How-To be a Meal-Prep Boss
Meal-prepping is vital for anyone that wants to spend more time during the week doing what they want to do, whether you're a business professional, stay-at-home parent, someone on a fitness journey, whatever. I started meal prepping when I was working two jobs and was eating out way too often and ordering take out simply because I was too exhausted to cook during the week. Over time I've developed a system that makes meal prepping easy, relatively quick and fairly inexpensive.
Here is step-by-step what I do to meal prep:
STEP 1 - Make a Plan
Usually on Friday or Saturday I write a plan for the following week. You can break it down however works for you but I like to break it down by meal prep (usually lunch items), and then by dinners. For breakfasts I usually do a protein smoothie which requires no real prep. A sample plan for me will look like this:
Note how each meal is broken down by the ingredients needed and how many servings the recipe makes. This gives me an idea of exactly how many meals my meal prep will fulfill for the week so I don't over or under plan. I also like to always have a few frozen meals on standby in case I end up needed more meals than I have planned for.
Based on this I have meals for 5 dinners instead of 7 because I know that this week we have a family dinner and will be going to a baseball game another night.
STEP 2 - Create a Shopping List
After I have my plan set I like to create a shopping list from that plan. This is pretty straight forward and can change the actual meal plan. Don't be afraid to make changes as you make your shopping list to reduce waste.
For example, if your week only calls for 12-16 oz. of chicken and 16 oz. of ground turkey but it's cheaper to buy chicken in bulk, switch out the ground turkey recipe for another chicken recipe and save the extra money.
This is one of those things that to many will seem very tedious at first glance, but over time and with practice you get much better and it becomes so much easier. Usually I can create my shopping list in about 2-3 minutes from my plan. Bear in mind, I have been doing this consistently for a while. Here is an example of my shopping list created from the meal plan above:
Note that some items may seem missing or added. Sometimes I still have food in my fridge or freezer that can satisfy some of these meals. Also, as previously mentioned, I like to grab a few extra things to either snack on or have in case plans fall through and I need additional meals.
STEP 3 - Shop
Take your shopping list and get your groceries wherever you usually would. We prefer Trader Joe's as it's fairly inexpensive and has a lot of allergy friendly options. I've found it's very important to know your local grocery store well. When I am doing my planning it always helps to know what I can find at the grocery store and what is in season, as sometimes I may not be able to get certain foods that are not in season. And if it doesn't work out, be flexible! I've had to alter my meal plan right there at the store and that's totally ok! Whenever that happens I like to default to one of my simple favorites that only take about 3-5 ingredients.
STEP 4 - Prep your Groceries
We usually do our shopping and I do the prep on Sundays. I've just found that this is the easiest and most flexible day for me. When we get home from the store I like to separate out my veggies and prep those. This usually means chopping everything for my salads, stir fry, soup, or anything else I am making throughout the week. I've found that prepping my veggies on Sundays for the week makes cooking so much easier. I also like to chop some veggies for snacking throughout the week. Before I did this I was snacking a lot on chips or other types of junk food, but now it's so easy to just go into the fridge and grab a bag of pre-chopped broccoli.
STEP 5 - Prep your Meals
Finally, I prep my meals for the week. This would be anything in the meal prep column of my meal planning list. For my salads, this is usually already done when I prep my veggies, but for some of the other meals it may require a crock pot, the oven or even the stove. Generally I set aside anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to prep my meals for the week. Of course it depends on the recipes I am using.
My Meal-Prep Tips:
Plan, plan, plan. Failing to plan is planning to fail in the meal prep world. But keep in mind your planning can be as simple or extensive as you want and feel comfortable with. The important thing is that you make a plan at all.
Prep at once. This may seem like an unnecessary step, but it will save you time in the long run. I've found that chopping and prepping all my veggies at once saves time overall because I get on a roll with it and I only really have to clean my cutting board and knifes once.
Prep your snacks. Prepping your snacks can help you if you're counting macros or are on any sort of diet. Having the snacks ready to go makes them much easier to grab when you are in a rush or too tired from your day to prep anything.
Prep your protein. If you can, cook your protein at the beginning of the week and just add it into your meals throughout the week as you go. This saves time and also prevents food from spoiling before you can use it if you get tired throughout the week and decide you don't want to cook.
Let your crockpot be your best friend. Crockpots, instant pots and air fryers are essential for any meal-prep boss. They take away a lot of 'babysitting' time because you can just throw everything in and walk away.