When we look at living a healthy lifestyle, nutrition is at the top of the list. Some of the most healthy people meal prep all or some of their healthy meals each week.
Are you looking to improve your healthy lifestyle, save money, or both? If so, then you should start meal prepping! By meal prepping, you can ensure that you have healthy and affordable food options that you absolutely love. An entire week’s worth of meals will be cooked, it will be super convenient to take one meal to eat for lunch each day, or put all the meals in the fridge for quick dinners. Batch cooking saves cooking time in the long run and sets you up for the whole week with all your meals.
In this blog post, we will discuss how to meal prep for the week in 5 easy steps.
What is Healthy Meal Prep?
Healthy meal prep is the act of preparing healthy meals in advance of eating them. This can be done by cooking entire meals, portioning out ingredients to put meals together at a later time, or simply packing up snacks for the week ahead.
- Saves you time during the week
- Can help you save money
- Helps you make healthier choices
- Gives you a sense of control and peace of mind
Meal prepping is an excellent way to eat healthy and to save time for busy people, but knowing how to get started can be difficult. Coming up with healthy meal prep ideas is sometimes what holds people back from trying to meal prep. You may think it’s easier to eat restaurant meals or use a meal delivery service. In some situations, the meal delivery service could be a great idea, but restaurant meals are often high in sodium and processed ingredients therefore, you will eat healthier by learning to make meals ahead and even making a healthier version of your favorite take-out spot.
Without further ado, let us cover these five simple steps to show you an easy way to get started with meal prep!
Meal Prep Step #1: Pick 3 Staple Meal Prep Recipes That Look Good To You
Pick Two: Protein Recipes
Pick One: Starch Recipe
- Cilantro Lime Quinoa (you can also us brown rice)
Use the plate method to help with meal prep ideas! Doing so will make a huge difference when trying to get in a balanced amount of carbs, protein and fat. The plate helps you portion out your macronutrients so you aren’t getting too much or too little of each.
Most people are more interested in eating healthy rather than measuring the exact macros they are consuming daily, therefore we suggest using the plate method when meal planning, and even when eating fast food.
(The plate method works for recipes as well, one just has to be a little bit more resourceful when considering what macros the recipes included.)
One great question to ask yourself when considering the plate method is, does my meal have a carb, a protein and a fat? If not – add what’s missing to your plate in order to make your meal “balanced”.
Meal Prep Step #2: Plan Your Staples, Snacks & Veggies
After you choose a few meal prep recipes to make, step 2 involves picking a few stand-alone options for veggies, starches, fruits, and fats that you make ahead and may later pair with your main healthy meals or simply eat as a snack. All this talk about food is making me hungry!
Below are some examples of staples, snacks, and veggies.
- Cauliflower rice
- Sweet potato
- Black beans
- Butternut squash
- Dave’s Killer Bread
- pre riced cauliflower
- Olive oil
- Peanut Butter
On The Go Snacks
There is nothing worse than feeling hangry…anyone else hear me?
Part of being healthy is being prepared not only at meal times but at snack food times too. By planning your food for snacks ahead of time, you ensure that you will eat healthier all week rather than eating lunch at the local Kwik Star. Many of these snacks you are going to pack don’t require cooking and are very delicious.
Examples: (I can go on and on with healthy snack ideas)
- Greek yogurt (watch the added sugar)
- RX Bars
- Perfect bars
- Turkey Jerky with fruit
- Turkey roll ups with avocado & peppers
- Hard boiled eggs with fruit
- Hummus and your favorite veggies with an egg
- Peanut Butter, apple & hard boiled egg
- Kodiak protein cakes with some low sugar maple syrup
- Protein shake
With busy schedules, prepping food for snacks that don’t require cooking is key. Purchasing a quality cooler is also very beneficial to pack your meals on the go.
Meal Prep Step #3 – Do An Inventory In Your Pantry & Refrigerator and clean out the crap!
Step #3 is my favorite step! I want to be that person that goes to peoples houses and helps them clean out their old nasty stuff!
To kick things off, first let’s clean out the crap! Is it healthy? Is it old? What does healthy even mean?
Ask yourself these questions…
- How many ingredients does the food have? (Over like 5-8, throw it away
- Does it have a ton of preservatives? If yes, throw it away
- Is it high in saturated fat and low in any nutritional value? If yes, throw it away
- Is it real food? If not- throw it away.
