Meal prepping. Oh man... Just the word itself is overwhelming. Where to start? What to eat? Oh, and make sure to pay attention to containers AND calories.
Who really has time for ALL of that?
Well, you probably know that meal prepping can save lots of time and money. It also helps keep you motivated, on track, and supports weight loss.
But, before you start shopping or lining up your cooking supplies, you should really create a plan. Creating a plan is not limited to only people who are super duper organized. There are some simple steps you can follow that will help you meal plan like an expert.
1) What do you have going on?
Take some time to reflect on your priorities. What are some things that are going on in your life, that make meal planning/prepping that much more difficult to achieve. Then, determine how specific meals may fit into your current routine. Be realistic with how much time you have to prep, cook, clean up the kitchen, AND do the shopping.
If you have specific kitchen cooking aids like Instapot, Crockpot or Airfryer, could you potentially plan recipes that would save you time and allow you to not only cook for the whole family, but also meal prep for you a couple days in advance as well?
2) Start SMALL
Don't over think it. Start SMALL. If this is new to you, start with 2-3 days in a mind. Then, move to 4-5, then a week. Sit down with a piece of paper, a notebook, a whiteboard, and just chart out what you would like to eat at each meal of the day. Remember, there is nothing wrong with repeating meals!
The planning phase should happen prior to shopping for groceries. One, you don't want to be stuck with food you are not going to cook (it is a waste of money) and two, you do not want to spend hours in the grocery store trying to figure out what you will be taking to lunch with you to work for the next two days.
3) Start with Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. Fill in the snacks later
Start with big ticket items that will keep you fuller longer. Then, work backwards and fill in snack ideas. Pick nutrient-dense high protein snacks. Make sure you are picking snacks that will sustain you in the long run. Not a handful of M&M's because they just sound yummy.
4) OMG. LEFTOVERS. USE THEM
If you are cooking for a family, and you have food left over, USE IT! This will save you time AND money. You can also freeze portions to carry over into a meal plan for a different week. HELLO! This is key.
You can also choose recipes that have similar ingredients to cut down on meal prep and waste. Items like, chicken, veggies, rice and quinoa tend to go a LONG LONG way.
5) Don't overthink things. It doesn't have to be complicated
Meal planning shouldn't take your whole Saturday with your whole Sunday spent shopping, prepping, and cooking.
My word. Please no.
Find recipes that are simple, easy to make, and will taste yummy 3 days later if rewarmed. Do something simple for snacks, like beef jerkey, carrots and hummus, protein chips (I love Quest protein), celery and peanut butter (American Nut Butter is the BOMB, y'all).
You can even double or triple recipes of your faves. Saving time AND money! Win win.
6) Make a list
Once you KNOW what you want to eat, figure out what you already have and what you need.
Grocery lists are NOT outdated. They serve a purpose, like keeping us on track and focused without impulsively buying out all of the chocolate in the candy section of Safeway.
So, MAKE THAT LIST. You can shop online. InstaCart is all the rage nowadays. Or you can head to the grocery store yourself. Just make sure you have your list with you.
Meal planning doesn't have to be complicated. Make it simple. Use the resources you have at your finger tips. Find recipes that work for you and your family. And make sure to save the extras for meals later on in the week.