Being successful in changing your eating habits is no small task, but there are some simple ways that you can set yourself up for greater success. One way is with a solid weekly meal prep routine, and I’m here to share mine!
Why have a weekly meal prep routine?
- You’ll save money – there will be less impulsive random extras in your cart and house, you’ll waste less food, eat out less, and you’ll make fewer grocery store visits.
- You’ll save time – if you put in the effort in in advance, you’ll not have to wonder what’s for dinner or if you have all the ingredients.
- You’ll improve your overall nutrition – by knowing what you’re going to have each meal, you can better achieve a balanced diet with fewer excuses for stops at the drive-thru.
Sounds good right? Well here is what you’ll need to get started:
- Menu/meal plan for the week: Can’t prep it if you don’t have an idea of what you’re going to make. I typically decide based on what protein is on sale.
- Grocery/ingredient list: Once you’ve made a plan, you have to know what ingredients you need to buy at the store.
- Containers: Lots and lots of containers. Different sizes and shapes are ideal. Nothing is worse than making all the yummy noms and then not having a way to put them away for later.
- Time: When do you need food, and what time is ideal for prepping? Sunday seems to be the most common food prep day for a lot of people. I personally prefer Sunday and Thursday. My food tastes a little fresher and it’s less mess and time in the kitchen.
Different eats for different peeps
Just like Coach Glassman says about CrossFit, “our needs vary by degree, not by kind” – so too does our meal prepping adventure. We heard a little about eating on a budget from Coach Mitch Jr. where he mentioned how he takes care of steps 1 and 2.
For myself, being a single guy who lives only with a tiny monster dog, owns an awesome small local business, and works varied days and hours week-to-week, my meal needs are much different than that of a newlywed couple, or a family of four or more (hint, hint, look forward to hearing about how other Outliers prep in future articles). So in the following paragraphs, I’m going to briefly discuss how I go about my personal meal prepping, and hopefully you can take a piece or two of advice from it all!
Look for deals on protein
First, I’m always on the lookout at the store for deals on my protein source. Discounted cause it’s almost hit the end of its shelf life? Awesome, I’ll put it in the cart and freeze or cook it when I get home. My number focus is always the protein source because it’s the most expensive piece of the puzzle, and is my area of expertise. I’ll actually base my meal plan around what’s a good deal, and what isn’t going to leave me too bored with my food.
Frozen veggies are perfect for busy schedules
Second, I buy as many of my fruits and veggies as I can frozen, not fresh. Shelf life is an issue for me with the long days / odd hours, so instead of getting perishable foods and having them accidently go to waste, I stick to frozen. While these frozen fruits and veggies may be not be as “seasonal” or appealing to the eye as fresh, they are every bit as nutritious and full of the same vitamins and minerals as their counterparts. In fact often, the frozen stuff can be more nutrient dense than fresh as they often harvested at their peak and put on ice immediately.
Carbs are like CrossFit, keep it varied
Three, figure out my other carb sources. Sounds weird, right? But each week I know I need carbs that are outside of just my fruits and veggies. So I’ll get some complex carb like white rice, tortilla shells, various potatoes, pasta, and quinoa. I don’t like to have the same carb all the time, so I make sure to have at least 3 on hand.
Short on time? Bulk batch your protein
Four, this is where my prep differs from many, I like to make mass amounts of protein. I don’t prep protein twice a week, or even once a week. Usually I’ll take a couple hours to cook 10-14 days of my proteins. To cook this mass amount, I use everything at my disposal. I’ll have the oven going, 4 burners in use, and a full smoker for the better part of an afternoon. Heck, sometimes I grill too! I’m all about efficiency and doing as much with my time as I can. As soon as they’re all cooked to perfection, I portion them in as many containers as needed. For me it’s five ounces for most meals, so you’ll see dozens of small containers about my kitchen all at once. I leave room in the containers for the veggies and carb source.
Freezer ready meals for when you’re in a hurry
Five, I put 75% of my prepped meals in the freezer. That’s right, I spend a ton of time cooking, just to throw it all into the freezer. There are several reasons I do this. To start, I don’t have to cook the frozen veggies I bought and can portion them directly into the containers. Next, it gives me meals that can be heated to taste fresh quickly versus meals in the fridge for several days. I’m also never without a prepped meal, so I have no excuses not to be successful. Lastly, the frozen meals double as their own ice packs when I have to tote several meals around for the day, so it’s a little less to carry and hassle with.
Never leave the mess for last
Six, and my final tip: clean as you go. Nothing about prepping is worse than waiting till the very end of your cooking to start clean-up. The fear of the mess will derail you faster than anything else. If you systematically reuse certain kitchen items and get a jump on cleaning and minimizing mess from the get-go, when you’re finished you’ll be able to relax and enjoy your work.
For me, it’s all about thinking about the problem before it can become one. Prepped food takes choices off my plate that might not be optimal, it keeps my stress level low because I know where my food is coming from, and I’m healthier for it all!