Meal prep, what to some is convenience and to others is their go-to method of maintaining fitness. Whatever reasons brought you here today, I’m going to give you the top 10 tricks for getting into this creative way to making meals throughout the week easier.
1) Deciding What Kind of Meal Prep You Want
Predominately among people who do meal prep, there are two major desires. One desire that is commonly professed among “preppers” is wanting to save time throughout the week by having meals ready to go that don’t take a ton of fuss to be ready to eat. The second desire is for those who share that sympathy but take it farther by distributing out and planning the meals for fitness goals. This implies balancing meals and calories to fit what is usually a strict self-made regimen of food. No matter which version of meal prep you wish to get into, they both are meant to provide meals you want to eat throughout the week without having to worry about cooking or caving in to carry out. How this is done, is predominately through making all your meals for the week usually on Sunday or at the end of the prior week, to have for the following. You make your food in bulk, divvy it up into however many meals you wish, throw some in the fridge, others in the freezer, and pull them out/alternate them as you need them throughout the week.
2) What Frequency of Meal Prep Are You Looking for?
Again this hobby can be something you do for fun or something you take seriously to help balance food in your life. But all the other tips are all contextualized by how much meal prep you want to do, and how creative you wish to get with it. Are you wanting to have meals for 3 days out of the week? Or are you wanting breakfast, lunch, and dinner all ready before the week even starts? Are you comfortable eating the same or similar meals each day, or do you want a few different options? Once you can answer this question you are already a third of the way prepared for getting into meal prep.
3) What Do You Need?
Really as with the other tips listed, what you need for meal prep all comes down to what frequency you’re looking for.However, what everyone needs no matter what you’re looking to get out of it are containers. The whole point of meal prep is to have meals at the ready for whatever time you’re looking to have them. This means you need a place to store said meals, and containers to divide them up however you wish. Now any kind of Tupperware container will work or any container that is segmented with a lid that is freezer and microwave safe. Or, if you don’t mind your food getting all mixed together, then just basic containers with one compartment will do you just fine. The end goal is to have individualized meals set aside in your fridge that you can just heat up and eat. Other than containers, if you’re looking to do meal prep for calorie tracking and fitness, it would be wise to invest in a kitchen scale so that you can divide precise amounts of food for each container. Other than these two items, it’s up to you how far you go along with other appliances. Some people in the meal prep world swear by rice cookers and crockpots to make large amounts of specific foods that save time and energy-again though, it’s up to you how far you wish to go into it.
4) Get Organized
Once you have your containers and any other appliances you’d like to use, make meal prep easier on yourself and get into an organized rhythm. Store your containers in the same place whenever not in use, and keep the same space open in your refrigerator and freezer for when you’re preserving your meals. Meal prep always falls apart when space starts to run out and dishes start to pile up. So make some space available and if you live with others, ask them kindly to leave some space in the fridge where you can put your meals that will be out of the way. This goes double for appliances and keeping the number of dirty dishes/containers to a minimum. I hear horror stories of some meal preppers thinking that making meals for a week means only doing dishes once a week as well. Which is fine if it works for you, but if you’re living with others-it usually tends to not.My fair warning to you has been given.
5) Planning Your Meal Prep
Once you’re organized with all your materials, its time to start thinking about how you’re actually going to start producing your meals. Obviously, at first there is going to be some trial and error. But to avoid the brunt of any mistakes, simply ask yourself a few questions like the ones mentioned in the first two tips. What do you want to eat? How are you going to prepare it? What ingredients do you need? Are you on a budget? What calorie gain are you looking for? Once you have a general idea of these things, or maybe you just don’t care about half the questions-get yourself to the store and do some shopping. Buy things you want to eat or things that fit into your answers to the questions above. The key thing to remember is if you’re doing a whole week of meal prep and doing multiple prep meals a day (like breakfast, lunch, and dinner) your shopping bill is probably going to be bigger than what you’re used to. So keep this in mind.
6) Tracking Your Meal Prep
Good grief, organizing, planning, and Tracking!? I know this all seems like a lot, but it really doesn’t have to be. Again these are just tips if you’re wanting to make the most out of meal prep, you can do as much or as little of this as you’d like. What I mean by tracking your meal prep, is by being conscious of the factors going into it. Compare how much food you’re buying week to week, and what the price at the bottom of the bill is. Also, look at your meals throughout the week, are they saving you lots of time to do work, or do you have more free time available to you? If things aren’t seeming better or worth your time, then perhaps its time to increase/decrease some factors of your meal prep. Maybe make more meals before the week starts-having breakfast and snacks prepared as well can be very convenient. Or if you’re noticing your paying too much to make all this happen, switching ingredients or meals to more wallet-conscious choices will be a benefit. All in all, be aware of deals and prices at varying stores/locations. The biggest factor of Meal prep is awareness, of what you’re putting into your body and how those foods are obtained/prepared.
7) Apps and Knowledge
Alongside these tips, I encourage everyone considering meal prep to do a little research about the topic. Obviously, if you’re here you’re on the right track already. But there are all kinds of fitness apps and programs out there that deal with meal prep and how to make the most of it. Searching meal prep on things like YouTube or Facebook will lead to an endless number of examples on how people manage meal prep and what tasty things they are prepping to make meals easier in their day to day lives. And if you’re really into the fitness aspect of this hobby, using a food scale and an app to track your progress will keep you right where you want to be in terms of your caloric intake.
8) Good Foods To Use
Obviously, the foods to use for your meal prep can be based entirely on your taste preferences. However, some good options for beginners would be basic forms of food groups. For protein, buy a package or two of chicken breast/ground beef-both are easy to cook and can be seasoned/prepared in any number of ways. And that’s really what you’re looking for to start off meal prep-food items that are basic as is but can be prepared any number of ways. That saves the number of things you buy from the store, while still keeping flavor and pallet options open. For starches go with rice or noodles, whatever suits you. They almost always can be found in bulk quantities and usually don’t go for anything too outrageous in terms of price points. I will warn you though if you go for noodles and do meal prep throughout the entire week-freezing some meals might turn the noodles out to be mushy. In terms of fruits and vegetables-go with whatever you like but keep in mind that frozen varieties might serve you better given that you again maybe freezing some meals to take out later in the week.
9) Knowing What to Make/Recipes
As I mentioned before, if you search meal prep into just about anything-recipes will start piling in at a ridiculous rate. I personally use Facebook quite a bit to get inspiration for meal ideas-groups like Healthy Meal Prep and Meal Prep Ideas post multiple ideas each day for maintaining fresh and healthy meal prep ideas that fit any number of tastes and preferences. Other than these ideas though, dig up some old family recipes that you like, or try your hand at restaurant-style foods. You can do whatever you like with meal prep, its all just about making meals throughout the week convenient for you.
10) Moving Forward With Meal Prep
So once you get all of this down, how do you take meal prep farther? Well for those in it for the fitness aspects, I would highly recommend talking to a dietitian-especially one at a local gym or wellness center. They can help really define your meal prep patterns and give you ideas with what your meals should look like/consist of. Otherwise, if you’re simply looking to get farther into meal prep-again stretch your boundaries. Teach yourself how to cook different things so you can expand your meal prep cookbook-try out different appliances to cook with if you have the means. Or as mentioned above, start planning out other meals throughout the day-or plan out meal prep for a business trip if you want to stay away from fast food. There is any number of applications for this hobby, and you can get as much out of it as you want.