How to Get Started with Meal Prep
Social Media can be a crazy place. We see all of these beautiful pictures of meal prep in a bright, new, perfectly clean kitchen and think I can totally do that! So you go to the store after work, pick up every healthy thing you see and bring it all home. You unload the groceries, take a look around the kitchen, get overwhelmed by the mess, put it all away and order delivery off your favorite app and put it off until tomorrow. Before you know it, it's been 3 days, your vegetables don't look fresh anymore and just like that, you're over your dream of a perfect meal prep experience and you're back to square one.
There's a way to get over that initial fear, and all you need is a plan! Here are a few tips to get you started!
1. Add it to your schedule.
These days, all of our schedules change pretty regularly, whether it be because of children, work, or other family issues. But if meal prep becomes a part of your regular schedule, you are no longer trying to "add it in" you are just moving things around to make it fit like everything else that must be done. You have to grocery shop, or at least pick up groceries so plan to shop when it works for you and when you get home give yourself another hour or 2 to prep, cook, put away, and organize your meals. If you shop in the morning, you may be able to do it all in one stretch depending on what you are preparing. If you shop in the evening, you can prep the vegetables, and season your meat to marinate, and cook it the next day so you don't stretch yourself too thin. The important thing is to keep in mind that your schedule will change. So if you don't get to do it at your normal time, don't bail on it completely, just move it around.
2. Plan ahead.
If you can grocery shop once a week, that's awesome! Some people only shop once a week or twice a month. There's nothing worse than getting ready to cook and realizing you're missing a key ingredient. So make sure you know what you need before it's time to shop. If you go to the grocery store without a plan, it's very easy to get overwhelmed and just pick up your usuals. Even if you shop online and just do pickup, you still need to know what want to eat/cook before you place the order. Decide what you want to cook, then make a list of the ingredients, check to see what you have and don't have before you order so you don't forget anything or spend extra money. You can even make a habit of taking a picture of your fridge before you leave home in case you have to go straight from work and can't remember what you have.
3. Keep it simple.
We're not trying to prepare gourmet meals here. We are trying to create routines with better meal choices so you don't turn to fast food. Of course you can pan sear chicken or fish filets one by one but that's not a good use of your time. Put it all in one pan. After your meat has been seasoned, it go in the oven and be done in 20 minutes. After the meat goes in the oven, put the rice on the stove. The veggies can go in a separate pan in the oven along with sweet potatoes. If you get frozen vegetables they can be cooked in the microwave. The thing is, most of this can be done simultaneously and by the time the meat is done in the oven, you can let it cool and start putting it into your containers while the veggies and carbs are still cooking. They will be done shortly after and add them to the containers. Let them cool and put them in the fridge and you're done for the week! It's that simple!
4. Gradually add in new foods.
If you don't like vegetables, you already have a huge hurdle to get over. Start with things you do eat and maybe try one meal per week with one new food. If you can help it, try not to prepare it in all of your meals for the whole week because if you don't like it, then you have given yourself an excuse to eat something you shouldn't. If you have to prepare larger portions, this is a great way to share the experience with your family. This could become a new weekly family activity. If you do like it, you can incorporate it in all of your meals for the next week and try something else. Keep it fun for yourself and if you can get your family engaged it's a win-win!
5. Aim for consistency.
We are programmed to think that the only way to do something is to do it perfect. That is not the case here. There are so many different ways to be successful at meal prep and so many different foods you can incorporate. The goal is to make sure that once you've gotten it in your schedule, and committed to the meal prep process, to continue to do that. It is so easy to fall into old habits and pick up food after work. So use this as a way to try something new, or involve the family and teach everyone new habits. Keep it interesting! This shouldn't be a chore. This is something you're doing to improve your quality of life. It's not a sprint, it's a marathon. Keep going!
I'm India, a certified personal trainer, nutrition coach, meal prep specialist, and most importantly, an actual person who enjoys eating like everyone else! I'm here to help make your fitness journey more efficient for YOUR lifestyle...