So what exactly is meal prepping? For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, essentially it is planning and prepping your meals in advance for the week. This means cooking items in bulk and eating leftovers! For those of you who just groaned and are turned off to the thought of left overs, listen up, I used to hate left overs when I was younger, well actually up until I was in college. Now I rejoice in their existence and you should too! Left overs are a wondrous time saver!
Before beginning any meal prep, I advise you to have a plethora of tupperware containers on hand, you are going to need them! If you want to go hog wild, I suggest buying tupperware of similar sizes/shapes so you can easily stack them in your fridge, making your meal prep more space efficient so your fridge doesn’t become a war zone of toppling tupperware containers.
Beginner’s Guide to Meal Prep
The Two P’s – Plan and Prep
Please remember, I am not a nutritionist, dietician, or personal trainer, this is just what works best for me and my body. Everyone’s idea of “healthy” varies, and that is okay! See a meat, veggie, or starch on here I didn’t list? It’s probably because I can’t eat it due to my IBS or Celiac or have never tried it before, so have no fear if I forgot to mention one of your favorite staples, this is just my go to list!
– Pick one day a week as your “plan and prep” day
– Grocery shop on this day as well!
-Sunday is the day I use
1. Plan your meals for the week out using the following guideline:
– Protein + Starch + Vegetable (and be making sure to get your healthy fats in!)
– Protein options that I recommend: I have put a * next to my favorites!
– Chicken Breasts* Boneless, Skinless
– Chicken thighs are okay for specific recipes
– Ground Beef – 85% lean or higher
– Ground Turkey* – 93% lean or higher*
– Fish – Salmon,* Tilapia, Shrimp*
– Eggs (hard boil a bunch for the week!)
– Steak, Pork, or Sausage are all options too, but I don’t eat those meats enough to offer advice on how to best prepare them for meal prep!
– Vegetarian or Vegan?
Try plant based proteins:
beans (black beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, etc.) edamame, tofu, tempeh !
– Starch options: opt for whole grain, complex carbohydrates as your fuel!
I have put a * next to my favorites!
– Quinoa*— you can add whatever flavors/spices of dish to quinoa to boost flavor
– Sweet potato*
– Brown rice*
– Rice Varities: Jasmine*, Basmati*, Wild Grain*, Etc.
(there are other options as well but I just gave a ‘basic’ list)
– Vegetable options: leafy greens are your best bet here! I have put a * next to my favorites!
– Green Beans*
– Red, Yellow, Orange Peppers*
– Bok Choy
– Spaghetti Squash* (unsure if this is even considered a vegetable)
– Sugar Snap Peas
2. Check to make sure you have all the ingredients for all recipes before hand!
3. Add necessary items to the shopping list
1. Grocery shop for the week
2. Peel, chop, cut all raw veggies for the week to put in lunch or to have as a snack
(Healthy choices are easier to make when they’re ready to be eaten!)
3. Repeat the process for any fruit that requires cutting to be eaten
4. Prep your protein/meals (see below)
– Make specific meals to eat as alternating left overs
– Make items to store in the freezer and eat at a later time
– Make your meat “basic” to be used in a variety of ways through out the week
Now, you can take prepping as far as you want to.
1. Cook enough protein, veggies, starches to eat for the week
(keeping these items basic will make them more versatile to use during the week)
2.Cook two meals to generate enough meals to alternate for the week (five days of dinners)
(the weekend is always a free for all for me because I am unsure if I will be at my apartment or not)
– Make ground beef/ ground turkey meatballs and freeze for a later date
– Make homemade burgers for now and to freeze for a later date
– Crockpot freezer meals, google this! I am not at that level of prepping
Cooking – cook as much of your protein that you would like to have for the week
– Grill chicken in bulk with a variety of seasonings to switch up the flavor during the week
– Bake chicken in bulk, check out my recipe here
– Use your crockpot! Makes enough of a dish to have for the week!
– Cook chicken in chicken broth in the crockpot and use as shredded chicken to add to recipes for the week (think chicken salad, chicken tacos, to put on top of salad)
– Sauté ground beef/ground turkey with a little bit of garlic powder
(eat as is through out the week or create dishes with it such as tacos, beef and peppers, etc.)
– Hard boil enough eggs for the week as a lunch option or go to protein based snack
– When I meal prep, I meal prep in two ways, based on my schedule for the week:
1. Basic Meal Prep. I make all of my lean proteins very “basic” so they are more versatile for eating through out the week. For example, I will cook my ground turkey with only garlic powder, or grill my chicken with just seasoning as opposed to a marinade. Or I bake four different types of marinated chickens, so while I am still eating chicken all week long, it is a variety of flavors! I do all my cutting up of vegetables and fruits on this day, in addition to cooking all of my protein, starches, and veggies!
2. Meal Prep Dinner Based. I do all my cutting up of vegetables and fruits on Sunday, and cook one of my meals, ensuring I have enough to eat for that night, and Monday, and one other day one of my meals, ensuring I have enough to eat for that night, and Monday, and one other day during the week. Then, on Tuesday I will cook because I have time, for that night, and one or two other days of the week. I cook twice to ensure a rotating schedule of left overs so I do not become sick of what I am eating. This is a “dinner based” meal prep, meaning I will eat the same two dinners through out the week, on alternating days.
– I prep my overnight oats for five days at a time
– MAKE YOUR LUNCH THE NIGHT BEFORE HAND, or even multiple nights in advance! Check out myLunch- Simplified post for more information. Prepping lunch ahead of time is much less work on you and ensures you have a nutritious and delicious lunch to fuel you through the day
– When buying ground meat, make your burgers or meatballs ahead of time while the meat is already defrosted so you can freeze them in bulk and pull them out to use at a later date. If the meat is already “prepped” then all you need to do is simply cook it to enjoy its’ deliciousness.
– Everyone meal preps at different intensities or “levels” I will call them. The level of meal prep depends on their schedule, health goals and time willing to dedicate to prepping. For example, I consider myself a beginner to intermediate meal prepper, since I prep for usually four to five days worth of dinner, a few days of breakfast, and all my healthy snacks. An advanced prepper would be an individual who has all seven dinners, possibly even lunch and breakfast prepped and may even dabble in freezer meal prep (something I have not tried yet but involves cooking and freezing meals to defrost and enjoy at a later date).
Remember, do what works best for you though, if cooking everything at once on Sunday is too much because that’s your day of rest, pick two days to meal prep then, this is what I do sometimes!
An inside peak at what one of my already prepped meals for the week looks like- a turkey burger, with one half of a sweet potato, and my favorite, green beans and mushrooms!You can pack your meals all together like this OR you can store all your protein, veggies, and starches separately then just scoop out what you need through out the week!
Depending on what I’ve cooked, I will vary with how I store my prepped meals!
Some chicken I grilled up, Honey Mustard and Italian Seasoned, stored separately because I don’t like when flavors of my food mix! I actually grilled four of these breasts, all stored separately so they were portioned out for me for the week!