasty meal right when you need it can keep you from, say, eating a box of Fruity Pebbles or driving thru for a 2,000 calorie combo meal. Waiting until you’re hangry to figure out what you’re gonna shove down your pie hole never ends well.
By cooking big batches at once, you have the opportunity to load your week full of nutrient rich fruits and veggies. It’s more convenient to dice, chop, and cook whole foods all at once and eat all week than it is to do the work each and every mealtime.
Meal prepping removes the guesswork and stress of trying to throw together a healthy meal at the last minute. There’s nothing to think about besides taking your meal prep container full of deliciousness out of the fridge and, depending on the food, maybe reheating it.
Don’t complicate it
It doesn’t have to be a whole thing. Before you go thinking you have to make some super gourmet shiz, remind yourself you’re not Emeril Lagasse and chill the F out. Just because some food blogger on IG posts a photo of seared steak bites with creamy risotto and heirloom tomatoes on a bed of arugula with freshly shaved parmesan, toasted almonds, and homemade garlic lemon poppy seed dressing and says it’s “the perfect meal prep!” does not – I repeat, does NOT – make it perfect for meal prep. First of all, it will take you 9 years to prepare. Secondly, the portion size and garnishes pictured in the beautifully staged photograph will put you in the calorie poorhouse, I assure you.
Save that crap for a nice weekend dinner or, better yet, order it the next time you go out and make someone who gets paid to prepare it to cook it for you. When it comes to throwing together your weekly meals, simplicity is the ultimate goal.
Keep it simple
When I started prepping lunches for the week ahead for both me and my husband, I made salads. There was no cooking involved, unless I threw some chicken breasts on when we already happened to be grilling that weekend. Otherwise, it was chopping veggies, tearing up deli meat, and making sure we had a bottle of red wine vinegar in the pantry for me, and salad dressing in the fridge for my husband. Boom. Lunch.
What meals do I prep?
Personally, I’ve never prepped every single meal and snack for an entire week. I mainly just prep a week’s worth of lunches for both myself and my husband from one week to the next.
What meal(s) should you prep?
Don’t blindly do what I or anyone else does, just because. Sit down and figure out what meals/snacks would be the most beneficial to have prepped ahead of time for you and your schedule. Maybe breakfasts are your biggest challenge, or maybe you need to prep some mid-afternoon snacks to keep you away from the vending machine Doritos. Perhaps your evenings are hectic you need a well-rounded dinner ready to pop in the microwave at 6 pm.
As far as snacks go
There’s not much to prep when it comes to snacks. Again, unless you fancy yourself a Bobby Flay or something, snacks are pretty easy. For me, as a stay-at-home mom, formally prepping snacks isn’t all that necessary. I can grab some light cheese or a meat stick and some carrots, some cottage cheese and nuts, a Greek yogurt cup and some fruit, or a protein bar pretty easily for my snacks.
If you don’t have the luxury of being trapped in and around the house and at the mercy of your children’s schedules, you can easily re-package these kinds of items together so they’re ready to just grab-and-go when you gotta leave the house each morning. Keep non-perishable snacks like beef jerky, tuna pouches, and protein bars in your glove compartment and purse.
Come to think of it, I eat on-the-go a lot between errands, school drop-offs and pick-ups, trips to the park, pool, zoo, and countless after school activities. Trust me, eating healthy despite being out and about is totally possible. The key is a little forethought and keeping healthy, quick, portable snacks on-hand. I like these reusable plastic storage bags or small rubbermaids for packaging up my snacks before rushing out the door. Apples, bananas, grapes, strawberries, carrots, celery, cucumber slices, light cheese sticks, protein bars, nuts, jerky, etc…all great options to take along for when hunger strikes. They’re easily portioned out ahead of time in just a minute or two. For added convenience, portion your week’s worth of snacks out at the beginning of the week. Meal prep…check.
In the past, I’ve made breakfast casseroles to eat off of all week, and they’re great to have waiting for you each morning. Typically, however, I whip up something from my go-to 5-minute protein-packed breakfasts. I can mix things up each morning depending on what I’m in the mood for, and anything I make starts my day off on the right foot. So, I don’t always find prepped breakfasts necessary, and I don’t make a casserole every week.
But maybe breakfasts are an issue for you, and you find it hard to avoid the crap pastries and doughnuts in the breakroom. If that’s the case, then definitely prep some healthy, filling breakfast sandwiches, protein waffles or pancakes, or a breakfast casserole. It can be as simple as having some Greek yogurt and berries in the fridge and ready to roll ahead of time. Starting your day off with a satisfying meal can really help curb your appetite the remainder of the morning and set your whole day up for success.
