Me Fitness Front Desk Star, Anna, shared this awesome blog with us about her journey into meal prep. Have you been intrigued about meal prep but don’t know where to start?
On a busy day with little extra time in my schedule, the last thing I want to think about is how to fit cooking into my day. More often than not, I end up spending too much money and eating much unhealthier than usual on those days. This new year, I have two of the most predictable resolutions: to be healthier and to be smarter with money. I’m a big fan of buying everything I need for the week at the grocery store in one day so I can avoid more errands, but I often find myself walking the aisles with no plan which leads to over spending and wasting food. That’s why I did a little research and came up with a plan to try over the next couple weeks. If you’re tired of being too busy to cook or thinking so much about what’s for dinner, maybe you’d like to join me in learning how to meal prep. Here are a few tips to help get you started.
- Decide which meals you need to prep and how many days you need to prep for. If you have a hectic work schedule throughout the week, maybe you want to prep breakfast, lunch, and dinner for each of the days you work. Or maybe you just want to cut down on the time you spend in the kitchen each day and simply have your meal ready to go for dinner. Either way, determining these two factors will help you figure out what and how much you need to buy at the grocery store, and how much time you need to plan to spend in the kitchen on prep days.
- Choose your meals based on your budget and amount of prep time you have. If you’re on a budget, meal prep can be a great way to save money by helping you avoid the last minute take out or throwing out food you didn’t have a chance to use. In addition, you will need to consider how much time you have to cook on your prep day and if you will have access to a microwave. Most importantly, keep it simple, especially when you are first starting out. Maybe try making something you have already cooked and know you like in a larger quantity and portion it out.
- Invest in good containers and an insulated lunch box big enough to hold each of your meals. Once you have all your meals cooked, the last thing you want is nowhere to put them and no way of taking them with you on the go. Think about what types of containers might best work with the meals your prepping. Mason jars are great for overnight oats, a container with separators would be perfect for salads, and a glass container would be best for anything you might want to reheat.
- Figure out what day you want to buy all of your ingredients and prep your meals. For many people with a Monday-Friday schedule, Sunday is the best day to make their way to the grocery store and spend a couple of hours in the kitchen. You could even get together with a group of friends and meal prep all together to add some fun to the process and split up the cooking for a more efficient prep.
- Store your meals in the fridge or freezer depending on how long they will last and when you will use them. If you plan to eat everything in the following 4-5 days, it should be safe to store everything in the fridge, but it might be smart to freeze any dishes involving meat in the freezer for safe keeping.
During my research on meal prep, I’ve discovered a surplus of recipes, so if you are looking for a few healthy yet simple recipes to try out, here are a few ideas for you.
- Milk (regular or dairy free)
- Honey or Maple Syrup
- Chia Seeds
- Nut Butter of Choice
Directions: In a mason jar, put half a cup of oats in a mason jar and cover them with a half a cup of milk. On top, layer a tablespoon of chia seeds, a bit of honey or maple syrup for sweetness, two tablespoons of nut butter, a few slices of banana, and a small handful of berries. Repeat this with as many servings as you need for the week, shake up each jar, and place in the fridge overnight. In the morning, just stir it up, add some granola if you’d like, and enjoy! This recipe is a great way to start your day with some complex carbs, fiber, and healthy fats.
- Pasta sauce
- Meatballs (homemade or premade)
- Cheese for topping
Directions: Spiralize the zucchini (1 meal will call for about 1 medium sized zucchini) and toss into a large frying pan with a bit of olive oil. Cook zucchini until it softens (about 5 minutes over medium heat) and divide between each container. Take pasta sauce of choice and top zucchini with ¼ – ½ cup along with a sprinkle of cheese. Finally, cook the meatballs and top the dish with as many as you’d like. Make sure you use a glass container for this recipe as you will need to heat in the microwave when you are ready to eat. This recipe is super easy and quick, and can be modified by adding extra veggies, trying out different types of pasta sauce, or replacing the meatballs with a different protein to make it vegan! If you want to get extra fancy, try making your own pasta sauce!
- Black Beans
- Hot sauce
- Black Olives
- Romaine Lettuce
- Choice of protein
Directions: Cook rice and portion it out among meal prep containers. Next, cook your protein (I like making crockpot shredded chicken) and beans and portion those out on top of the rice. Finally add the toppings listed above, keeping in mind that you can add or subtract anything from the list to make it your own. You can make this recipe low carb or paleo by swapping the rice for lettuce, or take some tortilla chips or a tortilla with you to make nachos or a burrito.