Meal Prep Tips, Tricks, & Inspiration
Meal prep, next to meal planning, is easily the most important thing I do to set myself up for a week of healthy headache-free meals. Why? Because I head into my week with a kitchen stocked with food that allows me to throw together a meal at a moment's notice. So, regardless of what the day or week holds, I have options waiting for me at the end of the day to deter any temptation of ordering delivery pizza or hitting a drive-thru on my way home from work in the name of simplicity. Meal prep is something I commit to doing every weekend, because I know that if I skip it, I'll be a hurting, frustrated lady come midweek.
How do I approach my meal prep without spending my entire (and much needed) weekend in the kitchen? What meals do I cook? How do I store my foods to keep them fresh? These are all questions I have been getting more and more. So, my lovelies, here are my tips, tricks, and inspirations for meal prepping and keeping your sanity intact.
1) Don't try and do it all. The goal of meal of meal prepping isn't to have everything for the week cooked (at least, not for me), just the staples or the meals that would be the most time consuming to make. Trying to do it all will just overwhelm you and that kind of makes meal prepping counter-productive in the efforts of simplifying healthy eating. Slice the veggies for lunches. Make a big salad or pot of soup for dinners. Cook up a batch of pancakes or muffins for breakfasts. Think about what you will need to have on hand to get a meal together quickly and make those things during your meal prep!
2) Prep a little something for each meal. You'll thank me for this later. A lot of people think to just meal prep for dinners, but breakfast and lunch need planning too! There is nothing worse than waking up late and trying to figure out how to get a healthy breakfast on the table in even less time than you normally have or trying to pack a lunch for work or school when you are totally tapped of creativity. Make sure you work in a few dishes for each of those meals into your meal prep line-up. What's the worst that's going to happen if you don't need them? You throw those muffins you made in the freezer for another week or you'll eat those sliced veggies with dinner instead of a salad? Pffftttt.
3. Meal plan! This is vital guys! How are you going to know what you need to prep if you don't know what you are going to eat?! You don't have to have every meal nailed down solid, but at least have a general idea so you can not only make what you need to ahead of time but also buy appropriately at the grocery store.
4. Break out that slow cooker! Okay, while that doesn't really seem like it's part of meal prep, I can't tell you guys enough how amazing it is come home to the aromas of dinner already cooked at the end of a busy day. Plan a slow cooker meal for the day you have to work late or that you are having company over and you want to socialize instead of being in the kitchen. You can prep those easily as well! Just chop and/or measure out the ingredients into a container so that all you have to do to get a meal cooking is dump everything into the slow cooker and turn it on. This is the slow cooker that I own and love.
5. Make it a habit. Look at your week. When can you commit an hour or two to just focus on getting meal prep done? Mentally schedule it in and do it! And then do that again the following week. Meal prep may not be super easy right off the bat, but just like everything in life, it'll get easier with practice. So make it a habit, and before you know it, you will have to spend less and less time prepping and more time reaping the benefits of being so organized!
6. Be realistic. Assuming you don't want to spend your entire Saturday cooking, don't plan a week's worth of crazy complicated meals. Make sure your menu and your meal prep is a happy balance of fun, interesting, and simple.
7. A little prep is better than no meal prep. So you didn't have time to make that spaghetti squash lasagna you saw on Pinterest but you did manage to cook up some brown rice and hard boil some eggs? So what? You'll be happy that night you get to quickly warm up that rice and throw some beans over it for dinner or that morning you hit the snooze button one too many times and those eggs were there to grab for a quick breakfast. You don't have to have all your meal prep ducks in a row to benefit from having some of them there.
8. Make sure you have enough storage containers. This might seem like a no-brainer, but the last thing you want is to work hard on getting food all prepped for the week, only to discover that you don't have enough containers to store everything in! I highly recommend air tight containers so that everything stays fresh for as long as possible. I might be biased, but I looooovvveeee my mason jars. I find so many ways to use them in my meal prep! I portion out soup in them for quick lunch bag packing, or store my sliced fruits/ veggies in them to keep them extra fresh. They come in a lot of different sizes, are dishwasher safe (a must for me in a kitchen product), and just seem to be the perfect size and shape to fit in the fridge or lunch bag. If mason jars aren't your thing, any air tight container will work for keeping all your hard work fresh while you store it or after you've portioned it out. I also use these containers for meal prep storage.
So, now that you are ready and willing to meal prep, what do you cook? I thought you might ask! Here is a round up of meals, ideas, and recipes that are great to work into your meal prep plan.
Naturally Gluten Free Buckwheat Waffles (they reheat like a dream!)
Smoothie kits= Jars/bags of smoothie ingredients portioned out and ready to dump into the blender
hard boiled eggs
Banana Bread Muffins (grain-free)
Cranberry Orange Muffins (grain-free)
Homemade Almond Milk (so easy and it tastes a million times better than store bought)
Orange Walnut Scones (grain-free)
(To be honest, we eat leftover for lunches most of the time or I pack a lot of "snacky" options and salads)
hard boiled eggs
nuts (portioned out)
Stuffed Dates (or just dates on their own)
Veggiefied Mini Meatloaves (grain-free and already portioned out for easy storage)
rice (for quick stir fries or to throw some beans over)
washed and chopped greens for quick salads (tip: to keep greens from going mushy after you've prepped them, let them air dry a bit and then throw a dry paper towel into the storage container with them to absorb extra water)
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