One of the best ways to eat healthier, save money, and avoid unhealthy food impulse buys during the week is by preparing your meals in advance. Some people are afraid to meal prep because it seems too complicated. But it doesn’t have to be that way at all.
Dare I say, meal prepping can even be fun. It’s nice knowing every ingredient that goes into each meal and being able to open up your fridge mid-week to an abundance of pre-prepped meals.
The best way to ensure success while meal prepping is to begin with good planning. Frustration with meal prepping usually comes from not knowing how to be organized or prepared enough, so here are some helpful tips to get you started with a pleasant — and even enjoyable — meal planning and prepping experience each week.
#1 Keep it Simple
Remember that this doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, making meal planning simple is the best way to set yourself up for long-term success that you stick with. Focus on just a few meals each week — no more than 3-4 — with simple ingredients, and plans for leftovers. The less you have to do to prep for the week, the more likely you are to keep doing it and make meal prepping into a weekly habit.
Think meals that are easy to make (and reheat) with not too many ingredients (but with healthy ingredients) that you can buy in bulk and store for several meals. It’s also helpful to focus on dishes that are a whole meal in one like big salads, stir-fries, etc.
#2 Plan Out Everything You Need
Before even thinking about stepping foot in the grocery store, make sure you have a list of everything you need to get started. Do this by planning backwards and ask yourself these questions:
How many days am I prepping food for? (For example, will you be prepping breakfast, lunch, and dinner for each day or just dinners?)
How many total meals do I need for the week?
What days will I have the same meal (leftovers)?
What ingredients do I need for each of these meals?
Then, list out all ingredients and lump together each ingredient type. For example, make a list for proteins, bulk items, fresh produce, condiments, etc. so you can get exactly what you need in the store by section.
#3 Pick Your Shopping Day
Once you know exactly what you need, first, shop your own pantry! Make sure everything on your list is something you actually need. (We’ve all come back from the store with that fifth bottle of mustard because we keep forgetting we already have some, right?)
Then, try to choose just one day of the week you’ll do all your shopping — and stick to your list. Making multiple trips without a list can make the grocery bill add up fast, so it’s best to try and knock it out all at once when you’re prepared. Plus, this will help you avoid food waste.
#4 Pick Your Prep Day
Just like with your shopping day, pick a day that’s best for prepping your meals. For most people, that’s Sunday since they’re off work, but choose whatever works best for your schedule. You might want to make prep day different that your shopping day to reduce overwhelm.
Try to make it easier on yourself by chopping up all your veggies beforehand and getting out the kitchen appliances you need, such as pots, pans, or the blender. If you have some ingredients that can be prepped together, like brown rice or roasted veggies, save yourself time and do that!
#5 Invest in Some Containers
Make it simple to grab-n-go with the healthy meals you made by storing them in convenient single-serving containers. Label them with the dish and date so you know exactly what it is and how long it’s been in the fridge.
You can find some great brands that make glass containers in all sizes. Use some larger containers for any extras (such as extra veggies or grains).
If you’re looking to eat better and be more organized with healthy meals during the week, having a good plan in place for meal prepping is a great way to meet your goals. Give it a try these week, and plan to do it for the next month to give yourself time to adjust to the new routine. You might just find it becomes one of your favorite things!