Planning and preparing our meals is a huge time and money saver and can help us crush our health and fitness goals.
It can also be overwhelming and lead to burn out after only a few weeks.
This year, we’re going to “work smarter, not harder” and nail this meal prep habit! Let’s start with what’s in and what’s out for successful meal prep for 2023!
Out: Slaving for hours in the kitchen on a weekend preparing every meal for the entire week
In: Starting small
Making meal planning a habit is no different than making any other positive change in your life: Begin with small, attainable habits and build on them.
Start by assessing your week: When do you need to get the kids places after school? Will there be some late nights at work? Is getting a protein rich breakfast a challenge? Make prepping those meals a priority.
Out: Winging it
In: Making a plan
Gone are the days of heading to the grocery store without a list, without a real clue of what we’ll eat all week, and without food in our bellies! This year, we will make a meal plan for the week and build a thoughtful grocery list from that plan. (Need a guide? You can find one in our free community FB group!)
We will be sure to have a snack before venturing out to buy only what we need (and not the $4.99 box of cookies beckoning our growling stomach).
The same goes for the actual “prep” part of meal prep. Block time each week to prepare and process your food. Be consistent and make it non-negotiable.
Don’t: Make food you “should” eat but don’t really like
Do: Find healthy recipes you will enjoy but allow for some “fun” foods, too.
If you pack a lunch of chicken, broccoli and rice for lunch and the chicken is dry and unseasoned and you really don’t love broccoli, that lunch is going to end up in the garbage and you’re going to end up in the drive thru at McDonald’s.
Make food that you’ll enjoy. Your prepped meals should consist of mostly whole, unprocessed foods like lean meats, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes.Be sure to prepare them in tasty ways with good seasonings so you enjoy eating them. Include small treats in your meals- a mini candy bar, a few wrapped candies, a little cupcake- whatever you like. When we eat fun foods on occasion and don’t try to completely cut them out, we’re less likely to overindulge in them.. And pro tip: dry chicken breasts and steamed veggies with brown rice are out. This year we’re doing well seasoned, tender chicken thighs and roasted veggies and potatoes.
Out: Complicated recipes with weird ingredients and hundreds of steps
In: Basic batch cooking and “convenience foods”
I love a challenging recipe with new and interesting ingredients when I have the time and energy to enjoy the process of chopping, sauteing, and braising. When I’m meal prepping, though, I want it to be as quick and painless as possible. You should, too.
A crockpot or pressure cooker is a meal-prepper’s best pal. Make an easy, healthy soup with canned veggies and beans and choice of protein or toss in a pork roast and a packet of fajita seasoning to add to salads and tacos all week.
Don’t shy away from canned or frozen veggies. These are huge time savers and nutritionally, just as good as fresh.
Ready-to-go proteins like nitrate-free lunch meats and seasoned and cooked proteins from the refrigerated or frozen section can be lifesavers.
Don’t be afraid to acknowledge the need to cut corners. Perfect is the enemy of done.
Remember, not everyone’s meal planning and preparation processes look the same. Having the wisdom to know when you need to scale back and improve efficiency can help you stick to your goals long term. Make meal prep time even more inviting by listening to your favorite podcast or playlist. Before you know it, you’ll be a meal prep master!