Meal prep. Two words that can make me fear for my life.
Ok, not really, but they are definitely NOT two of my favorite words. They’re definitely not things like “ice cream” or “chocolate bar” or “free pizza”. You get my drift.
If you’re anything like me…you might hate cooking. You might hate all the chopping, the mixing, the actual assembling of the dishes. Honestly, the only parts of meal prep I like are the list making, grocery shopping, and the eating parts. I KNOW someone out there has got to be like me!
Anyways, meal prep is essential if you’re moving toward a healthy lifestyle, for several reasons. One, you always know what you’re eating. Two, you’ve always got healthy foods in the house. Three, you actually save money…which can be used for rewards, workout gear, and fun gadgets!
For those of you just like me, I’m doing a series on meal planning. My hope is that you’ll dread the process less and start maybe even enjoying meal planning. Also, the more you do it, the more likely it becomes a habit!
First things first: Plan Your Meals, Make Your List, and Shop
I suppose that this part is actually a little fun for me. I do enjoy searching for recipes (helloooooo, Pinterest), even ones that may not sit well with me anymore, since I can always attempt to modify them…or, rather, have my husband modify them! I look for ones that don’t take a lot of time to prepare, don’t take a lot of exotic ingredients, and don’t have insanely complicated instructions. However, you do you – maybe you’re a person that likes fancy stuff. The thoughts of trying to create something fancy and gourmet gives me heart palpitations, so I skip that most of the time.
I recommend planning your main meals – breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If that’s too much for you, start with one meal. I like to keep a notebook of my past menus; that way I can go back and mark which meals I liked and which ones weren’t winners.
Keep in mind that everyone’s dietary needs may vary – I need a lot of protein, so that’s what I start with for most of my meals. Then, I add some veggies and lastly some whole grains. Therefore, I look for recipes for side dishes too, not just main meals.
After you have your meal choices selected, sit down with a calendar for the week. Identify days that you know you might be home later, or when you’ve got activities going on in the evening. On those days, try to plan a dinner recipe that doesn’t take forever – that way, you’re less likely to skip it and grab takeout. For example, I usually work late on Thursdays. The last thing I want to do when I get home is prep and cook, so I pick an easy meal for that night. With your calendar, choose what day you’re making what and write it down. Lather, rinse, repeat for the rest of your meals.
I don’t necessarily plan out my snacks (some days I do) but I at least have a list of items that I keep on hand. That way I find myself reaching for something besides chips or pretzels, and actually remember to buy the items I want to snack on.
Ok. You’ve got meals planned out and you’re ready to go. Hold on – you’ve got to make a list.
Lists are my life. I have lists about lists (you think I’m kidding, but I’m not!). They’re a great way to keep yourself organized and on track. And there’s something innately satisfying about crossing an item off a list…
Anyway, before you make your list, survey your cabinets and fridge. Do you already have some of the stuff you need for the recipes you’ve chosen? If not, then it goes on your list.
Lastly, go shopping! Some people hate grocery shopping. I love it. I have no idea why, but I do. You might need to visit a few different stores, or you might be able to get everything you need at one. I often try to figure out who’s having a sale on what and shop that way, especially if it’s a good deal.
One thing I forgot to mention – always have a couple of back-up plans for meals in your arsenal. Sometimes, things go wrong and we just can’t make that dish we planned. Here are some staples that I suggest you always have on hand – you can usually find something to do with these: chicken breasts, canned tuna, canned beans, frozen veggies, eggs, cheese, pasta and sauce, oatmeal.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series next week, where we’ll be talking about the actual preparation of food!
Share with me: how do you prepare food for the week?