MEAL PREP 101
How to meal prep like a ninja
Meal prep may sound like an overwhelming task to most people. It doesn’t have to be that way though and can be simplified so you can make healthy eating flexible and fun. A little planning and prep work ahead of time means you have one less thing to think about during your busy week and “whats for dinner” moments. Meal prep will save you money and is also your secret weapon to eat healthy, whole food without the stress or spending too much time!
STEP 1 WHEN to prep?
- Set aside 2 hours on a Saturday or Sunday or on your day off.
- Write down a grocery list for the items that you need.
- Go grocery shopping.
Limit Your Weekly Meal Prep to 1 Hour. You can get your entire weekly prep done in just 1 HOUR. The key is the order you prep in.
STEP 2 – WHAT to prep?
Decide what you are going to make for the week. Start by picking one snack, one side dish, and one protein for the week. After you get comfortable with the meal prepping process, increase to two snacks, two side dishes, and two protein options.
Try and focus on prepping individual ingredients instead of spending a whole day cooking entire recipes, to make it flexible for real life. Prepping ingredients rather than entire recipes gives you the option to adapt meals quickly and easily based on how you feel each day, no matter how busy your schedule is.
Step 1: Carbohydrate. Start here. Once they’re cooking, they’re pretty much hands off; use this time to get your other ingredients ready!
Step 2: Proteins. A bit of hands-on to season or cut up but again, once they’re in the oven or browning on the stove top, you can leave them to do their thing while you finish up.
Step 3: Veggies. Always do these last! You’ll have free time while your carb and protein are cooking so this is the best way to maximize on time efficiency! Wash and cut up your veggies so they’re ready to grab and go throughout the week. A key to nourishing, feel-good meals.
Here are some meal preparation ideas to help get you started:
*All of the items listed above will last in your fridge for at least four days.
- Egg and vegetable muffins
- Smoothie prep (measure out fruit and protein powder into bags)
- Organic Rice
- Black beans
- Roasted sweet potatoes
- Roasted butternut squash
- Roasted spaghetti squash
- Homemade pesto or hummus
- Organic grilled or roasted chicken
- crockpot pulled chicken, beef, or pork
- Tuna salad
- Egg salad
- Chopped up vegetables (celery, cucumber, carrots, bell peppers)
- Chia pudding
- Homemade trail mix (almonds, walnuts, pecans, goji berried, shredded coconut)
- Fruit salad
- salads for grab-and-go lunch (don’t put salad dressing on until you are ready to eat)
- Hard boiled eggs
STEP 3- HOW to prep?
You want to create something that’s easy and will work with your schedule. Good planning means less time in the kitchen. If you are brand new to meal prep I suggest you start small. Prep one thing you are comfortable with and build from there. It is also helpful to keep a folder in your kitchen with recipes so that you have everything in one place. If you are switching between magazines, cookbooks, and recipes on your computer, it is going to take you a lot longer to figure out what you want to make. This recipe folder will help you to keep variety each week so that you don’t get bored of eating the same foods all the time.
It’s important to prioritize the time-intensive foods before you start cooking, it is helpful to think about which foods are going to take the longest to cook. Get those items started first and then you can cook multiple items at the same time instead of cooking everything separately.
For example, while you have rice cooking on the stove, you could have sweet potatoes in the oven and be chopping vegetables while both of those items are cooking. Or, you could have multiple items cooking in the oven at the same time like roasted vegetables, egg muffins, and chicken breasts.
It will take a bit of practice but the more you do it, the more confident you will become and the more efficient and creative you will get. When cooking meals for during the week, don’t worry about making it fancy. Even if you are not cooking a gourmet meal, it doesn’t mean that your food needs to be bland or boring—make sure to add fresh herbs, spices, citrus, garlic, and/or onion to boost the flavor of your meals.
Package up your food in glass Tupperware and put them in the fridge. (Glass Tupperware is recommended instead of plastic Tupperware to help prevent BPA from the plastic leaching into your food. It also lasts longer than the plastic Tupperware.)
If you have any questions, I’d love to hear from you! You can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on Instagram @acunourish
Do you struggle with meal prep and planning? If you have any other meal prep questions, leave them in the comments below!