Meal Prep - What it is, when to do it, & why it benefits you!
Today I want to emphasize the the Importance of Meal Prep!
If you want to maintain and promote your own healthy lifestyle, you MUST prepare yourself in every way possible! My coach loves to quote Benjamin Franklin in this...
Of course, this is super applicable to life, but my favorite way to apply that statement is to your nutrition! So today, I want to focus on meal prep!
Every single Sunday I spend a couple hours preparing my meals and snacks for the week! Why? Because it's just the ONLY way to really guarantee myself success in my nutrition by making all my snacks, meals, etc. accessible, easy, and a of course healthy! I am often too burned out at the end of the day to cook anything, and too busy (and broke) to go to the cafeteria and by food everyday!
Meal prepping has become a vital part of my success as I pursue a healthy lifestyle, and more so than that, it has helped keep me sane, productive, and on-budget during those weeknights when I have a lot to do!
So here's an idea of what it takes to meal prep and what the whole process looks looks like!
On Saturday's I usually select my dinner recipes and go grocery shop!
To choose my dinner recipes, I will usually go on pinterest or online and hunt for recipes, OR I will go to my already absurd amount of collected recipes and choose from some of my favorites! I've also recently absolute loved using the Fixate cookbook from Autumn Calabrese, which has many wonderful ideas!
In addition to choosing my dinner recipes, I will also choose/plan my snacks and other meals for the day! Though, there isn't typically much "choosing" that goes on in regards to anything but dinner! I have found that variety isn't necessarily your friend when it comes to nutrition.
If you talk to a bunch of people who are fit, gym rats, or bodybuilders...you'll probably find that these people eat very similar things for the most part from day-to-day! In fact, most other people tend to do the same...without even meaning to! They don't even notice that they're doing it, but they're day to day is pretty repetitive...
So, this is an example of what I eat day to day!
Dinner is by far my heartiest meal of the day, and varies the most in my day-to-day eating. My dinner recipes will be the recipes that I feature in my recipe posts! These tend to be things like quinoa mac n' cheese, crock pot chili, etc. I REALLY like my dinner to be a single dish that encompasses all of my food groups! Those are my favorite meals, because they simplify everything for me!
So, as I plan my meals and my snacks, I will look at the things that I do and do not have, build my grocery list, and head off to the grocery store! Typically, I can keep my groceries to $50 or less a week, unless I'm buying a number of additional, non-food items like contact lens solution, toilet paper, etc.
Sunday is MEAL PREP DAY! I typically integrate my meal prepping into my day with the rest of my Sunday activities, like cleaning, laundry, and of course watching football! The Sunday meal prep featured in the images at the top of this post are a great example! Instead of vegging out all day watching football, which is how I wanted to spend my Sunday, I multi-tasked! I put football on in the background and got all my meal prepping and house work done in the meantime!
But now you might be asking - okay I understand planning ahead but what exactly do you do to prepare yourself?
Short answer - I prepare absolutely everything I can ahead of time!
- Chopping veggies/fruit
- Ripping up greens
- Cooking protein
- Making my main dinner recipes
One of the ways I get my greens in during 21 day fix is by eating cucumbers (which I LOVE) and celery with hummus as snacks! So, to make it as easy as possible for me to do this, I chop and bag EVERYTHING ahead of time! I cut cucumbers up and celery up into small pieces and measure them out using the 21 day fix green container. Once I fill the green container, I pour those pre-cut, pre-portioned cucumbers or celery into a ziploc bag and continue until I have cut up all the celery and cucumbers! What I'm left with is a tupperware full of pre-portioned, ready snacks that I can just GRAB in the morning to take with me to work.
This same strategy is used in my preparation of my fruit and greens! For example here, I had a cantaloupe that I wanted to use for my 21 day fix purples!
So I chopped it up and kept it ready in a tupperware for the week! I could have pre-portioned these out just like I did for the cucumbers/celery but I ran out of ziploc bags! So, I just left these in the larger tupperware and filled a purple 21 day fix container before I left to go to work in the morning.
As I mentioned above, I love to have a salad for lunch! I get creative with my salads sometimes!
- Kale with sweet potato...
- Kale with grapes and almonds...
- Hard boiled eggs or chicken
- Lemon olive oil vinaigrette or balsamic vinegar
But the biggest reason I can do that is there's no need for me to rip up greens in the morning because I've already done that on Sunday! I rip up and throw all of my kale into a very larger tupperware container! I then throw a larger handful into a tupperware for lunch that day and top it with whatever ingredients I'm feeling for that days salads!
I also prepare all my protein ahead of time, which includes hard boiling all my eggs (as shown) and cooking all of my meat - often poultry!
For chicken on my salads, I love to cook chicken tenders! About 2 chicken tenders is a perfect portion for a lunch salad! This day, I cooked about a pound and a half of chicken breast tenders. That way your protein is ready to just throw into your meal or eat as a snack, with NO PREP NEEDED!!!
Also not pictured - preparing you starches ahead of time is also a great idea! I love to prep and bake sweet potatoes, soak and cook beans, both of which I threw onto salads or into taco bowls during the week!
Lastly, I prep my dinners! Crockpot meals are a great option because they're very low maintenance. Otherwise, I will cook all of the components for my dinners, assemble them the night of and zap them in the microwave. It makes my week nights much easier!
It's worth it - I PROMISE!
Meal prepping can be a tedious task, but you know what? If you take a couple hours on a Sunday morning/afternoon while you're watching football or doing house chores, etc. you will save yourself SO MUCH TIME during the week and make eating health SO MUCH EASIER!!
One LAst important Note...
With all of this stuff - meal prep in particular - if you're completely new at this, PLEASE TAKE SMALL STEPS FORWARD! Don't make grand plans of prepping ALL of your meals if you've never prepped anything ahead of time before. Start small. Start by prepping your dinner. Then, move to prepping your dinners and snacks, and so on and so forth. Set yourself up for even greater success by preventing considerable overwhelm at the start.
That's all for now! Let me know if you have any questions!