How To Find Your Meal Prep Strategy
When you have a meal prep routine down, life and eating well becomes so easy and thoughtless, and saves you so much time and money!!
Where and How to get started
Let's get this straight: "meal prep" comes in all shapes and sizes...what works for you will be entirely unique.
The way you will find your strategy depends on:
- How much time you realistically have to cook during the week
- Personal preference (do you like recipes already portioned out and ready to heat/eat? Or do you prefer to decide what you want to eat come meal time and assemble ingredients you prepped ahead).
- Your current comfort level with cooking
First decide…do you want to follow recipes and have the same meal on repeat a few times, or do you want to have variety to choose from? Start small...even if you make ONE recipe or ONE batch of meal components this week...that is good enough to begin a healthy habit!
Be realistic..you do not have to meal prep EVERY meal entirely. Meal prep is supposed to make your life EASIER, by taking the thought and work out of the meals that you are scrambling for last minute. If it is making you more stressed out, what's the point? Don't think all or nothing..think "good enough". Follow the steps below, rinse and repeat, and find what feels good and works for you!
If you need to follow recipes...make a master list of “Recipes I like/want to make”
This takes care of the “what to make” question. Start documenting the recipes you like and/or want to make, whether in a notebook, word doc, etc. Odds are you can come up with at least 10 that you know you like or want to make! (Remember those hundreds of recipes you pinned on Pinterest?)
If you don't like to follow exact recipes...you don't HAVE to.
Plan meal COMPONENTS that will make assembling healthy meals during the week that much easier. Choose:
- 2-3 proteins to have cooked ahead e.g. chicken, turkey, tofu, etc
- a few veggies to prep ahead of time
- 2-3 starches/grains e.g potatoes, sweet potatoes rice, quinoa, etc. to cook ahead if they aren't already
Cook these things ahead of time and store separately so you can use them in a variety of ways during the week.
If you're extra short on time, consider buying "shortcut" versions like pre-chopped veggies or frozen, rotisserie chicken, pre-cooked frozen rice, etc. There is nothing wrong with this, especially if it keeps you eating nutritiously and prevents you from ordering takeout!
If using recipes, consult your list and pick 2-4 recipes you will make that week. Whenever you have a free few moments on your weekend or any day really, just make sure to get it done. Even if you only make ONE Recipe while you are getting started, that’s the start of a healthy habit and weekly routine! Make this a priority one day each week.
If not following recipes, plan which meal components you will buy pre-made/ready to go, and which meal components you will buy to prep ahead.
Make your Shopping List
List the ingredients from all of the recipes/meals you plan to make. Check off the ingredients you already have, and the ones you don’t, pick up on your grocery shopping trip. IF you go in with a list, grocery shopping is much quicker and leads to less over buying / food waste! If you have a good idea of the layout of your grocery store, you can take it up a notch and organize ingredients by section, so you can get in and out even faster!
Prep Recipes and/or ingredients
Realistically think about how much cooking you can/want to do during the week. This is where you can save yourself a ton of time by cooking everything ahead and then just having some assembling / heating to do during the week.
- prep ingredients on the same day you do your groceries (cook meat, cook and shred chicken, cook rice/quinoa, chop veggies, etc.) so that it's faster to cook your weeknight dinners,
- OR batch cook entire meals ahead of time so all you have to do is reheat the day of. You can prep separate ingredients and use them to make a variety of quick “just assemble” meals such as rice bowls, quesadillas, flatbread pizzas, etc.
OR do a combination of both, and see how you can repurpose some leftovers as well for other meals. Overall, do what works for your preferences and schedule.
Some Ideas for How to Use Prepped Ingredients for
quick weekday meals:
When it comes to meal prep...aim for "good enough!" when you are starting, and then rinse and repeat the process each week. Only through trial and error you will find what works best for you!!