Mastering meal prep can change your life. It can save you money on your grocery bill, reduce the stress of trying to figure out what you’re eating for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and most importantly, meal prepping can be a great foundation for eating healthy.
No matter what your nutritional goals are, meal prepping can help you achieve those goals. So how do you become a master at meal prep?
These tips to master your meal prep will get you started on the path to eating healthier this year and becoming a master at meal preparation.
1. Begin a Meal Prepping Routine by Starting With What You’re Already Eating
One reason a lot of people fail at meal prepping with the goal of eating healthier is that they believe in order to be successful at it, they have to overhaul everything they eat all at once. That’s a fast track to failing not only at meal prepping but at reaching your nutritional goals. It is extremely hard to stop in your tracks and begin eating an entirely new diet.
Starting small and building your nutritional habits one micro-change at a time is a better approach. Create a list of your nutritional goals, choose the most important one to you, and include it in your plan.
Want to include more dark leafy greens in your diet? Be sure to prep dark leafy greens so they’re ready to add to salads, soups, stir-frys, smoothies, sauces, and fresh juice throughout the week ahead.
Want to include more whole grains in your diet? Try cooking a large batch of quinoa on your meal prep day to serve as the base for some of your lunches and dinners throughout the week. Quinoa is heart-healthy, rich in antioxidants, and supports healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Do you have a wicked sweet tooth and require dessert every night? Try replacing your evening sugar bomb with healthy versions of your favorite desserts that are prepped, ready, and waiting for your sweet tooth to hit.
We love preparing chia seed pudding in little mason jars. When we are craving a sweet treat, we can just grab one and top it with sliced bananas or berries that we already have washed and ready to go.
The point is, that you don’t have to overhaul your whole lifestyle at once. Meal Prepping helps you add little changes to your meals by having the items you need to make those changes on hand and prepped. Chia seeds are great, but if they never leave your kitchen cabinets they’re not going to serve much of a purpose in your nutritional goals.
2. Meal Plan for the Week Ahead
Meal planning is essential to becoming successful at meal prepping. Could you go through everything you bought on your grocery haul once you got home and just prep all the random items for the week ahead…yes, yes you could. But the chances are you may have forgotten items to create the ideal meals you’d like to be eating.
Having a Meal Plan Saves You:
- Time; you won’t have to be making extra trips to the market for forgotten ingredients.
- Money; you won’t be wasting money on ingredients you don’t end up using.
- Stress; you won’t have to waste time and energy thinking (or worrying) about what you’re eating for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Try to plan your meals on the same day every week, but if that doesn’t work out, be flexible. If you were unable to meal plan on your usual day, don’t throw away your nutritional goals for the week.
We like to check the sales at our favorite market and meal plans around what’s on sale. Not every item has to be on sale, but if chicken breast is a staple for you, why not stock up a little for the following week too when it’s on sale?
Keep your nutritional goals in mind while planning your meals and try to incorporate new micro-habits along the way.
3. Master the Art of Grocery Shopping
Meal prepping is about being prepared, so there is little point going into the grocery store, stomach rumbling, without a grocery list. Whether you love or loathe it, meal prep is a seriously helpful (if not the most helpful) tool to make sure that you are hitting your nutrition goals, which will help you achieve your health and fitness goals.
Go into the grocery store prepared with a plan and a list. Creating your shopping list while you plan your meals for the week makes sense. As you choose what meals you want for the week, add the items you’ll need to your list.
We like to have our shopping list separated by the department or area of the store where the products are found.
Grocery List Categories We Use on Our Shopping List:
- Meat and Fish
- Prepared Foods (like sushi and rotisserie chicken)
- Frozen Foods
- Canned Goods
- Baking and Spices
Having an organized shopping list will prevent you from running back and forth throughout the store because you keep forgetting something you need.
Another good tip for mastering your shopping trips is to figure out the best order to shop the aisles. For example, if you’re buying cases of water, you don’t want to have to find room in your cart once it’s filled with fresh produce. Shop heavier items first, produce on top of that, and then dairy and frozen items last.
