Meal Prep: A Simple, Healthy, and Cost-Effective Guide to Get StartedPosted: May 09 in Weight Loss Blog by Staff
If you find yourself at meal times eating food that is maybe expensive, unsatisfying, impractical, and unhealthy, then you may benefit from more structured meal prep. Meal prep isn’t simply packing leftovers into random containers to eat at a later, undetermined point, but instead a deliberate preparation of some or all meals ahead of time.
By preparing and planning your meals and ensuring that you have healthy and tasty meals readily available, you can avoid reaching for food that may be in conflict with your goals. Rather than mindless grocery purchases and subsequent extra costs and food wastes, you can purchase with your meal plan in mind. You will also find yourself with more free time during the week by cooking in bulk and reducing those last-minute grocery store trips.
And yet, while they may start well and with good intentions, people often fail at meal prep because they become overwhelmed or fatigued, which happens when you over-complicate your plan or take on too much too quickly. To sustain your meal plan and prep long-term, start small, maybe just 1-3 days of a few meals, and then work your way up to a level of meal prep that best suits you. Most importantly, keep your plan simple.
What does it mean to keep a meal plan simple, and where do you start planning?
Think about the meals that you’d like to plan for a few days, and then organize those meals into rows in a chart, with columns for each grocery component of the meal – protein, carbohydrates, fats, and produce. Don’t include long shelf-life kitchen or pantry staples such as cooking oils, acids (vinegars and citrus), seasonings, sauces, and aromatic ingredients (onions, garlic, etc.) as you should keep these in stock. Then, create a grocery list with the following items:
- 2-3 proteins.
- 3-5 complex carbohydrate sources to pair with each protein.
- 2-4 fats.
- 4-6 produce items.
- Protein: Eggs, Chicken, Fish
- Carbs: Quinoa, Oatmeal, Whole Wheat Wraps, Potatoes
- Fats: Nuts, Avocado, Cheese
- Vegetables: Cucumber, Tomato, Carrot, Broccoli, Spinach, Bananas
Then, arrange these items into the columns in your chart to create the outline for a meal. From there, you can easily swap cooking methods and seasonings to create versatile recipes.
- Breakfast: Scrambled eggs, fresh tomato, spinach, cheese, on a whole wheat wrap
- Lunch: Chicken and quinoa salad with carrot, cucumber, and nuts.
- Snack: One boiled egg, banana, nuts.
- Dinner: Fish with spinach, tomato, avocado, and broccoli salad and roasted potatoes.
Extra tips and tricks:
- Experiment with seasonings and sauces. The above examples have lots of room to play
- When roasting proteins or vegetables in bulk, divide them in your roasting dish and use different seasonings to save time but add variety.
- Try to include grocery items that can easily be either sweet or savory. Don’t be afraid to add one or two extra items in a week if you’d like. Meal prep is more sustainable when you don’t allow your recipes to become boring.
- If you’re not preparing an entire meal ahead of time, prepare ingredients like fresh vegetables ahead of time so that you can easily put a meal together without having to prepare each individual ingredient.
This meal planning system is a good base from which to start and sustain your meal prep journey. Try this method out, and see how much more healthy, convenient, and cost-effective your daily meals become, as well as how much more you enjoy your homemade and thoughtful meals in place of stale leftovers. Most importantly, keep it simple and delicious.