When hunger strikes at meal time and you’re unprepared, it can be bad news for your wallet and food journal. Keep hunger at bay with planned meals throughout the week in an easy and organized fashion by meal prepping once or twice during the week and diverting those stressful “what are we eating for dinner?!” meltdowns.
Benefits of Meal Prepping:
Stay On Track – Sticking to a list of ingredients that will serve you as snacks and meals for a grocery list will keep you from stocking up on the less-than-healthy snacking items that may look appealing to you when you get to the store. Also, if your meals are planned out and you have them already prepared and waiting, you won’t be tempted to stop for that “easy” takeout meal on the way home. As it’s said, “failure to plan is planning to fail.”
Save Money – Again, the ingredient list will serve you to stay on track at the grocery store and not buy extra items that you don’t need. Also, planning out snacks and meals that share ingredients will ensure that you’re buying only what you need and nothing will go to waste. The biggest money saver by far is the amount you’ll be saving from not purchasing the extra snacks, to-go foods, or dinner-out meals.
Less Time, Less Stress – Even if you are a speedster and able to make healthy meals in 30-minutes each day, that still adds up to 2.5 hours over the course of 5 days. Why not take the daily chore and stress out of it and kick out all prepping in 2-3 hours at one time in an open block of your schedule? This way you won’t have to worry about what the meal-of-the-day is every day and feel confident that it’s taken care of already.
Better Nutrition – With planning your meals and snacks, it will ensure that your ingredients are nutritious and balanced across all food groups. Your fruit and vegetable intake will sky-rocket with having them bought, cleaned and ready for easy snacks and ingredients in your meals. And again, you won’t be bombarded with the temptations of “easy” to-go foods that aren’t nutritious since you already have easy and nutritious food prepared.
Gather Recipes – Start finding easy and healthy recipes from food blogs, Pinterest, social media sites, magazines, or even your own family recipes with healthier alterations, if needed. Pick out at least three recipes to cover you for the five days you’re prepping for during your workweek and the other two days can be leftovers from any of the previous days’ meals or something simple to prepare that day (i.e. ‘tis the grilling season!). When choosing recipes, try to pick a couple that use similar ingredients in order to limit your grocery list and ensure that you use everything.
Make a List – From the recipes you’ve picked out for the week, create a list of all of the ingredients that you need to make each recipe. Once you have the ingredients for each recipe on your list, cross-check with your pantry to see what ingredients you can mark-off on the list that you already have. After the ingredients for the recipes are down, think through what your breakfasts, snacks, and lunches will entail and add those – oatmeal, fresh fruit, yogurt, veggies, salad ingredients, whole grain bread or tortillas for sandwiches or wraps, eggs, nuts, etc. are easy-to-make options and great to have on-hand along with your meal ingredients.
Grocery Shop – Once you have your list and checked it twice, you’re ready to head out to the store! Just be sure to stick to your list, that way you’re keeping your grocery bill down and not stocking up on anything extra. Try to shop during a block of time on the weekend that will allow you time to prepare the food right away when you get home.
Prepare and Store – When you are home from the store, organize the ingredients per recipe and fresh fruit and veggies for cleaning and cutting. If your breakfast and snack items need to be portioned out or prepared in any way, do that as well. Use your prep time efficiently by preparing the ingredients that are called for in multiple recipes at the same time – for example, if all three recipes use chicken, prepare the amount of chicken you’ll need for each recipe in one batch. If it requires different spices, add the spices after it is cooked and separated. Once your recipes are assembled, you can decide if the dish would be best cooked at that time and then just need a reheat before eating, or if it would be better to have prepared and left uncooked until you’re ready to eat it. As for snacks and lunches, clean and cut up fruit and vegetables to have ready for the week and decide if you’ll want to use leftovers from your meals for the next day’s lunch or if you want to prepare salads or wrap/sandwich ingredients in separate portions – just leave off the dressing or wrap/bread until the day of eating.
Most everything you prepare will last 4-5 days properly stored, which will cover you through the week until the next time you need to prep again. Happy and healthy meal-prepping!
Charge UP Health | Fitness
Rena Roark, CHC, CPFT, is a Certified Health Coach and Certified Personal Fitness Trainer and owner of Charge Up Health and Fitness, LLC. She works with individuals and group clients as a health and fitness coach to offer support and guidance for their health goals through a holistic look at their lives, helping to find balance between exercise, diet, career, and relationships. Providing accountability and motivation, she can help reduce stress, increase energy and self-confidence, and ultimately help individuals work towards the best version of them.
Please be aware that this article is not a diagnosis, prescription or recommendation for any individual. Before starting food and/or exercise programs, or using any vitamin or supplement, you should always talk it over with your doctor. He or she may have specific recommendations or warnings depending on your health and the other medicines you take.