I want so bad to be a prepper. A legit prepper; not the ones that plan on being the last people on earth (heck, just take me away), but a weekly warrior in the kitchen! Isn’t that the epitome of organization, health, and self-discipline? As one of my biggest resolutions for 2016, I’m putting extra focus into this area of my life. Last year, I thought I could just enter in a weekly “Prep Day” into my Google calendar and it would just magically happen. Surprisingly, nothing changed. This year, I’m getting serious.
So as with any seemingly insurmountable task, I start with research. Pinterest and Google of course, but also asking fitness groups and healthy individuals what they do to make meal prep a workable success in their lives. The result? A comprehensive guide on how to meal prep!
23 Tips on How to Meal Prep Like a Pro
- Plan your meals. This is kind of obvious, but don’t forget to plan for snack and breakfast options! Write everything out that you’ll need for groceries and meals. I like to do this (and even grocery shop) on a different day than I meal prep. Then set the recipes out in front of you as your guide for prepping.
- Grocery shop and meal plan on a different day. This isn’t for or everyone, but I would burn out if I did it all in one day. Sometimes I have even used a grocery delivery service to save time.
- Know how much time you have to devote each week. Some take a whole day. One pro prepper does it all from store to fridge in 3 hours. Time how long it takes you to do it the first time, see what shortcuts you can use to make it easier, and then block that time out in your day.
- Only prep what you’re comfortable with. Not ready to make 7 breakfasts, lunches, desserts, and snacks? That’s a ton for anyone! Every single meal for every day of the week is a lot. It’s ok to leave space to switch things up with different meals or eating out. You want a habit you can continue, and meals that you will actually eat! 5 lunches and 5 dinners (plus a couple of snack and breakfast options) is the gold standard.
- Make it fun. Turn on your favorite playlist or podcast. It will make the time go by faster.
- Clean everything before starting. I can’t stand working in a messy kitchen. This goes a long way for peace of mind, and it also gives you more working space.
- Get organized. Set out a bag or bowl for food scraps. Use durable, stackable containers. I am going to use Pyrex/glass so they can go straight in the microwave if needed. Set out your Salad Spinner for washing greens.
- Keep it simple. When you are first starting out, don’t try to make super complex meals. You’ll want to do this week after week and not get burnt out.
- Snacks are key! So many options here. Nuts and dried fruit mixed together (I saw a pistachio and blackberry mix, yum!), clementines etc. If I don’t have a healthy snack in the afternoon, by the time I get home I’m ready to eat the whole pantry no matter what’s been prepped.
- Mason jars are great for salads, and keep them fresh longer. Put the dressing on the bottom, followed by lettuce, fruit/vegetables, and top with protein. They can also be used for overnight oats, fruit infused water, or lemon water with cayenne pepper for a metabolism boost!
- Save cutting the vegetables with a high water content (cucumbers) for right before eating. They will lose their moisture, and are unappetizing by the time they are ready. Stick with hearty vegetable that keep their shape like bell peppers, carrots, garlic, onions. Usually last 3-5 days.
- Roast your vegetables. Prepping isn’t only about slicing and dicing. Roasted vegetables can add flavor and is a perfect topper over your grain or as a side.
- Tin foil for roasting vegetables and/or potatoes helps with quick clean up.
- Package snacks for easy access. For example use a small Pyrex container with humus at the bottom, and upright carrot sticks. Already set up to dip and go! The biggest reason I don’t snack is that I have zero time in between patients. This way I could at least try to scarf a couple of sticks.
- Prepare big batches of proteins (at least 2) This can be beans, chicken, hard-boiled eggs, etc. Meats only last 3-4 days in the fridge.
- Proteins go on the top of your dishes (not just salads).
- Breakfast is easy and important. Make a tray of egg muffins/frittatas, a crock pot of oatmeal, or even mason jars of overnight oats. All easy to make, and will last you throughout the week.
- Prepare one or two grains to use throughout the week. Quinoa is my choice, but brown rice is another great option.
- Use hearty greens. (Kale, Chard) They last longer, and won’t give you that mushy feel like leafy greens will give you into the week.
- Frozen fruits can be a great addition to smoothies, overnight oats, etc. Just because it came in a package doesn’t automatically mean it’s bad.
- Spice it up. This is one of the tips that I found preppers across the board proclaim. You want your meals tasty the whole week through, and a bland chicken breast by Day 5 is not flavorful to any palate.
- The crock pot is your best friend. Soups, meats, desserts, this device will cook as you cut and save tons of time.
- From freezer to fridge. One prepper would put all his meals in the freezer, and move them to the fridge the day before. He would under cook some veggies like broccoli, and when reheated they come out perfect. This would solve the problem of your meats not lasting.
*If you want to dig even deeper, Burpees For Breakfast (coolest blog name ever, right?) has a whole e-Book The Ultimate Food Prep Guide! Check it out! She helped me out with a few of the tips here, so think of it as a sneak peek!
Maybe I’m not a true “prepper”, but now I have no excuses for not rocking this meal prep thing. Resolution 2016, I’m coming for ya!