If you have even dipped your toe into the health and fitness world, you are guaranteed to have heard the phrase “Meal Prep”, often followed by the word “Sunday”. Whether you saw it in an Insta story with a boomerang of chopped veggies or stacked Tupperware in someone’s impeccably organized fridge, it is often portrayed to be pretty simple and straightforward.
But if you are anything like me, I was a bit overwhelmed by the whole idea in the beginning. It is often is shown as an easy task but the details of how it all works are not well explained.
It took me some time to get the hang of it but after doing a bit of my own research and some trial and error (okay a lot of trial and error), it has become a pretty regular routine of mine. So in an attempt to help you start out on the right foot, I have shared 5 meal prepping tips below that I wish I was told at the beginning!
Habits are created when we consistently make small actions. If you set a day in the week that you always do your meal prep, it will eventually become a staple activity in your week. Creating a routine that fits easily into your regular day-to-day life is what can make meal prep actually seem easy after some time.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you settle on a day (or two) designated for meal prep:
Rome was not built in a day my friends. And neither are habits.
If we have never meal prepped before, it can be super overwhelming to try to tackle multiple meals for the entire week. And that can deter you from meal prepping altogether.
It is totally fine, and honestly encouraged, to start with prepping just one meal, or just your snacks for the week. We have to get into the habit of doing the thing first before we master it.
Start with getting in the habit of shopping for your meals on one day of the week, and setting aside some time to prep that one meal or snack or sides, wherever you want to start. And do that for a few weeks consistently.
Once it actually becomes a staple in your routine, that's when you can start prepping more meals!
If you plan on preparing both your lunches and dinners, make one of them super simple. Choose a protein source - such as chicken, fish, or your favourite plant-based alternative and pair it with a couple of veggies.
Then you can make your other meal unique and one that maybe requires a bit more chopping or prepping.
When both meals are super complicated it can extend your meal prep time quite a bit and make it feel super draining, and again make it hard to make meal prepping a habit. Remember when building habits we want to make it super easy to do (one simple meal) and attractive to us (adding fun sauces or having one meal a little more unique). So don't get too overzealous with all your meals right off the bat!
Generally the practice is to prepare for 3 - 5 days at a time. Personally, I try to prep for Monday to Friday because during the week we don’t have the time to prep full meals every night! But if you are ever concerns about the food lasting the whole 5 days and want to stay on the absolute safe side, your can max it at 4 days which is often safe for any cooked foods.
The Canadian government has put out a great resource to guide you with your safety with left-overs that I will link here. That way you can feel super confident that the food your eating is safe! And when in doubt, if it smells or looks off, just throw it out. But from my experience, it is often rare that food does not make it to the end of the week.
Investing in some quality Tupperware can also be very helpful in ensuring your leftovers stay as fresh as possible throughout the week.
And if you feel overwhelmed prepping for the whole week refer to tip #2! Baby steps my friends. Start with prepping just lunches so you have something ready to grab and go for your work or school days. And then cook your dinners at night. And when you are feeling ready to up it, progress slowly, maybe just prep your meat for your weekly dinners but cook your veggies fresh the night of. The options are truly endless! So just pick one and start. And just know you are safe to prep for 3-5 days with no worries.
This works for multiple reasons.
Well there is the obvious benefit that things always get done faster in numbers.
But some less obvious gains are more quality time with your loved ones, and honestly it can be so much more fun!
We just put on some music and tackle the chopping, grilling, baking, and steaming, or whatever our meal prep entails that day. Bonus is that some of our best conversations can happen over chopping up some veggies.
Sometimes we even make a fun cocktail to have together while chopping away. It makes it even more fun!
Keep in mind that these strategies that I have developed over the years have worked well for me. We are all individuals and you will find that not all strategies, tricks, and tips will work for you. When it comes to nutrition, things can get confusing and it really is an endless journey of learning. My hope is just that I can make it a little bit less bumpy for you!
if you have any specific medical issues or questions please reach out to a local health professional for help. It is best not to use "Dr. Google" to find a diagnosis. And as always, what I share here at Making Lemonade is for information only, and should not be considered a substitute for medical advice.
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