I am not a nutritionist or health expert, but one thing I AM is a planner. I’m an OVER planner to be honest. As a family of four, our weeks are full trying to balance working from home full-time, entertaining a toddler and navigating the realms of virtual learning with our 7th grader. We are busy! And I know you can relate. That’s why meal prep is essential for us. It’s one of the things I can do that I know will make the work week a little less stressful.
I hate doing it though. I dread it every Sunday, but I push through it MOST of the time. So, if you’re like me and just struggle to make it happen, here are my 5 tips to successful meal prep.
Starting off with the most important, and usually the hardest to accomplish, tip to successful meal prep. You must plan ahead. More specifically, know what you are going to cook, create a grocery list and have all of your groceries the day before your prep day. Waiting until the day of to get groceries has been one of my biggest mistakes. You want to start off with everything you need on hand so you can focus completely on prepping. My husband does the heavy lifting when it comes to groceries. We usually have most of our groceries delivered (because of Covid) and he will go to the store to get the rest. I plan our meals for the week and create the grocery list. Which may sound easy, but it can get pretty overwhelming at times. So, again, plan ahead.
Meal prepping is my least favorite thing to do on Sunday. Did I say that already? I often wake up feeling overwhelmed at the thought of it. But I know it HAS to be done. So, one thing I can do to feel less overwhelmed is start early instead of waiting until later in the day and feel even more stressed and less likely to follow through. I will usually get my rice cooking or marinate my chicken. No matter what, starting early checks something off the list, making me feel less overwhelmed and more motivated to get it done.
Keep it simple.
You do not have to cook some top chef meal. You CAN. But you do not need to. Keeping recipes simple will save you time, frustration and probably money too. Pinterest is my favorite way to find and save recipes. I have a few favorites that I keep in rotation. All of my meals are not clean but I try to find recipes that are generally healthy. You want to cook meals you will actually want to eat and baked chicken and broccoli just doesn’t do it for me. But, to each their own! Find a good balance of healthy and tasty – whatever that looks like for you.
Add some variety.
It’s really challenging for me to eat the same thing more than 3 days in a row. I know – 1st world problems. But honestly, after day 2 or 3 you may be craving something different than what you’ve been eating for the past few days. So, to avoid the temptation of reaching for something unhealthy or spending money on take-out, add some variety in your meals so you don’t get tired of eating the same things everyday. An example of a simple way I do this is by cooking two different meats – maybe salmon and chicken – with the same sides which is almost always brown rice and green vegetables.
Invest in nice storage containers.
And by “nice” I mean “glass.” I recently made the switch from our mis-matched plastic tupperware to glass containers and I wish I had done it sooner for a few reasons. They are much easier to clean, dishwasher safe and don’t stain after extended use. And you also have the option to re-heat your food in the oven without having to transfer the food into something else. And, bonus, they just look nice and neat – for those who like to take pictures of their hard work and post to social media like me.
Invest in the right appliances.
The appliances you need depends on the meals you find yourself cooking frequently. For me, that’s a rice cooker and an air fryer. I cook brown rice every week and being able to simply measure out rice and water and press a button is a time saver. Now, let’s talk about this air fryer. If you do not own one you need to get you one! If you already own one, you are probably nodding in agreement with me. I use our air fryer every day. Every day, y’all! You can cook just about anything in an air fryer. For meal prep specifically, it’s great for roasting vegetables and is also great for cooking a variety of meats. And there’s the added bonus that cooks food much quicker than a traditional oven.
So, meal prep is nothing glamorous, and it definitely takes some time and effort to accomplish, but I hope you can agree that it’s worth it. Saving money, eating healthier and saving time during the week are enough reasons for me. It can be a struggle to achieve, but starting with these tips will get you on the right track to success.