Examples of things to throw away in your pantry & fridge:
- Processed chips with fat and sodium galore
- A big bag of sugar
- Baked goods like donuts, croissants, pastries, cookies, pre-packaged snack cakes, and candy
- Expired condiments and pickles, olive or pepper jars, plus expired milk and juices from your fridge
Now that our pantry and fridge are all cleaned up, and we know what we have available to us in our pantry, next let’s make a grocery shopping list based on the entire week of healthy recipes and the meal plan we came up with for meal prep in step 1.
Sample Grocery List
- Chicken – 2lbs of breast meat or two rotisserie chickens
- Ground Turkey & Ground Beef Lean 93% grass-fed (I buy at Costco & I mix ground turkey & ground beef for the muffins)
- Sweet potato
- Black beans
- Butternut squash
- Dave’s Killer Bread
- Pre riced cauliflower
- Vegetable broth
- Peanut Butter
Meal Prep Step #4 – Go Grocery Shopping
Take your list and get going. An alternative would be to shop online and pick up your items at the drive up rather than walk through the grocery store. I LOVE ordering groceries online – it saves so much time.
In addition, by shopping online, you don’t end up with a bunch of crap in your cart that you purchased because you were hungry when shopping helping you feel great with all of your grocery store purchases.
Check out Instacart, Thrive Market and some of your local grocery stores for online shopping. Some stores offer discounts for odering online which will help cut down on meal cost. My local Target is a place I order a lot of my groceries and pick them up in the drive up.
If you do end up going into a store to shop for food, follow these tips:
- Stick to the perimeter of the store when looking for fresh fruits, veggies, and produce, also meats
- Get inside the isles for things like beans, quinoa, oatmeal, brown rice, and spices like crushed red pepper flakes, garlic, and sea salt
- Buy in bulk when possible. Doing so can be a great way to save money on pantry staples like rice, beans, and pasta.
- Compare prices between brands and choose the one that offers the best value. Just because a product is more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better quality.
- DON’T SHOP HUNGRY! This is in bold because it’s the truth! You will end up buying junk food that you will later regret.
- Frozen fruits, veggies, and meats are your friend. Frozen fruits and veggies are sometimes even more nutritious as they are picked at peak ripeness, whereas fresh foods are picked before they are ripe.
Regardless if you shop online or in the store, read food labels and be cautious of health claims on food labels like “whole grain” or “good sources of…”, “real fruit”… These items could be loaded with added sugar and don’t really include whole grains or any type of fiber at all.
How To Read A Nutrition Label
- Serving Information contains the number of servings in the package and the serving size. All the nutrition information that is listed on the label, including the number of calories, refers to the size of the serving.
- Calories provide a measure of how much energy you get from a serving of food. The number of calories you consume depends on the servings you eat.
- Nutrients Saturated fats, sodium, and added sugars are nutrients to consume less of. Dietary fiber, vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium are nutrients identified to consume more of. Total sugars on the facts label include sugars present naturally as well as any added sugars that may be present in the product.
- The % Daily Value in the percentage of the Daily Value for each nutrient in a serving of food. It shows how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a total daily diet and helps you determine if a serving of food is high or low in a nutrient.
Meal Prep Step #5 – Meal Prepping
Allow time for washing, cutting, and meal prepping immediately after grocery shopping.
1. Go to the store
2. Gather your items
3. Wash, Cut, Chop
4. Cook & Prep
5. Store in meal prep containers
Timing is Key:
- If you are cooking your chicken in a slow cooker, start that slow cooker as soon as possible after you arrive home from the store. This alleviates a long wait time after you prep other items.
- From there, start prepping anything that goes in the oven.
- While all of those meals and ingredients are cooking, wash, cut and portion your whole foods like fruits and veggies. Prep time for the week is cut in half by doing this.
Here Is What This May Look Like:
- Start pulled chicken in the slow cooker ( unless you are using a rotisserie chicken)
- Cut veggies and set aside some for the egg muffins, then mix and pour egg muffins.
- Bake Egg Muffins – total time 25min
- Cook ground meat for meatloaf muffins while egg muffins are cooking – total time 15min
- Finish cutting fruits and veggies for the week while the ground beef and turkey are simmering
- Package and store the veggies and fruits
- Take out the egg muffins, let them cool and store them in your meal prep containers.
- By this time, the beef & turkey are done cooking, so you can prep and cook the meatloaf muffins.
- Remove them from the tins and let cool. From here, cook your quinoa while you are mixing up your overnight oats for the week.
- After the quinoa is done, you are ready to place everything in your meal prep containers. Let the meals cool before you refrigerate or freeze them.
