Take a guess at the one thing I do every Sunday.
Hint- it doesn’t involve going to church or playing soccer.
I meal prep! Meaning I spend a few hours making large amounts of food for the next few days that can be reheated or tossed together without having to get out my cutting board and knife every time I want to eat.
My affinity to meal prepping once a week seriously started about 3-4 years ago when I became more aware of my health, finances and fitness goals. I am unsure whether I began because I wanted to lose 5 lbs. or save 5 dollars but either way my continual efforts to meal prep has now become a habit that I enjoy as it helps me reach my wellness goals. Here are my top reasons why I meal prep:
1. Quality of Food
I still remember the day when I first wondered how a bottle of Cesar salad dressing could have ZERO fat? How can that be?? After a jaw dropping look at the ingredient list I soon made some changes with my daily routine. This “uh-huh” moment happened many many years ago but even with practice, patience and education there is no way to hide from all fillers, toxins and chemicals but by making my own food I can decide what types of foods and ingredients I am feeding my body most the time.
We have all heard the saying “Failure to prepare, prepare to fail” Well, I do think there is some accuracy with this as in my experience when your fridge is stocked with food ready whenever a hunger pang strikes you are more likely to choose something that is already made and convenient than grabbing a box of cookies or chips. I often do cycle between weight loss and and maintenance as part of my fitness regime so being aware of my portion sizes with home cooked meals has contributed to my success.
3. Time + Convenience
By putting aside 3 hours every Sunday it saves me hours during the week as having prepared meals stacked in your fridge means I grab it and go. All you need to worry about is fitting your Tupperware in your bag! On really long days I will have 3 different containers in my purse….
I currently track my macronutrient intake and this is a huge reason why I started to meal prep regularly. 2 years ago I would meal prep all my breakfasts and lunches every 4 days because I was competing in my first bikini competition. I was and still do track my macronutrient intake under the Flexible dieting approach and to make my life easier I prepared my meals to know almost exactly how much food I was eating at every meal. Meal prep and calorie or macro tracking do not go hand-in-hand nor do I advocate for someone to do but this has simply made following this protocol of choice much easier.
I love to cook and I think the whole process of buying, cutting and enjoying the aromas from your kitchen is part of the experience and can lead to better dietary habits. I love cooking so much that I specifically don’t meal prep all my meals because I would rather cook something new if I have time. This mean most days I cook breakfast and dinner at home but I bring along lunch and snacks if I need them every day. On days that I am away from home for 10 hours or so you better believe I bring them all!
Before you get started please make sure you have sufficient vessels to store and pack your food in the fridge or freezer. If you like using tupperware please make sure it is BPA free. Alternatively there are lots of great glass or tin containers out on the market that stack nicely in your fridge, an important thing to consider!
Next, and probably the most important thing to remember is try not to come out of the gates running.
You will get incredibly overwhelmed if you decide to prep breakfast, lunch and dinner for 5 days at the beginning.
Start with maybe one or two recipes and go from there. Simple items like hard boiled eggs to add to your breakfast or cut up veggies with store bought hummus can go a long way. Small changes are changes going in the right direction and should not be under estimated. Whatever tweaks you can make here and there that better your health, then go for it! Meal prep doesn’t have to be elaborate and include items like individual paleo, gluten and dairy free, organic chicken pot pies.
Start off with simple recipes you are familiar with making and are fool proof. I like to walk the fine line between what I know works vs. new and improved recipes but by starting with the safe route you will avoid getting stuck with a batch of terribly fragrant curry that tastes like potpourri for days (this happened to me last week when I modified a new recipe and because I hate food waste I ate it miserably for 4 days straight).
1. Start planning at home
Ask yourself how many meals are you making and for how many people. I strongly suggest that you only prep enough food for up to 4- 5 days to avoid the potentiality of food spoilage. Please review proper cooking and storage guidelines for high risk foods such as meat and animal by products and avoid food waste by putting extra servings in the freezer if you know you know by day 2 or 3 you won’t be able to eat all the items you prepared. Now, once you figured out what you are going to make look at what you have on hand and write down what you need to buy as going to the grocery store without a list of grocery items or an idea of what you are going to make is a form of self sabotage. Do this with any other meals you plan on making and then you’ll be left with a specific list of things you need to buy. By all means if something catches your eye at the store pick it up! But the worst scenario is missing a needed item and having to go back to the store for one measly bunch of parsley.
2. Don’t go grocery shopping if you’re hungry
I think you know why.
3. Stat with a clean work space
I like to go home, take all my ingredients out and start with a clean work space. Try to prep smarter not harder. If you need sliced peppers for your stir-fry but also want to have some raw pieces on hand then cut them both at the same time. If you need to focus your attention on one recipe at a time that is totally fine, and don’t feel rushed. Cut carefully, taste calmly and enjoy spending time preparing foods that will nourish your body.
4. Use Containers
Once you have prepared your items it is time to either portion them into containers or leave them” family style” in the fridge. Alternatively, many items are freezer friendly so you can pop them into the freezer in appropriate containers or bags if you are concerned you won’t be able to eat it all before they spoil. Family style means you have a batch of chili in one container rather than separating them into 6 (or whatever number) containers to indicate a serving. I do both! This often depends on how much room I have in my fridge and how many containers are free to use.
Once everything is put away and cleaned up give yourself a pat on the back for taking the time to to take care of your body by feeding it (hopefully) wholesome, nutritious foods during a busy week!
If you want help with delicious recipes for your new meal prep experience, send me a note below!