What! Can you believe that we already in February 2021!?! How are your New Year’s Resolutions going? Don’t give up, I’m here to help….
One of my secret weapons and biggest time savers has been meal prepping. If I don’t meal prep, I do not stay on track. When it comes to what you eat and how you eat, preparedness matters if you want to reach your nutrition and fitness goals. If I am not prepped, I will eat whatever is quick, right on hand or head to the drive through. Planning ahead makes me feel better and helps me get it done. Seriously, there is no better feeling than having the right foods to eat prepped and ready to go so when the hunger strikes in don’t get off track.
But how do I meal prep successfully to save time and money? Here are my helpful tips listed below.
Make a Plan
Take 5 minutes to write out your meals for the week. If you’re a pen and paper person like myself, get a meal planner notebook or template. I have found many stationary options to choose from. However, if you like a more digital approach there is an app for that!
It’s Okay to Repeat
Remember that there is no need to cook something different for breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day. Use a dinner item for lunch the next day or have it again two or three days later. If you are not a morning person and always rushing out the door, plan for Grab-and-go breakfasts like overnight oats, smoothies, or egg bites you can make ahead of time.
Looking to save more time? Include some no-cook recipes in your meal prep. Snacks like protein shakes and foods that don’t require cooking (like salads and veggies with hummus) can reduce time in the kitchen.
Grocery Shopping with a Purpose
After you have your 7 breakfast, lunch and dinner items, make your grocery list. Stick with the list and buy your food in bulk and watch your savings grow!! Ever gone to the store to buy groceries and come home to find that you bought a lot of things you hadn’t planned on and maybe even forgot some things you meant to buy? Yup me too, I am queen of the impulse buys if I don’t have my list.
Get Real with Yourself
If it doesn’t fit your lifestyle, it will never last. If you are short on time look for some healthy short cuts. If you’re willing to swap a few extra dollars to save a little extra prep time, do it! Many grocery stores offer pre-chopped veggies, zoodles, “pre-riced” cauliflower, peeled and diced fruit, pre-washed salad greens, and precooked proteins like fish, chicken, and tempeh. If time is of the essences make it work to your advantage.
Shopping in the Frozen Section
Frozen fruits and veggies can be just as good as fresh. This is especially true when it comes to meal prep. Since frozen vegetables have already been cooked, all you have to do is heat them in the microwave with some cooked quinoa and your pre-made chicken breast, and PRESTO you’ve got yourself a balanced meal. Frozen fruit is also a great addition to a protein shake; no washing or cutting required.
Storing Your Food
As soon as you get home from the grocery store the prepping begins!
If you need to cut onions, peppers, veggies, fruits do it now. If you have precut washed fruit and veggies on hand you and your family will be 10 times more likely to grab them when snack time sneaks up on you.
*Pro Tip for ultimate freshness that lasts: Store those pre-washed and cut veggies in a container with cool fresh water, changing the water out every couple of days to make them last even longer. Store prewashed and cut fruits in a container with a little lemon or lime juice, yes that simple! Finally store prewashed and cut lettuce in a bag or airtight container with a paper towel at the bottom, the towel will soak up the moisture leaving your lettuce crisper and tastier. Freeze fresh herbs in oil using ice cube trays.
Let’s Get Cooking
Batch Cook, Batch Cook, Batch Cook! One of the biggest time-savers is batch cooking. To help you with some ideas, below are some of my favorites!
Roasted Veggies: Add them to a breakfast scramble, then toss some into your salad for a zing to your desk lunch.
Quinoa: Add this nutrient-packed food to your soup for lunch, then turn it into a side dish with baked salmon at dinner.
Chicken Breasts: Bake a few chicken breasts to pair with a side of sautéed veggies and a baked sweet potato for dinner. Then add a sliced chicken breast to some zoodles for a clean “pasta” dish for lunch the next day.
Hard-Boiled Eggs: Grab these as an easy snack when the afternoon slump hits, then make avocado egg salad toast for breakfast in the morning.
A big pot of brown rice will last you 4 to 5 days in the fridge or up to 1 month in the freezer. Your grains can be used in a slew of recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
If you’re making something on Sunday that you don’t plan to eat until Friday, put it in the freezer and defrost it in the fridge Thursday night.
Some foods like eggs and sweet potatoes don’t freeze well, so schedule freezer-friendly meals at the end of the week so you only have to cook one day during the week.
Don’t Let Fear Get in Your Way
It may seem daunting at first to plan an entire week of meals, shop, then cook it all, but if you stick with it and start meal prepping on a regular basis, you’ll figure out what works/what doesn’t work, and you’ll save yourself time and money. If you are new at this start small by planning a few days at a time and work your way up to a full 7 days a week.
You’ve got this! Now, let’s get planning!