When I first decided to attempt meal prepping, it was out of complete necessity…aaaand a tiny bit of desperation. Just a tiny bit! (Don’t ask my husband to confirm that.) My family’s schedule was getting increasingly hectic, and with growing frequency, I would find myself completely unprepared and staring into the refridgerator at dinner time asking myself, “What the heck am I going to make that takes 10 minutes?!” Eggs. Yep. More often than not, the answer was some variety of churched up eggs. And that was if we made it home to make dinner versus the frequent decision to just grab something on the way for the sake of time. This was increasingly not working for so many reasons! It was expensive, my workouts were suffering from ill planned meals, groceries were going bad in my refrigerator from not being used in time, I was making terrible food choices out of hunger, my house always smelled liked eggs, and it was all making me stressed out and grumpy. No one likes me grumpy. Noooooo one.
So I meal prepped! Aaaaand it was an utter failure! I didn’t understand why?! I bought a random pack of Rubbermaid containers, some kale, and some chicken. Boom! Meal prep, right?? We had been clean eating for a long time now, based on a loosely Paleo array of menu items. The chicken and kale were big staples in our diet, and I thought they would be a sure bet to the path of meal prep success. So what went wrong? I was eating chicken and kale two times a day, six days a week. I couldn’t do it! I couldn’t force myself to eat another piece of chickenkale (One word. That’s what it became in my head. One big blob of chickenkale). I fell off the wagon, and I fell off hard! Commence the starving and craving induced binge eating!
Jump ahead a few months, and I am proud to say I have been succesfully and exclusively meal prepping for 14 weeks straight, with no desire or attempts to give it up again! After my previous disastrous prep attempt, I decided I needed to do some research and planning. With a little more trial and error, I’ve found my rhythm and recipe for success! (See what I did there?! “Recipe for success”? Get it?! I crack myself up!)
So why did I continue to pursue being able meal prep? Well that’s a big question! When looking to start a weekly meal prep, it’s important to identify why you are wanting to commit to it. What are your goals that you hope to meet through successful meal prepping? The benefits of a weekly prep are numerous and greatly varying, with some examples being the following:
- Save money from eating out too often and/or wasting purchased groceries
- Save time from having to cook individual meals every day
- Prevent poor food choices by already having a healthy meal ready and available
- Help in weight loss
- Help in muscle gain
- Increase energy and overall health with clean eating
- Prepare for a fitness/bikini/figure competition
- Track your calories and macros with ease
If any of those above reasons, or your own personal reasons, seem like meal prepping would be a beneficial fit for you and/or your family, here are some steps to help you prep with success, and stay committed to it!
- Identify your goals with meal prepping. Are you interested in meal prepping to save money from eating out while at work? To maintain your weight during the holidays? To put on muscle? Identify clear reasons that you are embarking on your prepping adventure, and when you hit bumps in the road, remember your goals and reinterate their importance to yourself, and remaining committed to prepping will be so much easier!
- Plan! Plan! Plan! We’ve all heard the saying about failing to plan is planning to fail? Welp, it’s true! Especially in this process! To make sure you get off on the right foot with successful meal prepping, layout a plan. Pick a day where you have a solid two to three hours that you can commit to being in the kitchen. As prepping becomes more comfortable and you find ways to streamline your process (i.e. triple tasking!), the amount of time you’ll need will become less. When just starting though, give yourself a good couple of hours window to make it all happen! Also, decide how many meals you will be making in your prep session. Will you want two meals a day for five days a week? Or maybe three meals a day for a full seven days a week? My husband and I prep for five days out, with two meals a day for me and four meals a day for him. (Six meals a day) x (Five days a week) = 30 meals! We didn’t start out with 30 meals a prepping session though! That would have been a guaranteed disaster! Start small, get a good feel for the process, and build as you go!
- Write out a specific menu. After you’ve designated your meal prep day and how many meals you’ll need, write out your menu and all the ingredients you’ll need to execute your menu. There is nothing more frustrating than being in full swing in the kitchen, oven and burners blazing, and realizing you don’t have some of the ingredients that you need to finish! So write out a specific list, verify what you already have at home on your list, and hit the grocery store for the rest. Knowing how many meals you are making before shopping helps to prevent from over buying of produce or perishables that will go bad before you can use them in another prep session.
- Keep it simple. You don’t have to be a fantastic and experienced chef to be a great meal prepper. When it comes to picking your menu, if you’re feeling a little lost in the kitchen, plan around the three main staples that you’ll need in each meal- a protein, a complex carb, and a vegetable. Some example combinations of those that could be used in menu planning are: Chicken breast/ quinoa/ broccoli, ground turkey/ spaghetti squash/ asparugus, shredded chicken/ brown rice/ red bell peppers. Pick your three main components, and then decide how you want to prepare them. If you are making a small amount of meals in your prep, definitely feel free to get fancy and prepare full on dishes with each individual component! If you are making a ton of meals, or maybe are not confident with your kitchen skills just yet, keep it simple! Grilled chicken breast with steamed broccoli and roasted butternut squash- boom! Easy peasy!
- Tips for commitment! Variety is going to be the biggest key with long term meal prep success. Don’t find yourself stuck in a chickenkale rut! Each week, use different complex carbs and vegetables, and prepare your protein a different way. Search for new recipes to try to change up that quinoa or cauliflower so that you look forward to eating your meals! Seasonings and flavor are important! Sometimes I don’t want to eat the same meal for lunch that I had for lunch yesterday, so today, I’ll add some taco seasoning or goat cheese or hot sauce to my meal before heating, and just like that, it tastes like a whole new meal!
- Suggested products. Not all reusable containers are created equal! Some warp, melt, burn, do not fit well in lunch boxes, do not maximize refrigerator space, etc. I have found these to be the best Meal Prep Containers so far! I love them so much, I have ordered 5 sets! After months of use, they look completely brand new and have no scratch marks or cracks! Also, I am a huge fan of FlavorGod Seasonings! They are low sodium, huge bottles, taste ah-mazing, and keep that flavor variety on point! You can try out the original four pack combo to see what you think, but I’m pretty sure you’ll be back for the specialty flavors too!
There you have it! My personal adventures with meal prepping, and steps that can help guide you towards your own successful meal prep journey too! If you’ve been interested in meal prepping, don’t feel intimidated or overwhelmed by this proccess at all! Start small, keep it simple, and you will immediately begin to see and feel the benefits of your work!