Want to save even more time? Order your groceries online for either pick-up or delivery. This can save time and money because you won’t be adding items that aren’t on your list to your cart while in the store.
4. Prep Ingredients to Easily Assemble Meals Throughout the Week
Meal prep doesn’t mean you have to pre-cook every meal you plan to eat in the week ahead. You can do a combination of cooking full meals to be heated up later and prepping ingredients to put together meals throughout the week.
Maybe you only prep ingredients for meal assembly or maybe you cook a large batch of veggie chili that can easily be warmed up and prep other ingredients for easy meal assembly throughout the week.
Preparing ingredients to cook every night takes up a lot of time. This is where you can save time throughout your week by setting aside a couple of hours one weekday, whatever works for you, to prepare and cook the components of your meals, like quinoa, boiled eggs, and lettuce for salads, for assembly at a later date.
If you have your ingredients all prepared and cooked, assembling them into a meal may only take minutes. Some simple-to-cook or prepped ingredients can easily become the basis for several meals throughout the week.
When prepping ingredients, you are going to want to prepare each ingredient for all meals at the same time instead of grating carrots for one recipe and julienning the right amount of carrots for another recipe half hour later when you are prepping for a different meal.
Prep one ingredient for all meals, then go to your next task, so that you do not have to clean up your tools, and not lose valuable time in the prep process jumping back and forth between ingredients.
Another thing that will help as you are learning what methods of food preparation work best for you, is making sure that you are trying to prepare things with the right tools— like Crockpots, steamers, and rice cookers—that allow you to prepare large amounts of things at a time.
5. Make Batch Cooking a Habit
Prepping several meals ahead of time every week puts you on a faster path to healthy eating, as eating these meals later becomes just as easy as eating a microwavable processed meal, faster than takeout, and healthier and cheaper than either.
Try making batch cooking a habit and you will be incorporating it every week in no time. Whipping up a batch of healthy pumpkin muffins? Double the recipe and freeze what you won’t eat in a week.
Cooking in bulk means you can freeze some for later, keep some for now, and keep some in the fridge for the week.
When shopping for proteins, you’ll often find things like ground beef and ground turkey on sale often, this is a great opportunity to cook a bunch of meat at once that you can make into many different meals. For example; we love to cook a few pounds of ground turkey at once and turn it into the base for different meals like tacos, chili, meat sauce for pasta or pizzas, or even use some to bake a meatloaf or meatballs.
Batch cooking is great for sauces, stews, and soups because they all freeze well. It also works great for baked goods and breakfast sandwiches.
6. Seek Out and Follow the Right Food Bloggers
No matter what your nutritional goals are, no matter what your dietary needs are—there are food bloggers out there creating and sharing recipes that will inspire you to create beautiful meals that are healthy and that fit into your specific nutritional needs.
Looking for Asian-inspired gluten-free recipes? There are food blogs for that. There are bloggers publishing recipes for every food niche out there. So whether you are looking to cut refined sugars, eat more vegetables, cut out gluten, are vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, or follow a keto diet, there is plenty of meal inspiration to be found on the internet.
Seek out healthy food bloggers who cater to your food preferences and then bookmark them or follow them for inspiration. Fill your social media feed with healthy, beautiful foods you’d love to eat.
7. Understand That Mastering Meal Prep Does Not Equal Perfection
Start where you’re at. Understand that meal prep doesn’t have to be perfect! Over time you can invest in the best containers to hold your prepped foods in the fridge and freezer, but for now, use what you have.
Your refrigerator doesn’t need to be Instagram-perfect in order to be successful at meal prep. If you don’t have a lot of time to invest, simply start by washing and cutting fresh fruits and vegetables right after your grocery shop and store them in airtight containers in the fridge.
Having fresh fruit and vegetables washed and properly stored means you’ll have access to healthy choices all week long. You’ll be more likely to add more veggies to your meals and more likely to grab a piece of fruit an hour before dinner instead of hitting the cheese and crackers.
These seven tips to master your meal planning will get you started on the path to eating healthier this year and becoming a master at meal preparation.
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