Let’s be real. How many times have you come home and thought, “I’m hungry, don’t want to cook and need food ASAP”? Then you end up ordering take out. Sound familiar?
Planning and meal prepping may sound like a trendy buzzword, but it’s much more than that. Meal prepping can help prevent you from eating crap and get you back onto a healthy eating plan. Plus, it will keep you from putting a hole in your wallet. :)
While meal prepping can seem intimidating at first, you’ll get the hang of it after a few tries. Here are a few tricks to help you successfully meal prep and no longer wonder, “what’s for dinner”?
1. Check Your Calendar
What do you have going on during the week? Write out any breakfast, lunch or dinner dates. Jotting down what you have going on throughout the week will help you know how many meals and snacks you need to prep.
2. Consider Your Food Preference
If you could happily eat the same meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner every night for a week, then by all means, whip together a casserole or soup. If you get sick of the same thing after a couple of days, then you’ll need to prep an array of basics for a meal-prep smorgasbord.
If the former is your style, make one or two big dishes that you won’t mind eating every day for the week. One meal can be for lunch (let’s say soup), and the other recipe can be for dinner (that casserole).
If you get bored of the same thing, then mix it up. Plan for eating the same meal two days in a row and then change it up. It can be as simple as the same veggies, but different protein. Or the same protein, different vegetables. You can have soup for lunch Monday and Tuesday, then a hearty salad with zesty dressing for Friday. Similar concept for dinner.
Don’t forget to plan out your snacks and breakfast. If you’re on-the-go in the mornings, have easy-to-grab foods like yogurt and gr8nola mini packs. You can chop up some fruit and veggies for an afternoon snack (hummus and veggies are our fave!).
Knowing your food preferences for the week will help you pick your recipes and map out meals for each week.
3. Plan Your Meals
Planning your meals may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s essential. Deciding your meals will become easier once you know whether you’re OK with eating the same thing for a week or need some variety. Step one, look in your fridge and pantry to see what ingredients you already have on hand. The hard part’s over, and now you can search for and bookmark your favorite recipes online and plan accordingly. Don't forget our recipes for some inspo!
Keep in mind that you’ll be cooking multiple meals, so you’ll want to stick to the staples. Use the same proteins, veggies or grains—and then get creative.
Main protein: Chicken
Veggies: Spinach/Kale, carrots and onion
Dishes: Chicken plate, soup, salad, bowl, casserole
How might you ask? Simple—it’s the same base, just prepped differently!
Meal one: We’ll start with the easiest: the chicken plate! Put the chicken and veggies together on a baking sheet, evenly coat with olive oil, salt and pepper, then bake.
Meal two: Making soup is super simple. In a slow cooker or large pot, toss in your favorite broth, some seasoning, veggies and baked chicken. Let it simmer, and you’ve got another meal.
Meal three: For your salad, grab a handful of mixed greens and toss in your favorite veggies (either cooked, raw or thawed from the freezer) and then top with cubed chicken.
Meal four: The bowl is pretty easy too. You can pick a grain or sweet potato, use this as your base. Toss in your veggies, chicken and seasoning of choice—try adding a little Golden Turmeric for extra crunch.
Meal five: Find a casserole recipe you like and use the chicken and veggies as the main ingredients.
Again, find recipes you like that use the same ingredients. You can always tweak the recipe to cater to what’s in your fridge. Helpful tip: Look for recipes that don’t use too many ingredients and are easy to make (under 30 minutes). As you get used to meal prepping, you’ll be able to get more creative with your dishes.
4. Pick Your Meal-Prep Day
Choose one day of the week to plan your meals, cook them and place food in containers. If Sundays are good for you to prep, then spend a few hours mapping out your schedule that week, grocery shopping and then cooking! It's ideal to get into the same habit of meal prepping the same day of each week, so it becomes part of your routine.
5. Place in Containers
Containers are crucial to being organized. Have different containers for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Place the meals per day in each one. This will make it easy for you to grab 'n go when in a rush. Plus, after you come home from a long day at work (or gym:), you’ll have dinner waiting.
6. Label Everything
Label the containers with the day and meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack).
You can use dry erase markers on plastic containers, post-it notes or tape and sharpie. Staying organized will set you up for meal prep success!
Rule of Thumb
Important: If you plan on eating a meal after four days, make sure to put it in the freezer. Any meal from the freezer can take a few hours to defrost (put in the fridge the night before to speed up the process).
Shop for your favorite gr8nola snack!