Think of the words ‘meal prep’ and you likely conjure up images of 20 plastic containers filled with brown rice, baked chicken and steamed broccoli. The Instagram world has played a large role in the popularity of ‘meal prep’, but it is also part of the reason why so many of my clients don’t do it themselves. Balancing kids, work, the household, and everything else is hard enough – who has a spare four hours on Sundays to meal prep for the entire week?
Meal prep can seem a little overwhelming at first – where do you start? How many meals do you make? What if you don’t feel like eating that meal by the time Thursday comes around? Will it really last in the fridge for that long? I’m going to answer all of those questions, and more, in this article. I totally get the overwhelm, because I’ve been there too! That’s why I’m sharing with you my approach to meal prep – it’s simple, it’s not time-consuming, and it’s definitely not boring.
Where do I start?
Well, that depends on where you’re at right now. Do you prepare any meals in advance right now, or are you winging it as you go? For some of my clients, meal prep actually begins with creating a weekly menu and doing the weekly grocery shop on a specific day each week. You don’t have to start your menu on a Monday – if you have Fridays off work, why not do your groceries then and start your menu on a Friday night? There’s no rules, and it’s important to create a system that works for you and your family.
I know that a lot of my clients worry that they won’t have enough variety if they have a set weekly menu, but I always encourage a flexible menu (and that’s what I do for hubby and I, too). We have a rough idea of what we’ll eat each week, and if anything changes we adapt to it. For example, we might have dinner at my parents house one night, or go out on a weekend. If we’re not eating what I’ve bought and it won’t last, I pop it in the freezer and save it for next week.
How many meals do I make?
For me, it was really important that I started small when I first tried to prepare my meals in advance. It was way too overwhelming trying to make 7 breakfasts, 7 lunches and 7 dinners all at once. So when you’re starting out, stop and ask yourself this question: What part of the day is it hardest for me to make healthy choices?
If you tend to get a croissant on the way to work every day, then meal prepping a few breakfast meals would be the best place to start. If you’re more prone to getting takeout for dinner, then preparing dinner meals in advance would be ideal. If you’re someone who eats well all day and then succumbs to that darn chocolate craving every night, then preparing some raw cacao bliss balls or other healthy sweet treat is the best meal prep you can do for yourself. You see what I’m getting at?
There’s no hard and fast rule, but starting with the meal (or snack) you struggle with the most is the perfect starting place.
What if I don’t feel like eating the same meal all week?
Lady, I hear you! I love eating delicious meals, but I also love me a bit of variety too. I couldn’t think of anything more boring than eating brown rice, baked chicken and steamed broccoli for lunch and dinner seven days a week. Making meals that excite your taste buds is definitely important, and if variety is important to you then definitely mix it up.
As an example of how I keep things interesting and different, a few weeks ago I made my homemade pasta sauce on a Monday morning, and added heaps more veggies when I roasted the tomatoes – so all the nutrition was already in the sauce. Then Monday night all I had to do was cook some mince, heat the sauce and boil gluten-free pasta. Voila, dinner done! I had enough sauce for two meals, but hubby and I didn’t feel like the same thing again. So I made a lasagne on Tuesday night with zucchini and spinach layers, and the leftover mince and sauce from the previous night.
Meal prep doesn’t mean having the same meal over and over and over again until you can’t stand the sight of it. It’s just a matter of being a little more organised with your eating, and making things super simple for yourself whenever you can.
Will it last in the fridge?
Always use your common sense with meals, and follow expiry dates on meats of course. And if you have any doubts, your freezer is your new best friend. Defrost meals as you need them.
Let’s simplify meal prep.
First step is: identify the part of your day or week where you’re not staying consistent with your health eating, and start there. Prepare breakfasts, lunches, dinners or snacks that will help to keep you on track throughout the week. My free ebook ‘A Naturopath’s Guide to Simple, Easy Meal Prep’ is filled with high protein, high fibre recipes that can be prepared in advance, or made in under 10 minutes.
Once you’ve got that one covered, you can start to branch out a little bit. Slow cookers are great because you can choose meals that require very little prep, and then just turn it on and let it do it’s thing. You might like to try simple things like having brown rice or quinoa cooked and ready to go, or preparing something like my homemade pasta sauce in advance for a couple of different meals that week.
If you’re absolutely loving the meal prep and you want to start doing it for more meals in your day, go for it! But remember, it’s about small steps at a time. At the first sign of overwhelm, stop, breathe and reset. Are you starting too big? Can you simplify, and start smaller?
If you’re stressed about meal prep and it’s your least favourite part of the week, then you’re totally missing the point.
Meal prep should be about making things easier for you, not harder. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, and do it in a way that fits your life and your family. And definitely, definitelydon’t compare yourself to the Insta-models who prep 21 meals on a Sunday.
Okay, that all sounds great, but what am I supposed to be meal prepping?
I hear ya, and I’ve got you covered. I’ve put together a free ebook for you, with 18 of my favourite high protein, high fibre recipes that you can prepare in advance, or in under 10 minutes. You can download the ebook below for instant access to the recipes, and get started on your meal prep journey whenever you like, in your own way.
Remember, simple is best and overwhelm is not your friend. When you find a way to meal prep that feels good for you, it’ll absolutely change your week.
Lots of meal-prepping love,