How Meal Prep Leveled Up My Life

When I talk about meal prep, I can’t help but sound like an infomercial:

“What if I told you that you could save hundreds of dollars every month, eat healthy with minimal effort and spend less time in the kitchen and more time doing what you love, all with this one simple change? Order now for just ten monthly payments of $59.99…”

It’s true, I’m a huge advocate for meal prepping. While it can be done many different ways, meal prep simply means preparing multiple days worth of meals in bulk. All you need is a few hours of free time each week, some simple recipes and lots of tupperware.

My Introduction To Meal Prep

I started to get really interested in meal prep after stumbling across the Instagram profile Meal Prep On Fleek. The folks behind this account share beautiful shots of a week’s worth of meals and I felt inspired to give it a try. I had made several half-hearted attempts over the years to make healthy changes to my life, but cooking healthy food each night was a time-suck that I could never seem to form into a consistent habit. Meal prep was just what I needed.

Why I Meal Prep

Sunday night comes around and I’m usually at home, winding down from the weekend and turning my thoughts to the upcoming work week. I rarely have any major commitments during this time, so this is when I cook.

I’ll make a trip to the grocery store and pick up a week’s worth of food (recipes below) and get ready for a marathon session in the kitchen.

Now, before you do ANYTHING else, you MUST complete the first and most important step of meal prep cooking…

Pour yourself a glass of wine.

Wine makes cooking fun! Wine makes cooking fun!

Even if you enjoy cooking like I do, it’s still hard work. You could be binging on a Netflix TV show on a Sunday night but instead you’re spending it sweating it in the kitchen. A glass of wine and a great music playlist help you have a bit of fun with it.

Save Your Time

Sunday night meal prep usually takes me two and half hours from the time I start to the time I’ve washed and put away every dirty dish. That’s a lot of time up front, but you save so much more time than if you were to cook something new every day throughout the week. Even if you cooked for three out of five weekdays, and ate out at a restaurant two nights, meal prep is still the most time-saving option.

Save Your Money

I don’t remember much from my Economy 101 class during first year of college, but I do recall the principle of economies of scale: the more you produce, the more you save.

I usually spend no more than $40 on my Sunday grocery run. I buy what I need, with no excess. And I cook everything I buy, with no waste left over. I’ll get 10 meals from my meal prep, putting the cost at $4 per meal.

If I compare that to my life before meal prep, I’d probably spend around $60 a week on groceries, buying stuff I think I’ll use. A lot of it I would use, other items would go into the freezer or the cabinet for another day, and other stuff I’ll end up throwing in the trash. In addition, I’ll probably be tired after work and end up spending $15 in Chipotle or some other fast food place. I’ll also go to a Hell’s Kitchen restaurant one day a week and and have no qualms about dropping $40 on a meal there. Total that up and I’ve spent $115 on food that week, before I even get to the weekend.

Save Your Energy

Decision fatigue plagues us all and you may not even realize it. We make hundreds of decisions every day, from what to wear and where to go and who to meet and how to go about it all. When it comes to food, we’re faced with thousands of options. Fries or salad? Chicken or fish? Brown or white rice? (ALWAYS brown!) Fruit or dessert? Each little decision you make saps your energy—energy you need for making important decisions in your work, family, social life and more.

This is the magic of meal prep. You already know what you’re having for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And better yet, it’s already prepared!

Save Your Diet

I’m a firm believer that when it comes to willpower, humans are fighting a losing battle. If there is ice cream in your freezer, I WILL eat the whole pint. If the office is stocked with chips and candy, I WILL pig out all day long.

My philosophy is to forget about willpower and focus on removing temptation altogether. If you don’t buy the Oreos, you can’t eat them. If you’ve brought a healthy lunch to work, you’ll eat that instead of the Doritos and Reese’s candy.

Meal prep is the healthy choice. You have good intentions on a Sunday night, and will buy and prepare healthy food for the new week. This way, it’s easier to choose the healthy option because it’s already waiting for you in the fridge.

Here’s What I Cook

You do not, I repeat do NOT, need to be a talented cook to meal prep. You just need some basic skills or the intelligence to follow an online recipe. I’m no chef. My meals are simple, nutritious and last up to one week in the fridge.

The internet is overloaded with cooking blogs, so just pick a few simple recipes you like. If the recipe is for one serving, multiply the ingredient quantities by five for your grocery list.

Here are my go-to meals:

Breakfast

Option 1: Sweet potato hash with sausage and eggs (via Delicious meets Healthy)

Option 2: Overnight oats (via Two Green Peas)

Lunch

Wholewheat wraps with sliced deli meats (usually turkey), sliced deli cheeses (usually provolone or swiss), spinach and hummus spread.

Dinner

Meat: I’ll pick up a giant pack of boneless chicken breasts to roast in the oven. For variety, I’ll just choose a different ready-made marinade from the grocery store each week.

Veggies:

I’ll pick three or four of these, depending on what catches my eye at the grocery store.

  • Bell peppers, sauteed in oil and chili spice.
  • Green beans, first boiled then sauteed with garlic.
  • Cauliflower, roasted with garlic and thyme (via Food Network).
  • Mushrooms, sauteed.
  • White onions, sauteed.
  • Carrots and/or parsnips, roasted in honey.

I never used to be great at eating vegetables, but I’ve found that by preparing them in ways that I enjoy, I’ll eat my greens!

Note: I follow a low-carb diet. You could of course add pasta, rice, quinoa or potatoes into the mix.

Final Thoughts

A lot of people would be intimidated by meal prep because they believe they would get bored eating the same thing every day. Wrong! The simpler the better. You can vary your recipes from week to week but as long as you’re cooking the foods you like, you’ll look forward to each meal.

Oh, and invest in some sturdy tupperware! You’ll get a LOT of use out of those wonderful containers 🙂

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