We know that when we eat better, we feel better. We understand that eating well means we have more energy, are less moody, and have a better night’s sleep. But we still catch ourselves making poor decisions when it comes to our health more often than we’d like. In spite of our best intentions when it comes to eating healthy, life gets busy and at the end of a stressful day, the last thing we want to do is saute kale and wait for brown rice to cook. So, knowing that we will be busy, stressed out, and short for time, how do we still manage to fuel our bodies with the nutrients we need to function at our best?
Two words: Meal prep.
Meal prep is my biggest secret to consistently eating clean and feeling awesome. With meal prep, you can shop once, cook once, and eat clean all week. If you dedicate just three hours at the start of the week to meal prep you can avoid the kitchen for the rest. Sounds unbelievable, right? But it’s not. In fact, anyone can do it and I’m going to show you how in five simple steps.
Step One: Make a meal plan
This is probably the most crucial part. Getting your meal plan right takes a bit of brainpower, but it is a fun puzzle to put together. I recommend planning your meals five days at a time, usually Monday to Friday. Map them out in a chart or table then stick it on the fridge. Since you will be cooking everything at once, try to choose recipes that use a variety of cooking methods like the slow cooker, stove top, oven, and raw.
When selecting recipes, choose recipes that:
- are simple and quick. Minimal ingredients and minimal steps. Choose recipes that take 30 minutes or less, otherwise you will be in the kitchen all day.
- make you excited to eat clean.
- are freezer friendly.
- make multiple servings so you can eat them multiple times throughout the week (and maybe even the next week).
Here’s a sample of what my meal plan might look like for the workweek:
As you can see, I kept the snacks super simple so that I can divide them into snack-sized baggies as part of my prep. I focused on just two breakfast recipes, which do not require cooking and can be prepared in advance. I’m making a no-bake chickpea salad, a crockpot recipe, a simple skillet dish, and an oven baked recipe, which all prepare enough for 4 servings. Any leftovers, I will freeze and add to my meal plan for next week.
Step Two: Gather storage containers
You won’t get very far with meal prep if you don’t have the correct food storage containers! So look at your plan and figure out what you will need to pack everything to-go style. Think different sized mason jars, Tupperware containers, and Ziplock baggies. Dollar stores are affordable and always have a good selection of food storage solutions.
Step Three: Grocery shop
Now that you have your meal plan decided, you can make your grocery list. I recommend dividing your list into these categories (so you can breeze through the store in no time):
- Meats, fish, bread and cheese
- Nuts, seeds and spices
- Condiments and oils
I organize my lists this way because this is how most grocery stores are set up. So when I walk in, I’ll hit the fruits and veggies first and work my way through, ending in the freezer section.
Step Four: Meal prep and storage
Source: Healthy Slaw via Cookie and Kate
Now for the fun part. Meal prep! Make sure you have storage containers with lids handy and place them on a clean table. Grab a coffee (or maybe a glass of wine), turn on some music or your favorite podcast and let’s get to it!
Start with the recipes that take the longest time to make. Once you have them going, move onto another. Leave the easier recipes until the end. For example, I’ll get my crockpot recipe started first, pop the lasagna into the oven, and then move onto the stove top recipe while the others cook to be efficient.
Divide recipes into storage containers as you go and once everything has cooled, pop on the lids and store in the most appropriate place—usually the fridge, freezer, or pantry. I like to set reminders in my calendar for the nights I need to thaw things out on the next day.
Step Five: Eat clean and feel awesome!
There you have it! Shop once, cook once, and eat clean for the entire week. Yes, it takes a bit of extra work up front but trust me, it is so worth it. Meal prep will save you a ton of time, money, and keep you on track throughout the week. When you start doing this week after week, it will eventually become ingrained in your lifestyle—and that’s the best part!