Before I begin, I’d like to preface this post by letting everyone know that meal prep is something I actually struggle with. Mainly because I’m not very good at cooking and if I only ate my leftovers, I’d be eating pasta for each and every meal… However, meal prepping is extremely important and beneficial to get into if you’re a 20something, working a full-time job, or just don’t have the time or budget to go out to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. So I reached out to a few of my friends who I consider experts in the arena of all things related to meal prep and I’m hoping that writing this post will help not only all my readers, but myself as well.
My meal-prep experts who helped me prepare this post and provided me with awesome information are:
- Alzira Reis – Alzira is my go-to person for any type of nutrition, meal prep, or overall wellness advice! She has been meal prepping for many years and loves to plan her meals in advance so she can fuel her body with ingredients that will help keep her going for the entire day while keeping her as fit as possible.
- Leslie Napolitano – Leslie has been meal prepping since she began working in the corporate environment and loves that it gives her a better sense of control over what she’s eating, how she’s spending her money, and ensuring she’s eating the proper nutrients her body needs.
- Liz Flores – Liz has been meal prepping for a little over a year now and enjoys the fact that it helps balance her work and home life, while also saving money.
Now let’s get started…
What is meal prep?
For those who might not be familiar with the concept, meal prepping is the act of preparing your meals in advance for the week to come. The easiest way to do this is to pick two days, say Sunday and Wednesday, to cook your meals or just plan them out for the next few days ahead.
Why should you meal prep?
For starters, it’ll help cut costs on your grocery shopping. You’ll only be purchasing items you need for the week, rather than just buying anything that looks good and having food go to waste.
Another great benefit is that you’ll be saving time in the long run because you won’t be scrambling in the morning trying to put your lunch together before heading out the door for work. You’ll also be able to know what you’re eating for dinner before you get home, so you can have all the necessary prep work completed in advance.
In addition, meal prep also is wonderful for those who are looking to change their diet or live a healthier lifestyle. Alzira worded this well by telling me, “Meal prepping, for me, is more about having a healthy balance. That way you don’t drive yourself crazy and feel discouraged when you feel you have to restrict yourself.”
When should you prep?
The easiest way to prep is to select two days that make the most sense for you and dedicate time on those days to planning out your food for the next few days to follow. For example, all three of my friends seem to use Sundays and Wednesdays as their prep days. Leslie says it makes the most sense for her to make everything on Sunday afternoon or evening for Monday-Wednesday, then Wednesday evening to prep for the remainder of the week. It’s a huge time saver to follow this schedule if you work in an office environment where you’re working Monday through Friday.
What should you prep?
“Pinterest is my best friend, I find weekly meals there and am constantly trying new ones to see what I like and don’t like,” says Liz. Pinterest is loaded with such a wide array of endless recipes and you can filter based on your dietary restrictions or based on what you enjoy most.
Liz also adds, “You should work smarter, not harder.” Start with the easy stuff such as Crockpot meals where you can drop all the ingredients in and let it cook overnight. Keep in mind that it’s also easier to cook produce in bulk. If you’re making chicken, you can make different types in one batch and just season them differently to give yourself some variety.
“You can easily season chicken with BBQ, lemon pepper, ranch, etc. and create tin foil trays within the baking tray and cook them all at once,” says Liz. This prevents you from feeling like you’re just eating the same meal every single day for lunch while still saving money on what you purchase at the store!
Another tip from Liz that is to buy pre-chopped or diced veggies to help save time. If you’re dealing with a complicated recipe, this will make things easier on you because you can just take these diced ingredients and drop them into the recipe.
How can meal prep help me eat smarter?
For those of you who are already fans of meal prep and use it in your weekly routine, I want to share Alzira’s tips with you to help you take your meals to the next level!
Alzira’s first tip is to stick to foods that will best fuel your body and give you the energy you need. Stick to plant-based foods and load up on tons of fruits, veggies, and grains. She makes sure to include tons of carbs in her meal prep while avoiding processed foods and dairy. She also boasts the benefits of daily alternatives, such as almond milk, which contains more calcium than regular milk, and cuts out unnecessary hormones.
If you’re looking for some healthy meal ideas, Alzira shared that the following are some of her favorites:
Breakfast – Oatmeal made with oat or almond milk, topped with whatever berries are in season, as well as some flax and chia seeds. Also, Ezekiel bread with sunflower seed butter or avocado, which she sometimes adds smoked salmon to and has with a glass of grapefruit juice. In warmer weather, a green smoothie is always easy to prepare, while still being filling and nutritious!
Lunch – “No, salads are not boring.” (I tried to argue that they were, but she proved me wrong.) She packs a loaded salad, and finds new recipes on Pinterest. Her favorite ingredients to include: Tons of tossed kale and arugula, cherry tomatoes, diced cucumber, Spanish olives, black beans, feta cheese, and falafels. Also, a homemade burrito bowl is healthy and extremely filling!
Snacks – Citrus fruits, hummus and bell peppers, seaweed, toast with nut butter, and berries!
Dinner – Alzira recommends having a lighter dinner because your body needs time to digest, so if you eat later in the day when you’re cutting it close to the time you go to sleep, try sticking to lighter but heartier meals like salmon, brown rice, and a big side of veggies. Or just a simple homemade soup, a black bean burger with sweet potatoes, or grilled chicken… the options are endless.
How to shop for and store your prepped meals?
Make your grocery list after you plan your meals for the week, then hit your favorite grocery store or a local farmer’s market if you’re looking for organic, local and in-season items! Then, on Sunday, cook and prep your meals and store them in the fridge in Tupperware. This way, you’re ready to wake up, throw the meals you need in your bag for work, and head out the door.
You’ll resist temptation to spend money on food you don’t need, and if you have new and exciting recipes, you’ll be less tempted to crave junk food!
Last words of advice:
I know this was a lot of information, but I want to leave you with one last tip. I want to add that you should definitely not overwhelm yourself when you first start out! Start small and try incorporating aspects of meal prep into your lifestyle slowly, even if it’s just one meal each day. The easiest way to get started is to try meal prepping with recipes you already know, and then, once you’re comfortable with the routine you set, start adding new recipes.
For those of you who meal prep regularly, do you have any tips to add or advice you can offer to those (like me) who aren’t very good at this but want to get better! I’d love to hear your thoughts!