Win at the Meal Prep game

Life is busy. Fitting in nutritious meals can sometimes feel quite overwhelming–especially when you are pressed for time or have no idea what to make.

It can definitely feel easier to just say “F-it” and order something takeout or delivery food, even though you know that those meals won’t necessarily align with your health and fitness goals.

Doing this often enough can leave you feeling tempted to give up altogether on trying to fuel your body fabulous with all the yumminess of a nutritious meal.

Don’t despair.

We’ve got your back.

Below are several ways you can win the nutritious-eating game and have nutritious meals anytime you like. These ideas will help you to avoid feeling flustered when it comes to preparing a meal, especially when you’re pressed for time or when you’re chasing down that hangry monster.

Not all of the ideas below will work for all people. That’s probably obvious.

Also start small. If you are not currently in the habit of prepping for meals in advance, don’t try to do all of these at once.

Go slow. Pick one or two you feel confident you can do (like a 9 or 10 out 10 on the confidence scale) and do those for a few weeks until they are just part of the way you do things; you know: no-brainers.

Win at meal prep

Meal-Plan. Plan out what you’d like to eat during the week. Knowing the ingredients you’ll need for the week will help you to know exactly what to put on the grocery list.

These don’t have to be fancy ideas.

What are some of your favorites? Maybe do a quick search for something you’ve wanted to try. Once you have 3-4 meals, make a list of the ingredients you’ll need. This can help reduce unwanted purchases, running out of food items or having unused items go to waste.

**Make it even simpler. Try a meal-planning app. Mealime and Plan to Eat help with recipes–and then create shopping lists for you!!

Grocery List. I know we just mentioned grocery lists, but it is useful to actually make one. Whether this is a list on a piece of paper or in an app, having a list helps you to know what to buy while shopping for groceries. (Shocking, I know). Combining this action item with meal planning is a great way to get started.

Who doesn’t love a full fridge!

via GIPHY

Produce Prepping. Cutting and prepping the veggies takes up a bunch of time. Pick a day you can just bang out a bunch of chopping, slicing and peeling of veggies. If you need the veggies cut a specific way for a certain recipe, this the time to do that. Store them in a container or baggie. If you can, label either the cut date or the use-by date so you use the oldest ones first to reduce the potential of waste.

**Make it even simpler. If chopping veggies ain’t your thing, you can find many veggies pre-cut in most grocery stores.

Pre-cook grains. (You can also pre-cook potatoes so all you need to do is heat them up later) If your planned meals contain grains (such as rice or quinoa), you can make a big batch beforehand and store them in the fridge or freezer. On the day of, just take them out of the fridge and add them to your meal (possibly after re-heating them… though many grains are also yummy cold and can be added to salads). You could also cook your grains up at the same time you’re chopping your veggies! Bam. Efficiency.

**Make it even simpler. Many grocery stores have pre-cooked or frozen options for grains.

Containers of all sizes. Again, yes: we’ve already mentioned containers, but if you don’t have any, start here. Containers are useful for storing your prepped veggies, leftover meals and any pre-made grains or starches. If you’re taking your meals on-the-go, having a good container that won’t leak is important. It’s also useful to have various sizes or a bento-box-style container that can keep different food items separate. Just store and go!

Make More. Cook a meal that gives you more than one servings. This way you can leverage the power of leftovers. Store the leftovers right away in one of you containers in the fridge to eat in the next couple of days or put in the freezer to eat at another time. If you do this with several meals you’ll have a few options in the freezer for another day.

Freezer. The freezer is your friend. It can hold more than just those frozen peas you use as an icepack. It’s a great way to store leftovers. Especially because sometimes you don’t want to eat the same thing you just had the other day again. Leverage the freezer as a way to store servings of large batch chili, stews or stir-fries.

Meals in a Pot. Speaking of large batches of chili or stews, whether it’s an Instapot or crockpot, these cooking methods offer a way to “set it and forget it.” If you have prepped your veggies in advance, you can just toss in all your veggies with your lean protein and a broth or sauce and cook it on low while your away for the day. Again, if you make multiple servings-worth, you’ll also end up with leftovers for another day.

Additional workarounds

Not everyone enjoys cooking.

Maybe you detest leftovers.

via GIPHY

Maybe this week was just bonkers and your normal meal prep day just didn’t happen.

Now what?

Let’s tackle these one at a time.

Cooking ain’t your thing. I actually don’t really enjoy cooking, so I feel ya! I love making omelets, but that’s about it so I make them several times a week.

You’re best bet is to have some quick, nutritious, enjoyable go-to meals that are super-easy to prepare. Mine is a salad. I just open a bag of leafy greens, pour it into my big bowl, add some protein and some oil and vinegar and eat. I usually eat my salad with a pre-baked sweet potato. Baking I can handle: put stuff in the oven, set a timer–do some other stuff–the timer dings and it’s done.

Maybe one of your go-to meals can be bagged salad too. There are so many varieties. There’s pre-cooked protein options like chicken, lentils or tempeh to go on those salads to make your salad more of a well-rounded meal and filling.

Another quick option is sandwich wraps where you can throw in salad and some protein and wrap it up and eat! Just like with salads, you can play with lots of different veggies and protein sources.

Pre-cooked grains or potatoes can make for a great addition to salads or wraps or on their own. Often I make these in advance (it’s really just boiling water; I can do that!) to add to other dishes.

Lastly, since I don’t enjoy cooking, the few times I do it during the week I try to make a bunch of whatever I am making to eat at another time for a quick meal.

Life was bonkers this week and meal prep didn’t happen. This is real. We have all have been there: maybe you were away all weekend at a conference or you had to stay super-late at work on the day you normally get your groceries and do your meal prep… and now what?

Don’t despair.

There are a couple of options. Stop by the store on the way home and get some dinner there. Many supermarkets have a pretty decent selection of prepared foods. Oven-roasted chicken and bagged salad and maybe some rice from the hot food bar.

When you get home order your groceries online to be delivered. This could be the week you get some of those pre-cut veggies and frozen cooked grains just to save you some time for your meals.

Leftovers are the worst. I understand, enjoying a fresh cooked meal is delish! Having your meal-prep game down will be super-important here. Maybe you’re ok with your grains being pre-cooked and you can just dish some into the pan for the finishing touches on a stir-fry or maybe you use a rice cooker to make just the right amount for the meal.

What’s the biggest takeaway?

Really, this is about making some time for you and it all comes down to little bit of planning. Have a look at your calendar and schedule some time just for thinking of meals to eat during the week and then writing a grocery list.

The next step would be buying those things on your list. From there, you can move on to prepping veggies and/or anything else you can in advance to make an enjoyable and nutritious meal that won’t have you spending every evening during the week standing behind the stove.

Remember, if meal prep is a new habit, start small.

Just like you would with any new habit. Maybe you have a few meals you like to cook already, but don’t because it feels too involved?

What are the ingredients?

Get them at your next grocery shop.

Consider making things easier for future you by making time to chop up the veggies in advance so that they’re ready for you when it comes time to actually cook the meal.

I can’t stress this enough: start small. Maybe it’s just one [additional] meal in the week.

Do that for at least two weeks and then, when that feels good, add another one.

Fueling your body fabulous with more nutritious meals made at home will take some time to fully implement. Be patient and persistent. You got this!

To help build that habit, scheduling the time into your calendar and setting an alarm to remind you may be necessary.

So schedule it. Stick with it.

We believe in you and we’re here to help if you have questions.

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