There is no right or wrong way to meal prep, especially if you’re looking for a simple solution to all your questions regarding meal prepping. Meal prepping has recently become widely popular with the millennial generation that has stretched far past other generations, young and old. Whether you’re a meal prep newbie or you consider yourself more of a professional in the kitchen, meal prepping shouldn’t be a one size fits all program.
We all have different nutrition needs, different taste palates, different cravings, and different schedules so why would we all eat the same thing day in and day out? Sounds boring, unoriginal, and more like a diet that has been repackaged into microwaveable containers. Now, that’s not to say meal prepping is not a useful tool towards the health goals you’ve set for yourself. Meal prepping and planning is a wonderful tool to connect your current lifestyle towards your goals and health status. Below are a few of my tips and suggestions for when you want to plan and prep your future meals and how to stay away from the monotony, boring, and redundant meals.
The simpler it is, the easier it is to manage and sustain for longer than a few weeks. When we keep things simple, we have more time for other pressing details in our life. Keeping the meal prep simplistic is the key to making sure you have enough time to prep all the meals you want to without getting overwhelmed. Social media makes meal prepping out to be a fancy event in which we feel the need to prepare extravagant dishes. These meals would typically take a person all day to prepare, but who really has time for that when we’re talking about work, social life, kids, significant others, exercise, and life in general. I can’t stress this enough, keep things simple. Find meals you already know how to prepare and start with that. Sometimes the best prepped meals come from large batch cooking, meaning making 2-3 extra portions of your favorite meals for lunches or dinners during the week.
Most people connect meal prepping to only being lunch at the office, but it can really be anything you want it to be. My second tip would be to find the meal time that stresses you out the most and plan on that being your go-to meal prep time. When we plan for the meals in which we have the least amount of time, this helps to reduce our stress, eat well, and continue on with our busy schedules. If breakfast stresses you out because you can’t find the time to make a healthy breakfast in the morning- let that be the first meal you prep. However, if it’s lunch at the office and figuring out how to make it through a whole week without buying food in the cafe, plan on prepping your lunches. Meal prepping can also be pre-planning what your dinners are going to be or even the snacks in between. Whatever stresses you out, whatever meal time has the least amount of time for prep- start there.
Again, most people will try to plan out an entire week at one time. Starting with 7 days and or multiple meal times at once can get very overwhelming. I would advise to start out with only 3 days in advance. This is for a number of different reasons, one being our inevitable reaction to be indecisive and change our plans halfway through the week. Most of our schedules change constantly during the week and things happen, so to prevent any food waste (and not to mention wasted time) it’s best to plan for only 3 days in advance. Furthermore, our tastes change during the week. Craving something thing one day but not the next is perfectly normal, to prevent food boredom I advise sticking to the three day rule. Lastly, the three day rule is best when we want to keep things as fresh as possible. When we bring our lunch to work that was originally prepped 5-6 days ago it’s not going to taste as fresh and delicious as it did the first 3-4 days prior.
Giving yourself options is one of the best tips I can give to anybody who wants to start meal prepping, whether they are rookies or experienced alumni. Making sure we change it up every week and find new recipes to try out is important in order to keep the food monotony at baseline. Meal prepping the same thing over and over again can get pretty old, pretty fast especially if we’re talking about grilled chicken and brown rice. Here are a few ideas to make sure we’re giving ourself plenty of options throughout the week.
- Alternate cold meals vs hot meals
- Changing up snacks throughout the week/month
- Changing up pre-prepped meals (breakfast one week, lunch the next)
- Create a balance between complex carbs and protein (always include both)
- Always add some fiber and healthy fats
- Change up the same meals with different sauces, dips, dressings, and oils
Lastly, finding the right storage containers is important too. Using food containers that allow you (if necessary) to reheat without changing containers cuts down on energy, effort, and more waste. I like to use glass containers with extra secure lids, allowing reduced stress and worry if it’s going to spill or spoil. Furthermore, making sure you have some type of freezer pack to keep your food chilled is important in order to reduce spoiling or bacteria growth. There are several hundred different meal prep containers on the market today, finding the right one to meet your meal prep needs will be specific to you. Other ideas include little containers for dressings/sauces/dips on the side, drink containers, and lunch bags, boxes, or backpacks.
Here are a few of my favorite meal prep containers
- 3 Compartment (BPA Free) Plastic Meal Prep Containers-(Freezer and Dishwasher safe)
- 3 Compartment (BPA Free) Color Coded Plastic Meal Prep Containers- (Freezer and Dishwasher safe)
- 3 Compartment Glass Meal Prep Containers- (Freezer, Microwave, Oven, & Dishwasher safe)
- 2 Compartment Glass Storage Containers- (Freezer, Microwave, Oven, & Dishwasher safe)
- 1 Compartment Glass Storage Containers- (Freezer, Microwave, Oven, & Dishwasher safe)
This post is not affiliated with any of the brands mentioned above
Photos provided by Google Images, Burst Images, cover photo by Chelsea’s Messy Apron
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