Ah, meal prepping. My least favorite chore, but the one that’s undoubtedly the most worthwhile.
I learned the value of meal prepping in college. Early on in living in my first apartment, I figured out that when I counted on myself to cook dinner every night, more often than not, I wound up making pasta or scrambled eggs and calling it a night. This meant two things: 1. All of the groceries I bought every week were going bad, because I wasn’t using them, and 2. I was not eating as well as I could have been. Surprise, surprise, this has only proven to be more true in the working world. (How does anyone have the energy to cook meals after work? I’ll never figure it out.)
While I had my dinner meal prep mastered, a wrench was thrown in it earlier this summer when I started intermittent fasting. I chose my eight hours of eating to be 11am – 7pm every day — which is great for eating dinner at home, but left me hanging in terms of breakfast. This meant I needed to figure out how to pack enough food for both breakfast and lunch at work, and dinner to eat when I got home. Whew.
The one unfortunate reality to this is that you have to get around to spending a good portion of Sunday meal prepping — but I promise, it’s worth it. It prevents me from settling for unhealthy meals, or picking up something processed on-the-go.
Without further ado, here’s what I do, how I make it work, and how much it’s saved me.
What I Do
Step 1: Containers
Tupperware, tupperware, tupperware; you can’t do this without a ton of containers. I ordered these meal prep containers and they have been a life saver. Gone are the days of digging for a matching bottom and lid — these are all interchangeable.
I also ordered Bento Boxes for the meals that I wanted to be able to keep separated. The combination of these is foolproof and leaves me prepared for anything.
Step 2: Meal Choice and Execution
On Sunday, I cook all of my meals at the same time. When one meal is cooking, I get started on another, and do it simultaneously. It saves a ton of time, and makes the whole process feel more seamless.
My favorite breakfast to meal prep is this DIY Starbucks Protein Bistro Box. It’s so easy, low calorie, and keeps me full forever. On Sunday when I’m making my lunch/ dinner for the week, I throw some eggs on to boil, cut up some pita bread, and that’s literally the extent of the work for making my breakfast.
Overnight oats are also a great, inexpensive option to meal prep for breakfast. You can make different flavors every week, and they’re pretty hard to mess up.
The best part of this? Every morning, you’ll be able to catch some more Zs.
Step 3: Sides and Snacks
I find that having variety to my meals is also super important. For example, if I make chicken for dinner, I’ll also make a couple of options for sides so I’m not eating the same exact thing every day (i.e. veggies on the side one night, quinoa on the side another). The same goes for lunch — I’ll prep containers of different fruits and snacks that are ready to go, so I can have something different every day and can choose what I want to bring to work based on how I’m feeling.
The end result is containers of entrees with separate containers of sides to choose with the main portions of food.
How I Make it Work
The key to making this work is variety in what I prep (I can’t emphasize this enough). If I’m eating dry, flavorless chicken and rice for lunch and dinner every day, it’s not going to work (I try something new from here every week!). Making things that I actually like eating and mixing it up every week has proven to be the key in meal prepping for my whole day. So I choose my recipes, run to the grocery store on Sunday morning, and get started (I try to make lunch and dinner recipes with a few overlapping ingredients, if possible!)
How Much I Save
How much I save by meal prepping every meal varies by week, but overall is a lot. I usually spend around $100 at the grocery story on Sunday for the food for all of my meals for the week. If I’m getting lunch alone at work, it’s around $15 a day, which is almost what I spend on all of my meals combined for the week. It definitely adds up.
Overall, meal prepping all of my meals has completely changed the way I eat. I love not needing to worry about cooking every day, but still knowing exactly what I’m putting into my body. It’s made me healthier, made me a better cook, has made me branch out in terms of what I eat, and saves me money — it really is a win-win.