There are so many benefits and pros of meal prepping: you save money, you can easily keep your diet on point, you dramatically reduce your risk of "going rogue" and eating harmful foods, you're in control of what's in your food, meaning you cut out many chemicals, preservatives and fillers from your diet. Score! But the one major downfall is the thing we all cherish most...TIME.
It's true, meal prepping can be seriously time consuming. I spent the better part of two years spending almost my entire Sunday buying groceries and meal prepping for the week ahead. Yes, I was in great shape and my life was much easier during the week, but after college I could no longer devote an entire day to prepping food. Now, throw in a spouse, kids, a real full time job and all the other fun things that come with adulthood and the notion of spending 5+ hours making food for JUST YOURSELF on a weekend is the punchline of a hilarious joke.
As someone who refuses to let excuses hinder my health, I've found ways to meal prep more efficiently and without owning 80 pieces of tupperware. Here are my 9 tips to save time meal prepping:
1. Prep As You Go
I tend to meal prep one meal at a time, for example when I'm making breakfast Saturday morning, I make a lot of it to get me through to Wednesday. The same goes for lunch and dinners. When I have time to cook, I go big. I've found this helps tremendously with spreading out cook and clean up time, and I get to change up my menu regularly.
2. Buy a Crockpot
Seriously, just do it. You can cook almost anything in it and in mass quantities, it's magical! Stay tuned for our top slow cooker recipes (coming very soon).
3. Make Nutrition and Calorie Dense Meals
If your days leave little wiggle room for actual eating, let alone prepping the food, be smart with your ingredients. Snacking aside, a typical meal should ideally contain protein, clean carbs and healthy fats. Shakes are a great example of what could be a nutrition and calorie dense meal that's super quick to make and consume. Click here for our 3 best meal replacement shake recipes.
4. Choose Easy To Assemble Meals
Keep. It. Simple. Sticking to the basics is a huge time saver. An example of a quick lunch to take with you to work if you don't have time to prep it: tuna and avocado mayo on ezekiel toast. Healthy protein, carbs and fats included and you only have to bring a few items with you. Don't overthink it peeps.
5. Choose Your Prepackaged Goods Wisely
Not everything pre-packaged is the devil. While we promote eating as many fresh, whole, real foods as possible, packaged goods tend to last longer and can come in very handy to fill in gaps of meal prepping. In my pantry you'll find things like canned tuna, Ezekiel bread, single serve oats, quality meal and protein bars, single serve pop corn (my drug of choice), and a wholeee lot of beans. All organic and low sodium where fitting.
6. Buy Pre-Prepped and Frozen Foods
Prepping for meal prep can take up just as much time as the actual cooking *sigh*. Cutting up veggies, dicing meat, boiling rice etc. can really eat away at the clock. If you value your time more than money, opt for pre chopped veggies, garlic/herbs in a tube or jar, bagged salad (just the greens), thinly sliced or diced chicken, quick cook rice etc. The minutes really start to add up when you take out these elements. Or, be ok with eating whole brussel sprouts, that works too.
Buy frozen! You can get organic produce at almost half the cost in frozen form without sacrificing any of the nutritional value. Doesn't get much better than that.
7. Keep Things At Work
Sounds obvious, but not everyone does it! I keep oatmeal, almond butter, PB2, honey and protein powder stocked at my desk. Always. That way if I'm rushed in the morning I know I'll at least get a balanced breakfast in with a shake and some oatmeal. It's not fancy, but it gets the job done!
8. Make More Plant Based Meals
Now we're not just pushing plant based because Alicia is vegan, there is a real time (and money) benefit to eating this way. Most ingredients you can eat raw or require very little cooking. There are tons of ideas online, but here is a plant based menu that includes recipes I commonly eat throughout the week.
This is key! Know what meals you're going to make ahead of time, even writing down a simple "menu" for the week will ensure you only buy what you need and take the guesswork out when you get home from a long day and don't "feel like anything." Little things like this can make a big difference.
Don't have children. Just kidding (kind of), but consider using a meal prep service. Do your research to find a reputable company that uses quality ingredients and potentially purchase some meals each week.
As with anything, meal prep also comes down to "what are you willing to do to reach your goals?" You may have to let go of the idea of wanting each meal to be restaurant quality, that's just not realistic if health and weight maintenance are the goal. You don't however have to skimp on flavor and variety! With some planning you can keep your diet in check while eating things you actually enjoy.