I receive a lot of comments and questions from both clients and friends regarding meal prep. But, when I tell them the basics, I often get responses such as “it’s too hard” or “it’s too expensive” …. Let me tell you, if I can do it AND afford it, ANYONE can.
When you think about it, it’s just like working out, going to class/work, cleaning the house – you just have to do it. I’m not saying throw out every “bad” food in your house right this second and quit the cookies cold turkey. That will only create cravings and most likely binge-eating habits, which is the last thing we want. I will, however, provide you with some easy, cheap, and tasty ideas to make meal prep easier!
Let’s Start with Why it is Important:
- It keeps you on track! Ever heard of the saying “failure to plan is a plan to fail” – This could not be more true when it comes to meal prepping. You cannot go off track (unless you choose to) if you have a healthy meal readily available when needed.
- It saves you time. No more wondering what you’re going to make for lunch or dinner. No more standing around the stove for 30 minutes to an hour each time you want to make a meal. Set aside a few hours Sunday afternoon to cook all the meals you plan to eat that week. Sure, it takes a couple hours that day, but think about the time you save throughout the rest of the week by just popping something in the microwave for a minute or two. (Think about the amount of time you just added to your afternoon nap)
- It actually saves you money. The dollar menu sounds nice in theory… I mean, it is only $1. But if this is your main source of food it will add up quicker than you think. Think about it – on average we all eat three meals per day; there’s three dollars right there, multiplied by seven days per week = $21 x four weeks = $84 out of pocket, at the bare minimum, and a lot of unhealthy calories added to your body. Find your local grocery store, grab an ad magazine filled with coupons and USE THEM. For example, I shop at the local Aldi – I can by a pound of chicken, bag of sweet potatoes, and some frozen veggies for under $10 that will last me for a full week of meals.
How do I even do it?
- First, it’s important to figure out how much you should be eating. Are you trying to gain muscle? Lose fat? The first time I tried to figure out my caloric intake needs I went to BodyBuilding.com and used their macro calculator. It’s a good starter step for those who are new to the process. The calculator will ask you a few questions about your height, weight, sex, and goals, and in return give you an estimation of overall calories you should consume in order to achieve those goals. It will also break food categories into macronutrients (carbs, protein, and fat sources) to help you further achieve those goals. BY NO MEANS are these numbers set in stone or 100% accurate, but try it out, find what works for you, and learn from there.
- Now that you know how much you should be eating you will need to divide it into meals per day. I typically prep for lunch and dinner (since I am busiest in the afternoon and evenings) and leave breakfast/snacks for whatever I feel like that day. Mornings are by far my favorite time of the day, so I enjoy getting out of bed a little earlier to have time to make a cup of coffee, cook breakfast, and properly put myself together for the day. Snacks, for the most part, should to easy to create and throw in a container/bag real quick so I also don’t worry about prepping those for the week.
- Most importantly – COOK FOODS YOU WILL ENJOY – if you’re going to hate every second of eating what you made, your meal prep will most likely be unsuccessful and you will fall back into the old ways. For example, I hate salmon. So, do I ever meal prep salmon? No, because I know it will end up in the back of the fridge and I’ll grab a cookie instead. Write down all the foods you like and divide them into three categories: Carbohydrates (bread, pasta, oats, rice, etc), Proteins (chicken, turkey, beef, fish, etc), and Fats (peanut butter, oils, avocados, nuts, etc). Once you’ve created a list of foods you know you enjoy, create your menu.
- Use websites/apps such as MyFitnessPal to track the foods you are eating. I know this might sound tedious,but there really is no other way to make sure you are 100%, or close to, on point.
Sample Meal Prep Plan: A Look Into the Foods I Eat
Breakfast: 1/2 cup of egg whites, one whole egg, one slice low fat American cheese, two slices whole grain bread, one cup of coffee sweetened with some vanilla almond milk and some Stevia.
Snack: Smore’s protein shake, one medium banana, Fiber One bar.
Lunch: Turkey Burger, 1 cup of broccoli, 1 whole sweet potato topped with 1 TBSP almond butter.
Snack/Second Lunch: 1 cup spinach, 1 cup lettuce mix, 1 package tuna, 5-10 cherry tomatoes, 5-10 baby carrots, 1/3 cucumber sliced, 1/2 cottage cheese, 2 TBSP low fat Italian dressing, topped with 16 crushed up Wheat thins (I’m a big fan of crunchy food items)
Dinner: 4 oz. oven baked chicken (I top mine with different seasonings each night), 1 cup roasted onions, zucchinis, and peppers, 1/2 cup brown rice.
Before Bed Snack: 6 oz. container Greek Yogurt (big fan of Dannon
), topped with 1/3 cup Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal – If I have extra fats left over I will drizzle melted peanut butter on top.
- Start by cooking the foods that will take the longest. You can leave these alone to cook while still working on other food items.
- I HIGHLY recommend buying a food scale and a crockpot. The scale will take questioning out of the equation; you will know exactly how many grams of protein, carbs, and fat you are getting each meal. I have found the crockpot to be the easiest way to cook my chicken. Throw in the chicken, add some marinade, and set it low before you leave to class/work. It should be ready to go by the time you get home.
- ALWAYS take the time to clean up your mess — no one likes to deal with someone else’s dirty dishes. Suck it up and take 5-10 minutes to wash the dishes. Even if you live alone, are you really going to want to wake up on a Monday morning and have the first thing you see be a sink full of crusty, smelly, dishes. I think not 😉
- There is no such thing as too many Tupperware containers. You will lose them – at work, in the car, or they will grow legs and walk away (ok…not really, but I swear I have no explanation for where half of mine have gone.)
- Keep your options open! Try new foods/spices/styles of cooking. It gets boring eating the same thing every single week. Meal prep does not have to suck. Be creative with your healthy cooking. Google recipes, follow other bloggers who can help with ideas. Love the process of creating the beautifully, strong, person you are becoming through the healthy and tasty foods you are creating!
If you guys would like more meal prep ideas or have any of your own that you would like to share, feel free to comment below! I’m always up for new ideas 🙂