Meal prepping during this day and age is all the rage. Maybe for good reason, but not all of us are equipped to enjoy a Sunday filled with multiple recipes and meals going on at once. Most of us like to enjoy what time we do have on the weekends without having to worry about prepping for the coming week ahead. Going into the fall season, we all know what takes up most of the weekend, at least in our house the air is filled with football camaraderie and the kitchen is already busy with other food prep. What I am trying to say is, if you don’t have time to meal prep or feel left out of the millennial age because your mindset is just not into meal prepping– it’s perfectly fine! In fact, meal prepping can sometimes restrict your diet adversity if you stick to the same meals over and over again. This can lead to food boredom, diet mentality thoughts, food restriction, and feeling the need to calorie count– all of which I recommend to stay far away from.
Instead of feeling pressured to meal prep during the weekend, why don’t we start with meal planning instead? And what’s the real difference anyways?
Meal planning is essentially sitting down for only a few minutes out of the week and thinking about the meals you want to prepare/consume during the coming week. This technique is beneficial for multiple reasons..
First, it reduces food waste at a substantial cost. By having a loose plan for the week before going to the grocery store we know exactly what we need for the week, what we don’t, and the amount of food thrown away at the end of the week is minimized.
Second, it gives us a plan when we are too busy to be creative. It’s common after a long day to come home and just want to rest, order take out and be done with it. Furthermore, who has spent the better part of the evening aimlessly walking around the kitchen for 30 minutes trying to decide what to make for dinner, then finally decided to snack all night because you’re too tired to be creative and whip something up.
Third, it gives us food freedom and flexibility. This is the biggest difference between meal prepping and meal planning and why I love to plan vs prep. Meal planning gives us the freedom that meal prepping does not allow for. When your weekly plans change (as they normally do) your meal plans allow for change as well unlike a pre-prepped meal that might go to waste.
Much like meal prepping, they both begin in the planning stages. Sitting down before the week begins with a pen and paper and thinking about how your week will play out. Will it be extra busy, extra slow, time to spare in the evenings, or will you be running from place to place all week? Even when you foresee yourself running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off you can still plan for your meals, thus reducing food waste. Even when eating out is your only option, you can still plan where you will dine without giving in to your last minute cravings for fast carbs and satisfying fat from the corner store.
Here’s what I do..
Knowing somewhat what my schedule for the week looks like and who will be home to eat dinner, I start planning different meals I enjoy cooking that don’t take too long to whip up. I write down 4-5 different dinner options, knowing I will have leftovers some nights and other nights we might be out and about. Next, I write down 3-4 different lunch options, knowing lunch is the most unpredictable meal at our house. I usually try to make something that lasts for a few days so that I have leftovers to grab and go. Then, I think about the basics for breakfast and what we typically enjoy, such as eggs, milk, oatmeal, fruit, toast, etc.
Next, I check my inventory..
After I have my meals written down, I check to see what items I already have in the fridge and what I still need to get when I go to the grocery store. Writing down only what I need for the recipes, my food waste goes from substantial to minimal because I am only buying what I know we will be eating for the week. Furthermore, this eliminates the last minute runs to the grocery store every other day, racking up the grocery bill, and questions of inquiry about how my monthly grocery bill got to be so outrageous. My weekly routine visit to the grocery store is typically on a Friday, stocking up for the weekend and into the week ahead.
Although I enjoy a good meal prep every once in a while, I’ve never been a huge of it because of my personal preference not to eat the same thing over and over again in a week. Although meal prepping has some wonderful benefits to it, don’t feel pressured to enjoy it just because the next person does. It’s okay to break free from a mundane cyclic food schedule that doesn’t guarantee weight loss. Finding the right schedule that grooves with you and your family’s lifestyle is important, whether that be meal prepping, meal planning, or just making it up as you go along.
All photos used were taken by and for The Healthy Chew, all rights reserved.
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