Meal Prep Planning Strategies
Meal preparation: the new dietary fad of the past few years. If you aren't sure what meal prep is, it's basically just when people plan out the entirety of their meals for a certain period of time, like one day or one week. Don't be fooled though. Even though it sounds simple and straightforward, meal prep isn't that easy. You have to systematically think about the week consisting of five days (excluding weekends), and at three meals a day, that's fifteen meals that need to be thoroughly planned out. Not an effort-free task. However, we're here to make that job a little less overwhelming by giving you our top 10 tips on how to effectively meal prep.
10 Meal Prep Tips:
- Plan before prepping. Nothing is worse than skipping the plan and going straight in with no guidelines or directions. You want to save yourself from stress and frustration by using weekly/daily planners and detailed grocery lists to help you organize your meal prep. Don't go in blindly.
- Use recipes. Don't feel like you have to pull all of your meal ideas from thin air. Scroll through Pinterest or Instagram and find simple, healthy recipes that fit in your budget. Bonus: the more appealing it looks, the happier you'll be to eat it.
- Utilize the weekends. If you only want to meal prep for the five days of the week, then use Saturday and Sunday for grocery shopping and meal planning. Devote a couple hours per day so you don't feel rushed or pressed for time. This way you'll be more productive by being efficient with your days "off".
- Choose the right containers. Make sure you research containers that you think will be the best for you. If you want to focus on separating food groups, then try containers that come with dividers. If you want to focus on temperature-specific tuperware, then research those. Your needs will shape your individual meal prep style.
- Stay on top of grocery shopping. Like I said earlier, use your weekends to grocery shop for the following week's meals. Don't put it off until it's Sunday night and you have six hours of shopping and planning to worry about. Make time for it, and even mark it in your calendar if you have to.
- Buy in bulk, if you can. Sam's Club and Costco are two stores that sell food in bulk, which may be more expensive at the time, but saves money in the long run because of how long it will last. Obviously, you should buy nonperishable food in bulk, not perishable food that will go bad quickly. It also saves time since you're not wasting it on future grocery store runs, buying ingredients you could have bought in bulk two weeks ago.
- Not everything has to be made from scratch. You are most definitely allowed to cut corners whenever you can. Buy frozen fruits and vegetables, pre-sliced potatoes, etc. Don't spend extra time doing something that could already be completed for you when you purchase it. However, don't use this as an excuse to buy lots of junk food. Be smart and eat healthy.
- Snacks are important! Remember, there'll be some days where you may not have the time to eat a full meal; lunch dates with friends, workout classes, extra paperwork at the office. Prepare for those days and plan for some snacks you can grab on-the-go that are still packed with the nutrients you need. Just make sure you aren't solely eating snacks (especially not for breakfast).
- Eating the same thing everyday gets boring. This is why you spend time on your planning process. Think about foods you like, and then think of different ways to combine those foods. Eating cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, and fish for dinner every single day will get incredibly stale after a week. Mix it up; don't be afraid to try new things. This way, you'll want to keep going with meal prep, instead of getting discouraged.
- Relax. Meal prep is not about making you stressed and frustrated. It's for a purpose, which is to get you into a healthier, more organized lifestyle. As long as you keep up with your schedules and follow your own rules, you will be okay. You can do this!
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