Meal prep changed the way I fuel my body.
Three years ago I was unhealthy, not eating enough or eating processed food riddled with excess sugar, salt, and trans fats. Ramen was my go-to, which isn’t exactly fuel for the body or the mind. I was sluggish and moody.
I knew that I needed to make dietary changes but felt trapped in a vicious cycle of late nights at the office, which meant picking food up on my way home or throwing something together, haphazardly. Cooking dinner every night after a stressful day at work was the last thing I wanted to do. Plus, I didn’t want to take the time and effort to cook a dish that might turn out poorly. I had the perfect storm of excuses.
At this point, I would make my way to the couch, go to bed too late, then start the process over again in the morning.
Enter Meal Prep
Meal prepping was introduced to me after I joined a local CrossFit affiliate. A lot of the members were raving about how meal prepping saves them time and money, both of which sounded great to me.
I started out slowly, simply making larger portions than I was used to, so that I would have enough food to stretch into the following day. It was the best feeling in the world to come home and not have to think about what to cook.
At this point I had a decision to make: I could continue down the path I was on or I could try giving meal prep a real shot. I’m happy to say that I choose the latter.
I began asking friends for recipes and was turned on to a few food bloggers. Pinterest became my best friend as I started to fill my Hangry board with delicious recipes that I curated to include healthy grains, fruits, vegetables, and protein.
I’m not going to lie, the trial and error recipe collection period was frustrating. It’s extremely irritating to put time and effort into a dish only to have it turn out poorly. However, all that effort is worth it when you open your fridge to find satisfying food neatly stored in containers, waiting to be devoured.
For the first time since taking up a sport in high school, I was mindful of how I was fueling my body. This shift in mindset was a game changer and made an enormous difference in my approach to my health and well-being. I felt empowered and took pride in putting healthy food in my body.
But What to Cook?
I recommend talking to friends and family members about what dishes they enjoy. Perusing Pinterest introduced me to many of my go-to recipes. Googling vegetarian food bloggers or a specific ingredient you’d like to use, such as quinoa, is super helpful. If you have recipe books laying around, take some time to flip through its pages and flag anything that stands out (bonus points for gifting or donating books that are no longer useful to you).
Recommended Food Bloggers:
Fed+Fit Vegetarian Recipes - Cassy Joy Garcia has a ton of healthy and delicious options!
Pick Up Limes - You’ll find a wide variety of vegan-friendly recipes ranging from snacks and sides to meals and desserts.
Wegmans - If you’re not from the Northeastern United States, then you’re missing out on this iconic grocery store chain! Luckily you can search hundreds of Wegmans recipes. One of my favorites is their Tuscan Bean Salad.
Since you’re preparing food for the week, you may want to utilize a recipe converter. This one is easy to use, plus there’s a helpful video tutorial and a how-to page to assist you. Or you can do what I do, guesstimate!
I like using glass food storage containers, like these ones from Pyrex or if you think glass is too heavy, there are these cool plastic bento box containers. I’ve found glass containers to be easier to clean, more sanitary, and better able to maintain taste. But use whatever containers are easiest for you and your health goals.
Food Prep Tips and Tricks
Take time to plan out what meals you’ll make for the week, I usually make two, three, or four different dishes for variety.
Make a shopping list!
Make one grocery store haul rather than a bunch of smaller trips. This will save you time and money!
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or are short on time, break up your meal prep by chopping all of your vegetables ahead of time. You can also meal prep twice a week, this way instead of making three or four dishes you’ll only be making one or two.
Pick a day to meal prep and be consistent, I’ve found it helpful to carve time to prep and cook my meals. If you need to make modifications, no big deal! More on this below…
Mindful Eating Tips
Do not grocery shop on an empty stomach!
Do not food prep on an empty stomach!
Do not wait until you are hangry to eat.
Always have something healthy in your fridge.
Healthy snacks are a lifesaver.
If you’re eating out, scope out the menu ahead of time so you won't be surprised. If there are no healthy options, propose a different restaurant that will suit all diners, including yourself!
Attending a family function or friend’s party? No problem! Bring a dish that you know you’ll eat or eat something prior to leaving if you know there won’t be food you want to eat.
Give yourself permission enjoy “unhealthy” food. Food and socializing go hand-in-hand, don’t strong-arm yourself into only eating specific foods (unless you have superhuman self-control, I certainly don’t!).
Healthy eating is a lifestyle, not a diet! This mindset really helped me out and continues to inform my decision making when it comes to food.
Today’s the Day!
It’s food prep day, now what?
Sunday is my designated meal prep day, I sometimes pre-game my meal prep Friday or Saturday by cutting veggies, for example. I’ve come to love meal prep Sundays. I have about three hours set aside each week to prep the food, cook, and clean up (I try to clean along the way so I’m not overwhelmed with dishes).
Before I start meal prep, I make sure the kitchen is clean and there are no dirty plates lying around. I try to do this a few hours before I meal prep to give myself a break from the kitchen before the main event.
Next, I create a playlist of podcasts to listen to during meal prep so that I don’t get distracted trying to find something to listen to. If jamming out to music is more your style, then select a Pandora station or curate a Spotify playlist.
I pull up the dishes I’ll be making on the computer and strategize the preparation and cooking order. If I can make two dishes or two aspects of dishes concurrently I will. For example, if I need sautéed peppers for two dishes, I’ll cut and cook the peppers together and then use them according to each recipe.
Meal prep has helped me become the healthiest and happiest I’ve been in years. With a little thought and an initial time investment, you can have healthy and delicious meals waiting for you in your fridge. Looking for more information on food prep? Check out some of these books:
Please comment on your experience with meal prep or questions you may have! What are some of the challenges and successes you have had along the way on your meal prep journey?
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links that earn me a small commission, at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I personally use and love, or think my readers will find useful.