Meal Prep 101

 Author: Kate Atkins @elevate_with_kate

Meal Prep 101

We all have busy schedules, running from one thing to the next. Grabbing food that's already made and ready to eat sounds like a great option on the go, but they aren't the best for our bodies. Most pre-made, packaged lunches/dinners are packed with sodium and preservatives that do our bodies more harm than good long term. There are awesome healthy, clean eating catering companies that make your food for you and some make food that's custom to your body type, metabolism, or fitness level. However, these catered foods aren't cheap and can add up quickly!!

The best option is to prep your own food. When you meal prep, you control what goes into your food and what you want to eat. Plus, it's a lot cheaper! At the beginning it can be overwhelming, but here are 5 Meal Prep Tips to help you become a food prep pro.

1. Plan your meals

I don't have a typical 8-5, Monday-Friday job and I work anywhere from 2-6 days in a row so I'm always planning what to make on my days off. Plus, I work 12 hour shifts so I have to plan for 2 meals for each day of work. For those that do work Mon-Fri, it's easier because you have the weekend to plan and prep for 5 days and only one meal...lunch! You should plan your dinner ahead of time too and that way if you don't mind taking leftovers to work, that will cut down the meals you prep at one time. Most meals are good stored in the fridge for 3-4 days and no longer. You can even make extra for dinner during the week to take for the rest of the days. For example: On Wednesday or Thursday, make enough for the next 1-2 days. Lastly, take one day during the week or even on Saturday, sit down and create your meal plan for the next week. Planning what you're going to eat and writing it down takes some of the stress off your shoulders.

2. Prep in bulk

When prepping your meals, it's easier to prep 3-5 chicken breasts at once than doing for example: 2 chickens, 1/2 lb ground turkey and one piece of salmon. Another thing I've learned is to buy chicken in bulk from a whole sale store and freeze 4 pieces of chicken in one freezer bag. I have usually 12 bags ready to go to thaw out and marinate which lasts me a 1-2weeks. The day before you meal prep, take 1-2 bags out and thaw out the chicken. Make a simple marinade and let it sit in the fridge anywhere from 3-24 hours and then it's ready to be grilled, baked or pan seared. You can do the same with salmon. Buy a large piece at a whole sale store, cut into 7-8 pieces, marinate in the fridge and it's ready to be cooked all at once! For ground turkey, I buy 1 lb on meal prep day, season it and cook until it's brown. I then make lettuce wraps, chili, or spaghetti with the ground turkey. 

3. Keep your meals simple

Meal prep day isn't the time to try a fancy meal with 20 ingredients. Save those for the days your not meal prepping or during the week when you can focus on just that one recipe. Look for recipes that have around 10 or less ingredients and don't require a lot of prep or cooking time. Simple, quick recipes will keep you from slaving away in the kitchen all day. Also try to use certain food items for different meals. Ex. When you prep 4-5 pieces of chicken, you can throw it on salad, into a wrap or it it with a side of veggies and a carb. Or roast a variety of veggies on a baking sheet and serve as a side on on a bed of greens with balsamic vinaigrette.

4. Pick a day to meal prep

Pick a day during the week to meal prep. For most people, Saturday or Sunday will be the best day. For people like me with a varying schedule, every day off is meal prep day for the next however many days of work. When you pick a day to meal prep, make it your priority. That way you will get it done before moving on to other things. You can do it!! 

5. Create a grocery list and go shopping!

This one is pretty simple and self explanatory. Once you've created your meal plan, make a list of all the ingredients you will need for each meal and hit the grocery store!  I like to shop at whole sale stores so I can buy larger quantities for a better price and at Trader Joe's which has a lot of food items at a better price than Target or Publix. Thankfully, Publix tends to have sales on some of their produce which helps as well! Your local Farmer's Market are great places to shop as well and support local business!

I hope these 5 tips help simplify meal prepping. Like everything else, the more you do it, the easier it gets! You'll learn what works and what doesn't, you'll figure out how to make it quicker and easier, and you may even find a buddy to make the process even easier! Happy meal prepping everyone :)

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