Meal Prep 101

Lately I’ve had a few friends ask me about meal prepping:

Hey, I want to start meal-prepping, do you have any ideas?
Hey, I have no idea what I’m doing. Can you help?
Do you have any recipes?

I decided that I wanted to break down meal prep to the easiest, simplest steps:

#1 Start with a list.
Decide on what you’re going to eat all week. Plan for five days (just the work week, not the weekends!) Depending on what time your day starts and what you’ll eat before getting to work, think snacks throughout the day. You’ll eat something about every two hours.

Your bare-bones, initial list will look something like this:

  • Main meal day 1, day 2, day 3, day 4, day 5
  • 8am snack, 10am snack, 1:30/2pm snack, 4pm snack
  • Reusable containers to store your food
  • Start thinking of your main meals first. Then think of a rotation so you can be the most effective with your purchases. For example, sandwiches could be the staple lunch item for MWF. Tuesday and Thursday can be something like soup, or salad. Then to prep for this example week, you’d need a loaf of bread, meat, peanut butter and jelly, 1 can of soup and 1 head of lettuce (plus additional ingredients like dressing and/or veggies for the salad, etc.)

    Your snack items can then be as simple as 2-3 different items, on rotation every other day. Example: fruit, honey roasted peanuts, carrots with ranch, and pita chips and hummus. These snack items can be rotated so that you have something different with your main staple item each day. Also plan for some morning/mid-morning snacks like toast with peanut butter, a yogurt parfait, or half-bagel with cream cheese. (Remember, snacks aren’t just chips and crackers. They can be mini-portions of meals, or even breakfast foods! Anything light and small to get you eating every two hours!)

    #2 Think of yourself as a planner. You’ll make things in bulk and then store them so it’s easy to just grab, pack and go!
    This is honestly the most important aspect of meal prep. You have to plan ahead for the week so you’re not buying too much or too little. Plan to buy a few things and rotate. When you start to get sick of those items, then you can change them up, but don’t try to buy something new for every day of the week. It will cost you a ton and will be wasted when it’s not all eaten.

    Divide what you make in separate containers with individual portions. This will help you grab and go and will ensure you’re not overeating throughout the week.

    #3 Use your leftovers
    This is huge! It saves you a ton of money, but also helps you to eat what you didn’t the night before and re-enjoy those flavors in small, lunch-sized helpings! You can purposely make a large portions the night before just for this reason (I do!) Large portions make it easy to prep, then, because you’re not spending any extra time/money buying or cooking something. Your food is ready to go and with a small portion it’s a way to enjoy your meals again and again!

    #4 Pick the foods you like & challenge yourself with healthy choices
    When you meal prep, you have the option of what you want to pack. It’s freeing, and it’s exciting! That being said, pick things you like, but also challenge yourself to be a better eater. Pack things like fruits and veggies. If you’re not really a good eater, this will force yourself to eat the things you don’t really care for since it’s all you have! You can also work to include each of the food groups with your snacks and lunch portions. Meal prepping can really help you stay on your diet or stick to healthy food intake throughout your work week. And honestly, it doesn’t take long!

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