Meal prepping has gotten all the praise the last couple of years – and for good reason. Did you know that planning out your meals will not only save you time and money but can also help you lose weight (or stay healthy)? Below are some ideas to help you start meal prepping especially during the second pandemic of COVID-19.
Before we dive into the details of meal prepping, what exactly is it? To put it simply, it means to plan out your food and cook or prep your food in advance. It can be for a few days, the whole week, or even months if you’re freezing food. There are also different types of meal prepping, such as:
- Full Meal Prep (cooking an entire meal and putting it in the fridge)
- Freezing (cooking meals and freezing them or freezing fresh ingredients)
- Meal Prepping for One (cooking multiple meals and portioning them into single portions)
- Ingredient Prep (pre-chopping and storing the ingredients from a recipe to make the prep time shorter when actually cooking your meal)
Benefits of Meal Prepping:
1. Saves You Money
One of the major benefits of meal prepping is how much money you save. If you plan out what you’re going to eat and all the ingredients you need to buy, you’ll end up grocery shopping only once a week and buying food that you’ll actually use. According to Gathering Dreams, you can actually save up to $500/month! Your grocery bill will be more streamlined and you won’t have cravings calling you to spend money on takeout or unhealthy snacks. Win-win!
2. Saves You Time
Ever get home from work, tired, and not knowing what to eat, only to order a pizza or Chinese food? Me too. But after meal prepping for a while now, I can safely say that it has saved me SO much time. I come home from work and simply reheat my meal or cook my already chopped and prepped ingredients.
I look forward to my dinner after work as I know what I’m eating and I actually have time to pursue other interests once I’m home.
3. Reduces Stress
Maybe the best benefit of all – meal prepping will lower your stress levels as you don’t have to have the never-ending “what do you want for dinner” conversation at 5:00 PM. Simply, look at your calendar to cook the pre-planned meal or grab the pre-portioned and pre-cooked meal from your fridge or freezer.
Meal prepping can also decrease stress eating as you already have meals at home, making you less likely to grab a cheeseburger after a stressful day, according to Kelsey Peoples, M.S, RDN, owner of The Peoples Plate. She also states that research proves that people eat healthier overall when they have meals planned out because it’s now easier to eat at home than it is to eat at a restaurant.
4. Reduces Need to Order Takeout
Sometimes you get a craving for a particular type of food and need to order it ASAP (which is totally okay!), but most of the time we order food to-go because we’re too lazy to cook and we don’t have time after a long and busy day. Meal prepping's main purpose is to reduce your need for takeout as you already have meals either ready, or almost ready, to eat. You’ll have a delicious and healthy meal on your table within 30 minutes or less most days of the week. How great is that?
5. Involves Everyone in the Meals
Not only does the act of meal prepping involve others (include your family or roommate or join your bestie), but the planning can involve those that are eating the food as well. If you have a family, ask them what they want to eat and make sure everyone is on board with the meals that will be cooked that week. Who knows, maybe someone else will enjoy the planning and actually take over the task?
6. You Eat Healthier
According to Kristen Wilk, M.S., R.D.N, “when you meal prep, you inevitably eat cleaner… because you can control what you put on the plate and into your body”. This statement is very true because you can decide what vegetables (and how much) to include in your dish, or what grain to use, or even what ingredients you can substitute (hello oat milk). Everyone’s body is different and requires different levels of certain nutrients or has different tolerances. You may be allergic to nuts, are vegan, or just don’t like the taste of brussels sprouts. Whatever it is, you get to decide what healthy food you’re putting in your body.
Tips to Make Meal Prepping Easier:
1. Invest in Food Storage Containers
This may seem like a small thing, but having enough containers (and ones that properly seal) will make your life so much easier. Think about it for a moment, imagine cooking all your delicious meals on Sunday only to realize you’re two containers short. Or maybe you’re excited to take your lunch to work on Monday and then it spills all over your purse. Nobody wants those scenarios to happen – so invest in the containers ahead of time. You can never have too many!
2. Schedule Time to Meal Prep
If you don’t make time to meal prep, you’re never going to do it. Schedule it in your calendar – even include your partner, kid, or friend to hold yourself accountable. A lot of people like to meal prep on Sunday, then they have the whole week to eat it. Gathering Dreams recommends: “pick your meals on Friday, shop on Saturday, and set aside an hour on Sunday for meal prep.”
3. Start Small
If you’re a beginner, then be easy on yourself. Don’t try and meal prep for the entire week – just start with a few days and go from there. Try a meal you know how to make and enjoy eating and just make a larger portion. Or test out if you prefer making the whole meal that you can easily reheat or just prepping the ingredients to speed up your dinner process. There’s no right or wrong way to meal prep so do what works for you!
4. Make a List
Imagine being in the middle of meal prepping, only to realize you forgot a key ingredient and have to go back to the store? The whole point of meal prepping is to have everything in your kitchen to make cooking meals easier, so do yourself a favor and be as organized as you can. Make a list on your phone so you don’t forget it at home or use Google Calendar or a meal prepping app to plan everything in detail. Or Join my 6 Week Online Course “Get Fitter & Healthier” where you will get your shopping list with a personalized meal plan based on your fitness goal.
5. Make Enough Food
Once you get the hang of meal prepping, you’ll quickly see how the pros outweigh the cons. To make your meal prepping even easier, I came across these free meal prepping templates by Gathering Dreams. She has printable calendars and shares how she uses Google Calendar (simply make a new calendar for meal prepping and add your family to it) to meal prep for the whole family. She explains how she swears by this organizational method as her family can see what’s for dinner and she can access or adjust the meals as necessary. You can also use the notes section to add recipes or grocery lists.
What are you thought about meal planning? Have you tried it already? Comment below.