Meal Prep is necessary weekly ritual for busy people trying to eat well. But, if the idea of meal prepping conjures up images of plastic black containers, or if it's taking up your entire Sunday, you are unlikely to be consistent. Which means you won't experience the true magic of never having someone ask you, "What's for dinner?" At 5pm at the end of a long work day.
What does it mean to actually meal prep?
I define it as: not having to think about what I am eating when my week starts. This doesn't mean you have to make all your meals in advance, or even have all of the stuff in the house, unless that is helpful for you.
Why Should I Do it?
The more work that goes into your meals during the week, the harder it is to consistently eat healthy. Meal prep prevents things like:
- Having to run to the grocery store for one thing
- Buying food that goes to waste
- Ordering in unnecessarily
- Eating a meal that wasn't satisfying, or that you didn't like
Things like that!
What is the Best Way To Meal Prep?
There is no one right way, in fact, all of us at Nutrish Mish meal prep a little differently. Here is how we do it, take some notes, try it out, and see which ideas you can use for yourself!
I usually start by prepping my proteins for the week.
One staple in my house is baked chicken cutlets with whole wheat bread crumbs. I use organic thick chicken cutlets and I will use these for dinner one night and use the rest for sandwiches for my fiancé and on top of salads for me for the lunch for week.
If it is a quick cooking meal like a stir fry to fish I will prep the protein either by cutting it up into chunks for a stirfry or marinating the fish so that it is ready to go when I need it.
One of my new favorite meal preps that I have been loving lately is buffalo chicken tenders. I marinate organic chicken tenders (I love the ones from Trader Joe's) in hot sauce over night and then prior to cooking I dip them in whole wheat panko bread crumbs. They are so flavorful and are great as a main dish or over a salad with Bolthouse blue cheese dressing.
Veggies: To make life simple during the week I cut up all my veggies a head of time. I will prep a big salad with a ton of veggies and keep it in a container and portion it out as I need it during the week. I will use it for lunch and top it with the protein that I prepped or as a side with dinner. I make sure dress it as needed so it doesn’t get soggy!
I’m a big stirfry and roasted veggies girl (and my fiancé loves them too which is a plus) so I usually cut up a ton of veggies ahead of time. I love a combo of zucchini, peppers, broccoli, and eggplant.
I also normally keep a couple bags of frozen veggies on had like an asian stirfry veggie mix and frozen green beans. I also keep some baby spinach on hand for a quick side
I use leftovers for lunch most days or leftover protein with my prepped salad or if I’m really on the go I will grab a perfect bar, which I always have in my fridge. I try to keep snacks to pre-portioned thing like bars or nuts that I can keep with me in the office. Most of my meal prep consist of mix and match items that I can use in multiple ways for multiple meals to keep my week easy and varied!
I hardly ever meal prep full meals because, quite honestly I don’t know if I’ll be in the mood for that specific meal each day, and I like to keep it varied throughout the week.
This is what I do instead: I prep individual meal “components” in bulk. I pick foods/ingredients to use as “head start” ingredients throughout the week that I can mix and match to make meals.
Step 1: I pick:
-2-3 proteins (example: chicken, turkey burgers, HB eggs)
-2-3 carbs (sweet potato, brown rice, etc)
- veggies either fresh or frozen
-2-3 snacks (protein bars, nuts, fruit, yogurt, etc)Everything that isn’t already ready to eat,
Step 2: With those meal components in mind, I shop for what I don't already have and
Step 3: I cook everything that needs to be prepared ahead of time to save me time during the week. Usually this is the proteins and fresh veggies that need roasting, and maybe some sweet potatoes. With chicken I usually make a simple shredded chicken by boiling chicken cutlets in a pot until they shred, or grill them.
Step 4: Now I can mix and match based on what I want throughout the week.
It usually takes me about an hour and a half tops to cook everything. I do this on 2 days per week: usually Sundays for the first half of the week, then again on Wednesday for the second half of the week.
-start with whatever takes longest to cook. First thing I did was cut the sweet potatoes/squash and throw them in the oven. While those were baking I cooked the proteins.-season with versatile spices (salt, pepper, garlic) so that you aren’t commit-ted to a certain flavor that might not go with what you want to have it with.-let food cool to room temp before storing in the fridge.-don’t be afraid to buy short cuts like pre cooked brown rice, frozen veggies-cook for about 5 days out. 6 is ok but 7 is pushin it.
-Don't forget about herbs, spices, and sauces to doctor up your head-start ingredients with. I love to keep salsa, hot sauce, and sriracha in the house for this reason.
Meal prepping used to be an all day Sunday affair for me but thankfully after much trial and error I’ve gotten it down to an hour or two. Making meals ahead in bulk has saved me so much time and money.
Sunday morning I decide which recipes I’m going to make for the week then I write down the list of ingredients and head to my go-to spot Trader Joes. For Breakfast I rotate between a protein shake and overnight oats because they are super easy. If I’m doing overnight oats I make about 3-4 at a time so that I can just grab it in the morning and not have to even think about Breakfast.
When I’m food shopping I usually buy enough chicken, veggies and fruit for the next 3-4 days. I make one big salad and roast a bunch of veggies on one pan so that I can always add it to my lunch and dinner for the next few days. Sometimes Mid-week I’ll stop and buy another package of chicken or fish. Just in case I can’t, I always have backup options in my freezer like frozen turkey burgers, shrimp, cauliflower gnocchi, frozen veggies for a stir fry so that I can always whip up a great meal last minute. Whatever I can’t get at Trader Joes is already at my house or on its way because I’ve Amazon Primed it. I consistently order protein bars and snacks like the good fats bar, progronola, and Noosh almond butter so that I already know what I’m doing for my snacks. Planning is so key to set yourself up for success but sometimes life happens and things don’t go as planned. This is why keeping back up options in my freezer has helped me stay on track many times!
I keep a list of all of the meals I like to make on my phone, so I don't have to turn my brain on and try to remember what we like that I haven't made in a while.
Then I choose one breakfast, one lunch, and map dinners out in real time, and write the ingredients I will need below so it might look something like this:
Breakfast: Protein Shake
- NM Protein Powder
- Almond butter
- Chocolate Almond Milk
Lunch: NM BBQ Pulled chicken
- 2 Packages Chicken Breast
- BBQ Sauce
- String beans
This then becomes my grocery shopping list. Sometimes I like going to the grocery store, but usually, I prefer to spend my free time with family and friends, so I have been a huge fan of Amazon Fresh (not affiliated with them, just a fan!) I like to pick the unattended "before 7am delivery time" on Sunday. That way, I wake up, and my groceries are magically there!