How to Meal Prep Like a Boss
Do people still say, "like a boss" anymore? Probably not. I barely watch cable and every time I'm on Twitter I have no idea what folks are actually talking about and I'm pretty confident that we've all retired that saying by now. It made for a catchy title though, so here we are. Anyway, let's talk about meal prep.
Meal prep is so popular these days. Just search the #mealprep hashtag on Instagram and you'll see pictures of containers filled with things like sweet potatoes, chicken breast, brown rice, veggies and oatmeal. The idea behind meal prep is to spend a few hours cooking all of your meals for the week, so you can just grab them and go. I get it, cooking and packing all of your meals can be a great way to take the guess work out of eating healthy, nutrient dense meals throughout the week. But, if you've ever actually tried meal prepping, you know that it can sometimes feel like more trouble than it's actually worth. So, today I'm sharing some of my favorite meal prepping tips to help make your life a little easier!
Look. Meal prepping isn't for everyone and it doesn't need to be. If you've been trying and trying to meal prep all your meals for the week and only end up wasting food or getting tired of eating the same thing over and over again, it may be time to rethink your approach. In my personal opinion, there really is no need to spend all day in the kitchen on Saturday or Sunday, cooking a week's worth of meals, if you have time to actually cook during the week. Instead of making and packing each meal, it may be more beneficial to just roast a few veggies, cook a few proteins, and slice up fruit or veggies for snacks. Or, it may be better for you to just do your shopping and nothing at all. Take the pressure off of yourself to make YOUR meal prep fit in with the Instagram hashtag and just figure out what works for you.
I've been both a "cook every single meal for the week" meal prepper and a "let me just get my life together" meal prepper. From what I've experienced both approaches are beneficial, it just depends on your context. When I was in law school, spending my weekend prepping meals to eat throughout the week worked perfectly. Between classes, organizations, work, hitting the gym, studying, and maintaining relationships, I did not have time each night to cook. Instead I would cook almost all of my meals over the weekend. which made it very easy to reheat and eat.
Now that I'm working a 9-5 and don't have many obligations to tend to once I get off, I have time to cook each night, so that's what I do. I also enjoy cooking, it's a great time to wind down and relax after the day. Plus, the weekend is only 2 days long and the LAST thing I want to do with my free time is spend all of it in the kitchen. I like to cook, but I like spending time with loved ones, exploring the city, or just relaxing on the couch even more. That being said, when I start my LLM program in the fall, I'll have to re-evaluate, once again, to see what works for my new schedule. My point is, that when it comes to the meal prep thing, there's more than one way to skin a cat. So, don't be afraid to experiment and see what works for YOU.
2. Break It Up
If you do like prepping the majority of your meals for the week, breaking it up over the course of the weekend can be really helpful. When I was in law school I didn't have class on Friday (gosh, I miss that) which freed up time in my schedule to run errands and do household chores. Instead of grocery shopping and meal prepping all my food on the same day, I broke it up. I would make a grocery list Thursday night, I did my shopping Friday, then I broke up my cooking over the next few days. I might chop veggies and get organized Friday, prep my lunches on Saturday, and make a breakfast casserole to eat on Sunday. Breaking up the cooking, shopping, and organizing made things so much less stressful and time consuming.
3. Have a Plan
I can't emphasize enough how important having a plan is when meal prepping. Going to the grocery store without a list or any idea of what you want to cook can be recipe for DISASTER. Before you get started with anything, take a few minutes to sit down and write out what you'd like to cook for the week. Then take a moment to write out a list of everything it would take to make those meals. I like to include things like cooking fat, condiments, flours, spices (minus salt and pepper...that's a given), etc. Then take a look through your pantry and fridge to see what you already have and cross those items off your list. Now, you've got an accurate list you can take to the grocery store and you won't accidentally buy something you already have on hand!
4. Make What You Need and Can Actually Eat
To me, the biggest downfall of meal prep is the potential for food waste. I do not like to waste food. At all. Wasting food is essentially wasting money. If you're going to cook a bunch of food at the start of the week, it's important to be realistic about what you can actually eat. If you know that you can't eat one dish for more than two days, then making a huge casserole that could potentially feed a family of 6 may not be the best move for you. Instead, try making a couple of things at time so that you can eat for a few days and then do a little more prep when you've run out of food. If you still want to make soups, stews, or casseroles, but you're only cooking for one, then the freezer is your new best friend. Instead of letting that pot of chili or soup go to waste because you're tired of it after day 2, go ahead and put half of it in the freezer up front. You'll be able to eat what you need and then have perfectly good leftovers that you can de-thaw and heat when you need them the most.
5. If All Else Fails, Just Get Organized
Ok, so you've read all of these tips and you're still not convinced that the meal prep thing is for you. You may not even want to create a flexible plan for the week because you can't think that far in advance. I completely understand. You don't have to have a hard and fast plan for the week in order to eat healthy, but it does really help to get organized and stock your kitchen with plenty of healthy food. When all else fails, make a grocery list and prioritize fruits, vegetables, and protein. Clean out your fridge, wash your fruits and veggies, take out anything in your freezer that you're thinking of cooking to de-thaw in the fridge. Clean off your countertops so you have free space. Put your dishes away. Re-organize your pantry and spice cabinet so you know where everything is and what you already have. Keeping your kitchen organized and clean is half the battle when you've committed to preparing your meals at home. So, even if you don't have a plan or anything prepped, just start by getting yourself organized and making your kitchen a space where you actually WANT to spend time creating new dishes that nourish your body.
Alright, y'all! Those are my meal prep tips. What tips do y'all have for meal prep? Do you cook everything at once, break it up, or do nothing at all? Leave a comment and let me know!