Meal Prep Strategies
Written by Michele Vieux
There’s a lot of truth to the old saying, “The more you cook, the better you look”. Unless you have a personal chef working out of your kitchen, it’s the only way to take charge of your nutrition and health. It’s really not as difficult as you may think to plan out meals and prepare your own food. Here are some ideas to help you get started.
Massive Meal Prep Parties
Many folks choose to cook all their meals on one or two days each week – Sunday and Wednesday for example – and then package them up into individual portions to grab and go throughout the week. If you do this, it means you’ll cook two to four recipes all at once and rotate through them over the next three to four days.
Shop & Chop Days
If you’re not into eating leftovers or desire more of a variety, there are still ways you can meal prep to make daily cooking less of a task and time constraint. Instead of cooking your meals for the week on one or two days, you will use those days to shop and chop. Get everything you’ll need for the meal ready to go so – chopped, spiced, portioned – that all you have to do on the day of is cook it. This could also include purchasing value packs of proteins and then putting one or two pieces per freezer bag for easy thawing and convenient portions. (See more on this below.)
Using the grill is the easiest way to make a lot of a food in a short amount of time. Prep two or three protein options and grill them. While the protein is cooking, chop your vegetables – make some kebabs, or throw a bunch of vegetables together into some aluminum foil and season them with olive oil, salt and pepper. When your protein is done cooking, throw the veggies onto the grill for about five to ten minutes until they are fully cooked, turning them over a couple of times. You’ll have some protein and vegetables ready.
Food Exchange with Friends
Enroll some of your friends from the gym in a food exchange. Make sure they know to only cook with real foods as the primary guideline. Once a week, cook enough for 4-6 people. If you have 3-4 friends that you do this with and exchange meals with, all of a sudden you have a bunch of new meals to enjoy.
Purchase Pre-Made Meals
If you are a busy professional or frequently travel, you may want to consider purchasing some pre-made meals from a food delivery service. Ideally, we would like you to cook as many of your meals as possible, but since you will be eating three or more meals per day, we realize this may not always be possible. There are many of these healthy meal services available with varying price points. You can have fully prepped meals sent and there are also services who deliver a box of ingredients to your doorstep along with instructions for you to make your own meals!
Freeze Individual Portions of Protein
Something I’ve always done is to buy meat on sale and then package it into individual portion sizes and freeze them in baggies to be quickly thawed when you need it. If you want, you can throw a marinade in with it so all you have to do is thaw it – either overnight in the fridge or by running it under cold water for 10 minutes – and throw it on the grill or in a pan.
Freeze Leftovers or Big Batches for Easy Meal Prep
What if you could cook dinner now for next week – or even next month, even if you didn’t know exactly which night you’d like to eat it? You’re in the kitchen cooking tonight’s dinner anyway…so another option is to buy a large chunk of meat – like a roast – and cook the whole thing, even if it is going to be too much, and then freeze some of the leftovers that you don’t use for the next day’s lunch in portion sizes. Meats that freeze well are pot roasts, pulled pork/beef/chicken, meatloaf, and chilis/soups/stews/sauces.
You can even use a freezer-safe container to create your own healthy frozen meal! You can portion out your protein and veggies as needed and freeze them. They will last in your freezer for a couple of months without getting frostbite. For example, I stocked up on these before I had knee surgery so I’d have healthy meals on hand when I was unable to do anything too laborious.
Open your mind and be creative – not only with your recipes and trying new and different types of food, but also in how you look at food prep and what it means to you. It may allow you to not only be more creative and add variety to your life but it also has the potential to save you money, since you are buying on sale, not wasting leftovers, and aren’t forced to spend $10-$20+ per meal for eating out in a pinch when you didn’t have any food on hand.
Look at your routine and think about other things you can do to make sure you’re never left unprepared.