How to Meal Prep for a Week
Staying on track with a new diet can be a real challenge, temptation is at every corner and there is no one to stop you from indulging. The biggest advantage you can give yourself is to prepare your meals ahead of time, so when it comes meal time, it becomes that much harder to rationalize that fast food. For some of us it is not necessarily about a diet but simply a realization that life gets busy, and having healthy wholesome food at our finger tips is just another way to simplify things. Meal prepping will not mean the same to everyone, as each persons needs are different, so consider what it means to you. Some people have plenty of time in their schedule to cook breakfast and dinner but struggle with lunch, while other may need to have all of their meal prepared ahead of time.
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The first thing you need when meal prepping are some good quality reusable containers. You need something that is durable and also for the sake of convenience, microwavable. Below I have listed the containers which I use, that can be found on amazon; there are three different kinds, single compartment, two compartments and three compartments. They are excellent containers designed specifically for meal prepping. They can hold 17oz of food, and they conveniently come in packages of 7, enough for the full week. They are BPA free, dishwasher and microwavable safe, and the company offers a replacement product or refund if you are not satisfied with the product! My choice in which type I use varies from recipe to recipe, therefore I prefer to keep them all on hand. However, the single compartment containers are an excellent place to start, then you can decide if the other options would also work for you.
Single Compartment Containers
The single compartment containers are undoubtedly the most versatile option when considering which containers to buy. They are a good option if you do not mind that your food will be touching each other. Also, the single compartment container is a good option if you are preparing recipes in which one component of your meal will not become soggy or unsavoury if it is touching another component. An issue I have found when using the single compartment container is that portion sizing can become an issue. Having all parts of your meal in one compartment can make it harder to identify the amount of each component you are putting into the container. This is not so much an issue in the multi-compartment containers as separating each part makes it much easier to identify how much you are putting into the container.
Two Compartment Containers
Utilizing the two compartment containers gives you more control when it comes to keeping certain recipes fresh for longer. For example, for many recipes it becomes very advantageous to keep your protein separated from your vegetables, as certain vegetables can become soggy and unappetizing if stored directly next to the protein of the meal. Furthermore, you can use the second compartment for your snacks, avoiding the need to bring along another container. Remember success in meal prepping involves keeping things simply and convenient.
Three Compartment Containers
You may consider three compartment containers to be "overkill", however, for some recipes they are almost a requirement. One of my favourite recipes for meal prepping is tacos, made with either chicken breast or ground beef, however, I prefer chicken breast because it is a more lean protein. The big advantage here with having the three compartments is that it allows me to keep everything apart until i am ready to eat, meaning a much fresher, less soggy taco. Imagine having a taco in which the salsa and sour cream have been sitting on it for a couple days, sounds like a soggy, gross tortilla to me. This is just one of the examples of the many recipes, that in my opinion require the use of three compartments.
Which containers are you going to buy?
Step 1: Plan
Before you can accomplish any real meal prepping you must first create your plan. Meal prepping can be very overwhelming if it is something you are not used to, cooking a full weeks worth of meals can be a very daunting task to manage. I recommend easing into it; before trying to prep for a full week, start with just prepping for a few days at a time until you get the routine of the process. Next, determine the meals you will be eating, whether it is breakfast, lunch, and dinner or any combination of the three. Also, do not forget to take snacks into the equation when meal prepping. After this comes determining what you will prepare to eat for the days ahead. I recommend sticking with, or finding a recipe which you are confident you will enjoy. No one wins when you make a large amount of food that you do not want to eat.
Step 2: Go Shopping
After you have decided on your recipe for the days ahead, it is time to go grocery shopping. My advice for buying protein is to buy in bulk. Since you will be producing large amounts of food anyways, this is an excellent way to save yourself some money in the process. You can easily freeze the meat until it comes time to meal prep again. However, for your fruits and vegetables you will be better off to only buy the amount you need for each prep at a time to ensure you are getting the freshest produce each week. My last shopping tip has to do with your carbohydrates. A large amount of meal prep recipes call for rice due to the fact it is easy to produce in large quantities. My advice for this is also to buy in bulk, rice is non-perishable and will definitely be used, so again save yourself some money and buy the biggest box you can find.
Step 3: Cooking
When it comes time to cook, the two most easy and healthy ways to get the job done is either by baking or by using a slow cooker. Both of these options have the added value of being able to cook large quantities of food at the same time, the less steps there are to your prep the move convenient it becomes. Frying may be the quicker option but due to the use of oils and other factors it quickly becomes counterproductive to your goal of eating healthy. Neither baking nor slow cooking are known for their flavourful nature so be sure to experiment with some spices to add some life to your food. This will ensure you do not get bored of the meals you have prepped and make eating them less of a chore.
While your food is cooking, do not sit around playing with your thumbs, there are lots of other things you can be getting ready. Chop fresh fruits and vegetables for snacks or additions to the food you are cooking. You can layout all your containers, so that they can be filled in assembly line fashion as things are getting done. Finally, if you are really on top of things and have all of this done, start planning and making a shopping list for your next prep. Meal prep is all about being prepared and making your life as simple as possible!
Will this be your first time meal prepping?
I hope from reading my article you found some of my advice helpful and that you feel more confident with the process of meal prepping. There is a unbelievable amount of meal prep recipes out there, with a quick search I know you will be able to find something that is to your taste. Best of luck and Happy Prepping everyone!
© 2018 Alex Kearney