Meal prepping is a functional habit that is gaining popularity due to the different benefits it provides to people of all lifestyles. Meal planning ahead of time using a slow cooker or instant pot is a great way to save time during the week, to stay focused on your dietary goals, and to simply take a load off your mind!
In this article, we’re focusing in on our top tips for effective meal prepping. Whether you are new at this, or a seasoned food prep vet, you can hopefully find a few meal prep tips here that will help you to simplify this process and get a healthy meal for your meal plan.
Set Your Goals First
First things first with meal prepping, you need to decide on a goal. Not everyone does meal prepping for the same reason, and the process will be highly specific to your personal goals and dietary needs. An effective meal prep will create the meals that will help you meet these goals.
This starts with an effective understanding of the basics of nutrition. You need to know exactly what benefits are offered by different food groups and nutrients. From there, you need to decide on why you are prepping. Are you doing it to lose weight? Do you want to stick to a certain diet? Do you want to fuel an active lifestyle? Your end goals will be extremely influential in deciding what you prep, and will act as an overarching guidance for all of your meal prepping activities.
Meal prepping is essentially all about planning. You shouldn’t be opening up your fridge on Sunday and deciding what you can prep. You need to first sit down and settle on a plan as to what you are going to prep. It is important that you do this before you start the process. You need to know exactly which ingredients you need in order to meet your goals.
So take some time to make a list of what you need, and set aside some time to get it. All of your prepping activities will stem from this initial plan, so it’s important to do it right and to do it in congruence with your goals that were established above.
Pick a Consistent Day and Time to Make It!
Habit is the foundation to any lifestyle change, and prepping is no different. So the key to any of these changes is turning them into a habit. The trick to sticking with any habit is to set aside a day and time to do it, and to turn it into a routine.
You need to build a consistent schedule for prepping your meals, and you need stick to it!
So pick a day that you know works for you, and settle on the amount of meals you want to prep each time. You need to pick a day where you know you will have the time. Set it and forget it.
Settle on a Storage Method That Works for You
Another crucial part of prepping is having the proper tools for storage and for consumption. Depending on what you are prepping, you will want containers of different sizes, materials, and levels of insulation.
Different containers will offer different benefits. Whether you want containers that are reusable, disposable, divided into compartments, microwave-safe, or more, there are many options out there.
The key is to know what you are going to be prepping, and how much you will prep, so that you can get containers that will meet your needs.
Balanced Meals (and Variety)
As with anything else in life, meal prepping requires balance. Of course, the actual food you will prep will differ depending on your specific goals, but balanceis something that will remain unchanged. Any diet will surely consist of a variety of different food groups and nutrients, and you need to ensure that the meals you prep will cover all these bases.
Often, people will even prep a main and prep sides. No matter how you choose to prep, it is important that you are able to cover the foundations of a healthy diet.
And don’t forget variety as well! No need to prep the same thing every week. Once you have settled on a nutritional routine, you will find hundreds of recipes and inspirational ideas online. Prepping doesn’t have to be boring!
Bulk Buy the Essentials
Meal prepping is all about making large quantities of food at once, so why not also buylarge quantities at once. Once you have settled on a plan and know what diet you are going to be sticking to, consider all the ingredients that you will be using on a regular basis. If these ingredients keep for a long time (think rice, beans, canned goods, etc.) then why not buy a bunch at once and make some freezer meals? You can even buy frozen veggies from the grocery store and store them for longer than a fresh vegetable.
You can usually get discounts for buying in bulk, especially on frozen foods like chicken breast or frozen veggies, and it’s also a way to save yourself multiple trips to the grocery store. The more things you can do to make the weekly meal prep process easier on yourself, the more likely you will be to stick to healthy recipes.
Don’t Be Too Strict – Pack Some Taste!
And finally, have some fun with your meals! Meal prepping doesn’t have to be entirely about adhering to a super strict, basic diet with no taste. There are many ways to liven up your meals with various salts and seasoning without upping the calorie count. Small changes like properly seasoning your proteins can go a long way!
And if you feel like it, add some desserts or some treats on certain days! Reward yourself for your hard work with some food that you truly enjoy. As long as you are responsible overall, there is plenty of room for a diet that accounts for the occasional “unhealthy” food.
We hope this guide has been helpful in your meal prep recipes. As with anything, there is no “right” way to meal prep. It is all about setting your goals and meeting them with your eating habits. Meal prepping is simply a way of organizing your life to eat more whole foods and a balanced meal every day. We are confident that our tips and tricks contain the necessary steps to help get you get more fresh fruit, veggies, and healthy eating for more meal ideas.
About the Author
Alissa is a resilience coach, cartoonist, and advocate for ‘connection, not perfection’. She’s dedicated to helping others find a sense of safety and belonging inside themselves so they can heal, connect, and build authentic, joyful lives.