By Courtney LeVesque
Let’s be honest, meal prep is a reliable way of simplifying the busy week, but actually following through and getting it done, well, that doesn’t always happen. If you’re like the rest of us trying to implement subtle ways of making the long week easier to navigate, then you’ve probably tried planning out your meals and portioning them into easy to grab containers.
For many meal prep comes down to thinking ahead, deciding on your food for the week, and then carving out the time to get it done. But often, this plan slowly fades out, and before we know it, we are back to old habits, grabbing unhealthy food on the go, or skipping meals altogether. Come home at the end of the day, hungry, and nothing to put on the dinner table? This is where many healthy eating plans fall off track.
Follow these simple steps to bulletproof your meal prep, and void all opportunities to fall back into unhealthy eating habits.
#1 Make a plan
Make a plan, a food plan that is. What do you want to end up on your plate this week? From protein-filled breakfasts, easy to grab snacks and dinners that don’t leave you wanting to eat the rest of the food in the house, write it down. Use this simple outline to rough draft your weekly meals. And if you are new to prepping food, take a look at the food storage containers you have on hand if you need to pick up some more Tupperware when you head to the store.
#2 Schedule in the time to prep
Schedule in the time to prep. Unless you are resorting to lots of prepackaged goods for your meals, you will need to plan a couple of hours for meal prep. Some people may choose to do two smaller prep sessions per week. Others may need just one. Take a look at your schedule and see when the best time for you is.
#3 Make a list
After you have a plan, make a list. Getting to the grocery store without a list will be an easy opportunity to fumble and come home with junk that can derail you. Make sure your list is thorough to manage time in the store and to avoid later last-minute trips that will likely lead you down isles of temptation. Having an ongoing list on the refrigerator, or your phone will also help with those “easy to forget” items.
#4 Line out at least 4-5 days of meals
Now that you have what you need for the week revisit your food plan, and get to prepping. Whether you are preparing loaded salads or pre-cooking your proteins, line out at least 4-5 days of meals. If you want to do more, try making and freezing the other half of the portion for down the road when you are traveling or unable to make time to prep. This will be your back up plan, and can also be your go-to meal on nights that you forget to plan dinner, or need a super easy, pop in and reheat kind of meal.
#5 Have your own space
Make a specific area in the fridge, cupboard, or pantry for your food. If you mix your prepped food into the open spaces instead, you risk overlooking them, or losing them in everything else and walking into the day without your food. (I have my own cupboard in my house for my food and snacks so I can also avoid the “not for me” items my family has. Out of sight, out of mind works to combat those tempting treats – this may work well for you, too).
#6 Guilt-free goodies
If you are on a mission to lose weight or are working to avoid food triggers, chose one day a week (can also be on the weekend) to have a meal or snack outside of the prepped food. Allow yourself to enjoy that goodie you’ve been craving guilt-free then get back onto the plan.
Now that you know how to start prepping your meals, it’s time to put it into action. Planning when it comes to nutrition can save you a lot of time during the week and can help keep you on track with your fitness or weight loss goals – but you have to follow through. Aim to make this a weekly tradition, and if you can, get a partner. Chances are there is someone else in your circle that could benefit from prepping meals. Team up to be accountability buddies, or you can even get together on the weekend and have a prep party.
Want one more hack to make this process easier? Utilize that crockpot sitting in your pantry. Knock the dust off of it and load it up with your favorite meal. This is a great way to manage your time in the kitchen, and bulk batch your food, not to mention crockpot ideas are endless.