When you’re in the hustle and bustle of daily life, finding time to cook nutritious meals for you and your family can be a challenge. That’s where meal prepping comes in. A game-changer, that not only ensures you have delicious and healthy meals readily available, but also saves time. The chilly winter season is the perfect time to get on the meal prepping wagon! If you are new to meal prep, or even new to cooking, don’t worry! This post will take you through a few steps to start incorporating this efficient and wholesome habit into your routine for healthier food choices every day.
1. Start Simple:
As a beginner, keep the meal prep simple. Start with grocery shopping at least once per week. Consider choosing 1-2 recipes to make during the week so you have a bit of a plan. Simply thinking about meal ideas, and shopping for the ingredients might be all you can do right now and that is a great step towards healthier eating to nourish your body. Being over ambitious about your meal prep can lead to frustration or avoidance, so take it one step at a time!
2. Choose Versatile Ingredients:
Opt for ingredients that can be used in multiple recipes. For example, grilled chicken and washed vegetables can be used for salads, wraps, or stir-fries. This not only streamlines your shopping list but also ensures variety in your meals. If your goal is to increase satiety or improve body composition, focus on prioritizing protein in your meal prep process and look for inspiration from higher protein meals.
3. Batch Cook:
Save time by washing and/ or cooking larger quantities of staple ingredients like whole grains, proteins, and vegetables. You might just wash and prep your vegetables , hard boil a few eggs, or cook chicken in advance to make cooking easier during the weekdays. Store these separately and mix and match throughout the week to create different meals. This approach minimizes the need for extensive daily cooking.
3. Plan Your Menu:
Once you feel comfortable with shopping and basic cooking, the next step in meal prepping might be cooking a few meals in advance. Take just a little time each week to decide what meals you’d like to prepare. Choose easy recipes with less ingredients and simple cooking methods. For example, try sheet pan meals or one pot meals to make preparing meals and cleaning up easy to do, and sustainable.
4. Stack Your Prep Time:
Set aside a specific time each week for meal prep. Whether it’s on a Sunday afternoon or a weeknight, having a dedicated time slot helps establish a routine. Put it in the calendar, and try habit stacking, or placing your meal prep after an existing weekly habit. For example, start your prep when you’re unloading groceries, or prep an extra meal as your cooking dinner for the night. This will make you more likely to adopt the habit, instead of putting it off every week. You can also prep in Stages to make it more manageable. One day you might focus on chopping vegetables, another day on cooking proteins, and another on assembling meals. This reduces the workload and makes the process more fun.
6. Stay Flexible:
Life happens, and sometimes plans change. While setting a time and plan for your prep is helpful, sometimes you need to have flexibility with your meal prepping routine. If you miss a session, don’t be too hard on yourself. Adapt and make adjustments as needed. One week you may be able to plan all of your meals, and the next you’re just batch cooking 2 ingredients. Either way, thinking about weekday meals makes you more likely to prepare nourishing and well thought out meals and less likely to do takeout or go out to eat due to convenience.
Meal prepping is a powerful tool for simplifying your life and maintaining a healthy and balanced eating routine. By starting simple, choosing versatile ingredients, batch cooking, and/or planning your menu, you can transform your relationship with food. As you become more adept at meal prepping, you’ll discover a newfound sense of control over your diet, saving time and ensuring that nutritious and delicious meals are always within arm’s reach. Start small, keep it simple, be flexible, and meal prepping can become a rewarding and sustainable habit for a healthier, happier you.