How meal prep can simplify your life
A few years ago I started to meal prep and it was a game-changer for me. I would plan my meals for the week, shop for the ingredients and on Sundays, I would prep all the meals. I first started with just my lunches and with time added dinner, breakfast, and even snacks.
I truly believe that there are many benefits to meal prepping, it will help you simplify your life and it does not have to be complicated or fancy. To meal prep is simply to plan ahead and use your leftovers. Everything else about it, that you see online and in fancy pages is just extras. I mean, I do love to see the photos of food containers with beautiful, creative meals, but as I said that is not necessary.
The only thing you truly need is to plan what you want to cook, purchase those ingredients ahead of time, and cook a lot of it. That's it if you followed those simple instructions you can claim to have meal prepped.
There are benefits to approaching your meals in this way. I will be sharing with you why I started to meal prep and how it has evolved for me. Hopefully, these tips will help you decide to meal prep as well.
Control over what you eat
No matter what diet you follow and your preferences in food you can meal prep your meals. This avoids those moments where you go out to eat and cannot find something you like or that satisfies your diet needs. It will also allow you to know exactly what is in your food. You cooked it and what ingredients you put into your meals is your choice. This is extremely helpful when you are trying to avoid certain proteins, oils, or if you have allergies.
Whether you work or go to school, you need to eat at some point in your day. You will save more money by cooking at home vs eating out every day. Even if you are buying your lunch somewhere relatively cheap it will probably be cheaper to purchase the ingredients and cook at home. And if we are honest, if we eat out, we tend to go for the shop with the yummy food and price most of the time, is not a factor.
If you plan it properly, it will save you time. By only cooking on specific days, like the weekend, you save yourself from having to cook all the other days of the week. Also, you will notice that once you are already in the kitchen, cooking for one meal or cooking for five will not seem to take much longer. You are cooking a big batch rather than cooking multiple times throughout the week. If you are chopping one onion you might as well chop two.
Ever found yourself eating and before you finish you are already feeling full but you keep eating? I don't know about you but this has happened to me more times than I can count. I am officially in the clean plate club, but in the end, I know I overate. Well if you meal prep you will start to notice what makes you feel satisfied and you can portion only what you need.
As you can see there are good reasons for meal prep. Creating my meals ahead of time gave me control over what I eat, it reduced the time I spent in the kitchen cooking and I saved some money by no longer eating out while at work.
How to Meal Prep
Before I go grocery shopping I write down a list of what I want to eat the following week. This usually happens on either Friday or Saturday, depending on the time I have set to go to the stores. This is when the control over what you eat comes in. Buy what you want to eat and what goes with your desired diet.
It is crucial to cook what you will enjoy eating. You will be eating these meals on multiple occasions. The last thing you want is to have a fridge filled with food that you will not enjoy.
Sundays are when I usually meal prep. Armed with my weekly menu and with my groceries on hand, I start cooking. It usually takes me a couple of hours to cook all the meals. I start by chopping everything that needs to be chopped and I cook what takes longer first. For example, if something is going in the oven I will start with that first and while it is in the oven I will cook other items like sauteing vegetables. The goal is to have the food that takes longer but does not need your constant attention going while you tend to the more needy foods.
Once everything is cooked, you can either place everything in big containers, buffet style, or portion the food into individual containers. I prefer the individual containers. This is how you can control your portions and it is also easier when its time to go to work. You can just grab the container in the morning and go.
Now, meal prep did change for me over the years and I will share with you the two ways I have approached it. If you are not sure what to do, give both a try. By trying different options you will find what works for you and your family.
Meal prep on Sunday meals to span the whole week. This will make your meal prep session a bit longer but you do not have to do anything else until the following weekend. This is how I used to meal prep at first. I would make 5 lunches and 5 dinners. During this time I also was really into overnight oats so I would meal prep my breakfast as well. However, I only did those for a couple of days at a time, not for the full week.
Meal prep on Sunday meals for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. On Wednesday meal prep again for Thursday and Friday. This is how I currently meal prep. I meal prep for half the week and I do a smaller meal prep session during the week. I enjoy this a little more because it adds a bit more variety to what I eat throughout the week.
Whether I meal prep for the whole work week on Sunday or meal prep twice a week, I usually leave Saturday and Sunday off. This allows me to be a bit more spontaneous with my weekend meals. Usually, this is when I go out to eat or order take out so I don't plan my meals for those days. By acknowledging your routine and counting for those days you will not have food that will go to waste if you are out and about.
What you need
To be honest, if you are starting to meal prep you do not need anything fancy. Depending on how you want to store your food you can either use big containers or individual-sized containers but what you have at home will do the trick.
When I first started to meal prep I got the plastic 3 section containers that I would see all over Pinterest. However, once those were ready to be replaced, I bought glass containers with snap-on lids.
Another item that I purchased was mason jars. I use them for many different things around the house but if you want to meal prep your breakfast and you are a fan of overnight oats they are perfect.
The only thing I would recommend is that if you do need to purchase new containers or if the ones you have need to be replaced that you purchase glass containers. I believe that they keep the food fresh longer, they do not pick up on food smells, and above all, the less plastic in your home the better.
I hope you give meal prep a try and you will see that it will simplify your life. If you do, let me know, I would love to hear your experiences and see some pictures.