If you follow my Instagram account then you know that most Sundays I spend my afternoon meal prepping for the week. Since I started sharing those afternoons with the IG world I’ve received quite a few questions about how exactly I do it. So I thought it might be beneficial if I did a series of posts on the three most important steps of meal prep.
I have to get one thing off my chest though. I have a real love/hate relationship with meal prep, bordering on just always kind of hate it.
I know. I know.
That said, I still meal prep (almost) every week and definitely think it’s worth it for a number of reasons. Primarily, it saves time and money, cuts down on food waste and enables you to eat nutritious foods throughout the week even on a tight schedule. For me, a full time job and night classes plus an hour commute each way doesn’t leave much time for cooking meals fresh and without meal prep I’d be buying between 7-12 meals per week.
Before I dive into why and how, let me take a step back.
What is meal prep? If I hop outside my nutrition student bubble I realize that some people have no idea what I’m talking about. Meal prep, to me, is essentially preparing food for the week ahead in a way that allows you to enjoy nutritious meals that work with your schedule. Notice I emphasized enjoy? Eating well doesn’t mean eating foods you don’t like. That just isn’t a sustainable lifestyle choice. So when we get into it, remember you'll want to consider things you actually enjoy eating otherwise you’ll probably end up wasting a bunch of food.
Admittedly, meal prep can seem overwhelming and as with most things, it takes trial and error to know what will and will not work for you. I’ve broken down how I approach meal planning and prep into three easy steps!
I’m crossing my fingers that you’re all confident enough that these steps will work for you so much so that what I’m about to say does not completely deter you from trying, but I have to be honest. There are two main reasons why I don’t fully love meal prep.
- Remember step 1? Plan. Meal prep requires just that, planning. Not a ton, but planning nonetheless. There is just no way around it and sometimes you won’t have time to think that much about your food and then other times you just won’t WANT to do this. However, this is hands down the most beneficial step. Basically, you think about your food for the week once and then not again until you’re picking out what you want from what you’ve prepped. It's not so bad...
- Intuitive eating, or eating according to what your body craves in that moment, makes meal prep a little more of a challenge. When I first started I did a lot of batch cooking of recipes (more on this in my planning post) because I assumed I’d want to eat the same thing everyday. And while I probably could eat the same breakfast 95% of days, by Thursday I usually didn’t want what I had prepped for lunch or dinner. Intuitive eating will play into how you prefer to do your meal prep and for me it means preparing individual ingredients that will work in a multitude of ways. There will definitely be trial and error at first and even then there will still be times when you just don’t want what you’ve prepped. That's okay sometimes too but 9 times out of 10 I still feel like I can make a meal I enjoy from the ingredients I have on hand.