My dinner secret
Dinners vary from day-to-day, and we eat a lot of similar or repeat meals from one week to the next. I’ll let you in on a little secret…making dinner and having leftovers for dinners later in the week is – get this! – MEAL PREP! We’ll have tacos one night and Mexican pizzas with the leftover taco meat another night. I’ll make a crockpot of soup and we’ll eat off it for days, even after freezing some for a quick dinner another week. We’ll get multiple meals out of a grilled pork or turkey tenderloin.
So if cooking and preparing every single meal and snack for the week doesn’t sound like your jam, just plan a couple-few large batch recipes that will get you through the week. Dinner leftovers can be eaten for lunches, too. Mix it up however you need to to fit your days, schedule, and preferences.
You don’t need a recipe to meal-prep
Maybe in the beginning you’d feel more confident if you had a recipe to follow. If that’s you, go for it. I’ve been doing this for over 3 years now, so I have a great feel for how much of each component will get me to my desired nutritional profile. Honestly, I tweak every recipe that crosses my path to keep calories in check and increase protein and veggies. There are so many weeks that I’ve just used what I had, winged it, and hoped for the best. It always turns out yummy. Here’s how:
Meal Prep Step-by-Step Guide
- Pick a protein. What do you have in the fridge or freezer? Great, use that. I prefer lean protein like boneless, skinless chicken breasts, ground chicken, 93%+ ground turkey, 90%+ ground beef, and pork or turkey tenderloin. I will use steak on occasion, depending on what I’m making, but fat and calories add up quickly!
- Pick a carb. I consider this part the “filler.” Rice is my main-squeeze usually, but I use quinoa and pasta, as well. And I’ve made some BOMB BBQ chicken baked potato bowls with cheese and broccoli. Be mindful of portion size here so you don’t over inflate your calories. It’s not the carbs you need to worry about, folks. It’s the calories. It’s always calories.
- Add veggies. Nearly any veggie will work on any dish. Seriously. Making beef and broccoli but don’t have broccoli? Throw in some zucchini. Have some peppers in the fridge you gotta use up? Toss em in. I don’t care what you’re making, any veggie will do. Occasionally I’ll make extra large batches of veggies, including starchy ones, and omit any rice/pasta filler altogether.
- Spice things up. Spices, seasonings, and sauces are your friends. You don’t need to eat bland food. Garlic, lemon juice, honey, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar…cajun seasoning, italian seasoning, taco seasoning, ginger and sriracha…light or Greek yogurt dressings…whatever floats your boat!
- Cook your concoction. There are obviously many different ways to prepare food. Do what works for your schedule, tastes, and abilities. The Instant Pot is great for making shredded chicken or baked potatoes, and it’s a “set it and forget it” thing. Oven-roasted veggies have a great taste and texture. Boiling veggies is an easy prep option, and microwavable, steam-in-bag frozen veggies are life savers! Grilling meat can be very hands-off compared to babysitting a skillet, but in some cases the skillet is the most convenient option. And you guys, tossing a bunch of stuff in the slow cooker on Sunday morning, going about your day, and having it good to go that evening is pretty darn awesome. Do what’s fastest and easiest for you.
- Divide into containers. Divide everything evenly between however many meals you cooked for. You can get yourself some glass or plastic containers, or use whatever you have on hand with strong sealing lids.
- Play refrigerator Tetris. The real meal prep challenge – finding room in the fridge! At least this is always a struggle for me. But, it makes me clear out the fridge of any forgotten (aka rotten) items, which is a plus and a nice weekly reminder. I always manage to find/make the room, however ridiculously stacked and organized things may be!
As you can see, meal prep is as easy as 1, 2, 3!…but don’t forget 4-7, either. 😉
How do you feel about meal prepping? Love it or hate it? Let me know in the comments below!
Find and Follow me on Instagram to see my weekly meal prep, and daily food diary. I include calorie counts and macro details for everything!
RELATED POST: 11 myfitnesspal Tips & Tricks
Pin this to your meal prep board on Pinterest for quick reference!
Thanks for reading Meal Pre: Simplified! I hope you got some good ideas, as well as the boost of confidence you needed to give meal prepping a go. It really makes all the difference in my week.
If you enjoyed Meal Prep: Simplified! you might also like these posts —