Eating healthy isn’t always the easiest thing to do, and it’s not always a priority when we think about what we will be doing for the week, or even for the day. I used to look at my week in a planner and think, what days am I working, what am I doing for fun, when can I meet up with family/friends, but I never used to think… what am I going to be eating… Which sucks because it is such an important question, a question that I neglected for years and I would just eat whatever I had on hand, or whatever the place closest to me sold. This mindset and type of unpreparedness, combined with a busy schedule and little determination to stay active on a regular basis, led me down an unhealthy path of weight gain, laziness, and lack of motivation.
But fast forward to now, when I live to meal prep! Just kidding, I don’t enjoy it that much, but I do believe that I have a much smoother, more efficient week when I have some meals prepped – it’s one more thing that I don’t have to think about during my busy schedule now. So if I’ve got you interested, or you feel the same way, keep on reading to find out 5 very basic steps to starting a successful meal prep!
I cannot stress how important it is to plan what you want. I get dressed faster in the morning because I plan what I want to wear based on the occasion, my days run more efficiently because I plan where I need to be at whatever time, and my eating is so much healthier and satisfying because I never have to be hungry due to the planning ahead. When you plan your meals you know you are getting what you want to eat, it doesn’t have to be super healthy, and it’s extremely efficient. This way, when you plan your days by meals or snacks or however you want to do it, you know what to shop for.
I would recommend planning at least two meals a day, whether they be breakfast, lunch, or dinner is up to you. I personally plan to have my lunches ready, since this is when I will be at work and am more likely to purchase bad food out. As an extra, I make pulled chicken for an easy dinner with whatever else I am feeling that night, and I like to have mixed nuts or fruit separated into containers for an easy snack whenever I need it.
Another great way to plan your days is by using technology, or good old pen and paper. Why not write down what you plan to eat for the day? If it doesn’t look good, or if it looks like way too much or too little when it’s right in front of you it’s an easy fix. I love using the MyFitnessPal app to track my food. I’m currently using it in the morning to decide everything I’m going to eat for the day from my planned meals, so that I can track my macronutrients and ensure I’m getting the good stuff that I need.
I could talk about planning forever, could you tell? On to the next important step…
There is nothing worse than walking in to a grocery store not having any idea of what you want. I mean, I personally love grocery shopping – I set aside time every week to go to the store and walk through every isle as if it’s some relaxing or therapeutic routine – but if I have no idea what I want to eat or what I want to cook for the week, I end up in the freezer section staring at tater-tots and pizza (delicious, I know).
The rule I follow for grocery shopping with or without a list is to walk around the whole outside of the store first, and then decide based on what you bought to grab extra things from within the isles. For example, I walk through produce and grab whatever fruits and veggies I want, I get protein from the deli/meat department, I grab my almond milk, yogurt, and cheese from dairy and by then I’ve already got a lot of stuff in my cart. I try to shop as healthy as possible, and always on a budget, so if I’ve already gotten too much I know I can’t go crazy on tots, nuggets, or pizza. Shopping this way gets me way more food, I spend a lot less money, and I’m eating much healthier.
Don’t let this fool you, I do occasionally get myself what I want to eat (junk food) because some weeks, when I’m not meal prepping for health, I prep myself buffalo chicken tater-tot casserole, and it is delicious. ANYWAYS, on to the next point…
When I first decided to start meal prepping I was just like, okay I’ll divide up my meals – easy enough. But I didn’t have any idea how much of everything I was eating, I had no idea what the breakdown of macros/micros was, and I had no containers or way to store everything in a convenient way. Fortunately, stores like Target carry small tupperware containers that do not break the bank to buy, and they are easy to take with you in a lunch bag, or store in your refrigerator. I made sure to buy smaller containers, so that they would be perfect for snacks or portioned meals.
Fortunately, I was gifted a food scale way back when, and I was actually insulted at the time – you think I need to measure my food?! But little did I know that I would come to love this food scale, and it would help me realize what I’m putting in to my body. So I basically stay prepared by measuring out my food by serving size and placing it in the containers. By the time I’m done with a starch, a protein, and a veggie I’ve got a completed meal – so much easier than I could have imagined. Granted, if you don’t have a food scale you can still portion your food with measuring cups, or if you’re awesome and can judge things that well then go you – I always think four servings of rice is actually one serving, so I need the scale.
Set Aside Time
This is the one step that I think get people hung up on meal prepping. Do you have the time it takes to cook yourself meals for a week? Most people would say no, but if you cut that in half and actually cook twice a week (and keep your food tasting fresher) you don’t take up nearly as much time. Ooooor if you’re a little short on time even after that is all said and done, you can kick start your handy-dandy crockpot and prep yourself a whole bunch of chicken or red meat. BAM – time saver.
I recommend cooking twice a week, that way your food tastes better, and you’re literally not eating the same thing every day. This week I prepped two kinds of chicken on Monday, and I’ll end up switching it over to turkey burgers and tilapia later in the week. Sides are easy for me because if I don’t have time to bake asparagus or cook some peppers I just use a frozen bag of steamed broccoli and put that with each dish, and it’s extremely easy to get some rice and sweet potatoes ready. All in all with my crockpot and help of other convenient ways to cook, my meal prep really doesn’t take much out of my day!
For me, eating the same thing is awful. That’s why I usually make a very plain chicken so I can season it differently every day with things like hot sauce, soy sauce, or spices. I try not to add too much to my meals because condiments really add up in sugar and salt in the long run, and I’m trying to keep that under control currently. My saving grace is Mrs. Dash – a salt-free seasoning that comes in plenty of flavors to keep my food tasting different every day.
And when I say get creative, I don’t mean you have to just change your spices, you should totally change up your meals! If you aren’t prepping for anything, or aren’t tracking for any particular reason, there is no way you should not be making your favorite meals. One week I did turkey sloppy joes, buffalo chicken flatbreads, and crockpot steak tips – YUM. I felt like I was cheating every day, but I wasn’t because I had it all portioned and ready. Not depriving yourself of what you want is so important, which is why it’s essential that you stay creative and happy with what you are feeding yourself on a daily basis.
I hope that you guys enjoyed this post, I really liked rambling on about this topic! If anyone else has any good tips for their meal preps, or how they go about their weekly eating, let me know down below. I’ll be coming back with more things similar to this in the future, so until next time, thanks for reading!!!