Cook or pull enough chicken to store some in the fridge that you don’t plan to use in any particular meal. This leads to you being able to offer more meal options using the chicken in last minute quick meals by flavoring the chicken differently each time you use it.
For example, a few meals you can make with pulled chicken are:
- Use BBQ sauce to make BBQ pulled chicken sandwiches,
- Use Buffalo Sauce to make a Buffalo Chicken Sweet Potato with some fat-free feta
- Use taco seasoning on the chicken for a quick taco dinner
- Use miso, soy, or coconut aminos to make stir fry with some of your veggies, pulled chicken, and cauliflower fried rice
Meal Prep FAQ
(Frequently Asked Questions)
How Long Will My Prepped Healthy Meals Stay Fresh?
Most prepped meals will last 3-4 days in the fridge some a little longer. It really just depends on what you have prepped. Stews and soups can last up to 5-6 days in the fridge.
- Anything crispy after being refrigerated isn’t crispy any longer
- Salads with dressing ( always leave the dressing at the bottom and don’t stir unless you are ready to eat)
- Anything cripsy after being refrigerated isn’t crispy any longer
- Seafood like shrimp and salmon I would consume within 3 days
- Fruit that browns such as avodcado, apples, bananas, pears
What Are Some Disadvantages Of Meal Prep?
- Meal prep planning can be time-consuming when you aren’t sure what you want to make for dinner or lunch.
- If you mess up your grocery list, it’s going to mess up the meal planning system, so you have to be organized and have all the ingredients on hand.
- One may get bored of eating the same thing a couple of times per week.
- You might end up wasting food if you don’t eat the meal prep.
- Some people have limited fridge space.
What Type Of Containers Are Best For Meal Prep Storage?
Any meal prep container that is microwave safe that you can put in the freezer is a great choice. In the event you are not able to consume all your meal prep, you can stick some of the meal prep in the freezer.
Here is a list of a few favorite meal prep containers:
- $29.00 for 22 – I love the simplicity of Rubbermaid Take Along containers. The lids are tight, they never spill and they are easy to store.
- $17.99 for 4 – Next up are these Ultimate Bento Box containers. I like the snap lids and the pretty colors don’t hurt either. They are safe for all types of storage and cooking.
- $48 for 9 – Bayco 10 Pack Glass Meal Prep containers are great for people who prefer glass and also don’t like their food to touch as there is a separator to keep different foods away from each other.
- $45 for 10 – These glass MCIRCO containers are also great for those who don’t care if their foods touch each other.
What Kitchen Tools Make Meal Prep Easier?
You can find a complete list of meal prep tools here, but the short list of must haves I’ll list here. Having the correct tools makes a huge difference.
- Crockpot by Greenpan
- Air Fryer
- Mixing Bowls
- Food Scale
- Cutting Board
- Muffin Tins
- Sheet Pans
- Measuring Cups & Spoons
- Saute Pan
Will Meal Prep Help With Weight Loss?
If you’re trying to lose weight or even maintain your current weight, meal prepping is a great way to stay on track. By cooking your meals in advance, you can control portion sizes and make sure you’re eating healthy, balanced meals with the best ingredients.
Picture the day you are starving, you didn’t pack your lunch, and you drive to the nearest fast-food take-out spot to get some food. The food didn’t fit into the lifestyle you are trying to lead, but because you were hungry, you had no choice. From here, guilt sets in, and that’s not fun for anyone. I’m sure this happens a lot for many people. If your meals were prepped for the week, this wouldn’t have been an issue because instead of driving to the fast-food spot you would have taken a delicious meal out of the fridge at work, microwaved it, and ate it.
I Hate To Meal Prep, How About A Meal Prep Service?
- Travel time getting groceries is reduced
- There is literally no cook time or prep time involved; if you add up total time warming up meals for the week it may take 1 hour tops
- Time is saved by not having wait time while cooking
- Meal plans are usually dictated by the company you order from so time spent deciding what to eat is cut in half because your choices are limited to the weekly meals available
- Meals arrive on the dates you select and meal cost ranges by company
There are multiple healthy meal prep services to choose from. Below are some of the most popular:
As you have read, meal prep is a great way to stay on track with your nutritional goals and save time during the week. By cooking your meals in advance, you can control portion sizes and make sure you’re eating healthy, balanced meals with the best ingredients. Meal prep can also help you lose weight or maintain your current weight by avoiding unhealthy fast food options.
So if you’re looking for a way to save time and eat healthier, meal prep is a great option!
If you are still struggling with knowing how to get started – shoot me a DM!