In my opinion, meal prepping can be one of THE most effective tools we have at our disposals for having healthy food readily available all week long, even when schedules get busy and hectic. It can keep us on track with nutrition, free up time during the week for other to do list item or leisure activities, and it can also help save money if we’re not going out to eat or ordering takeout as much.
However, meal prepping is also a process that can seem totally daunting and overwhelming. Many people think it has to involve hours and hours in the kitchen on a Sunday and seven days’ worth of perfectly portioned out Tupperware containers in order to be successful. No wonder the whole thing doesn’t seem that fun.
Here’s the thing though: meal prep can take as much or as little time as you want it to. If you want to prep every meal for your week, go for it. But meal prep could also look like taking fifteen minutes to hard boil some eggs, cut up veggies to roast later in the week, and throw together some grab and go containers of yogurt and fruit. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to the amount of time you choose to set aside for meal prep. There’s also no right or wrong when it comes to WHEN you want to food prep. Maybe you like to food prep on Wednesdays. Totally fine.
The key is to pinpoint exactly what YOU personally struggle with, and then use whatever time you have available in YOUR schedule to prep as efficiently as possible.
Basically I’m all about streamlining the process to make things easier on yourself for #stressfreefitness, and today I want to share a few things that help me streamline my own food prep routine.
Five Tips for Streamlining Your Food Prep Process
Assess your fridge.
Before I even sit down to go to the grocery store, I do a quick run through of my refrigerator. I toss anything that may have spoiled. I also take a quick inventory of what items either need to be eaten right away or that we still need to use up, and I’ll actually jot these down on a piece of paper. All together this takes me about three minutes, and it also helps to clear out space in the fridge for when the food prep itself actually begins.
Map out your week.
The next thing I do is take a look at my week ahead to see what I have going on. I’ll usually write this out quickly on a piece of paper too, although I’m sure there are a million phone apps that could do something similar for me. I find the good old-fashioned way just works for me, so why not? I’ll make a note of what days I won’t need lunch or dinner due to previous commitments. This also takes about three minutes, not even, and it prevents me from buying more food than necessary at the store. It also helps us waste less food overall. I’ll also assess what days during the upcoming week might be super busy and leave little time for cooking. This way I know to plan for more throw together meals or leftovers on those days.
Identify your priorities.
I do most of my meal planning on the weekend. When my schedule allows, I love taking my sweet ass time looking up new recipes and catching up on my favorite food blogs for inspiration over a cup of coffee. However, it’s unrealistic for me to think that every week will allow for this. There are plenty of days where I don’t have the time on my hands to leisurely browse through blogs or I just don’t feel like it. When this happens, if I can’t compensate by planning on another day, I simply focus my plan around the areas I need the most help with and then rely on tried and true recipes and things I’ve made before to get my by. Since my mornings are always go, go, go with clients and classes, it’s important for me to have breakfast and snacks prepped so that I’m not skipping breakfast or running to the vending machine. However, a mom of three who spends her afternoons picking the kids up from school, dropping them off at a million activities, and helping them with their homework may want to prioritize dinnertime as the main focus of their planning.
Know that the amount of time you spend planning week to week is bound to change. Sometimes this step takes me ten minutes tops if I’m not getting super creative or spending a lot of time browsing online ahead of time, but sometimes it takes me up to an hour if I let it. Again, it just depends on the weekend!
Keep your kitchen clean.
If I start cooking when there are dishes in the sink or groceries waiting to be put away, my entire process slows down. I hate clutter in my physical space, so having a clean and organized kitchen from the get go makes everything easier for me and causes me less frustration. Cleaning as I go also sets me up for success. Both prevent the sink from getting overcrowded or piling up with dishes, and they also take away the need for hours spent doing the dishes later. One little tip that’s helped me streamline my cleaning process while food prepping is to have a garbage bowl out on the counter so that I can put scraps of food or paper towels in it as I go. This saves me SO many trips back and forth from the counter to the trash barrel. I know it’s only across the room, but this has honestly been a huge efficiency improver for me.
Get your ingredients ready.
This means two things for me. First, I like to set out all the ingredients that I’ll need when making a particular dish so that I’m not looking for anything or needing to rummage through the cabinets or fridge mid cooking. Second, I like to prep all the ingredients that are needed for a recipe at the beginning of the process, even if a recipe doesn’t say to do it until later in the steps. For example, if I am prepping a salad, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to chop up all the veggies and herbs needed for the salad, then prep the grain, then prep the protein, and then go back to the cutting board to prep the ingredients for a dressing. You know? Basically you want to get all your chopping, dicing, and other cutting board steps out of the way upfront. You can also apply this tip to times you might be making multiple meals at once. If both meals require 1/2 cup diced onion, chop that onion once instead of having to go back to it.
Prepping my food ahead of time is something that has always helped me keep healthy food on the table and on track with my nutrition goals. If you haven’t tried food prep yet because the time involved seems too overwhelming, please remember that YOUR process doesn’t have to stack up to what you see other people doing. It’s always about finding what works for you, and I hope the tips in this post can help get you started as you figure that out! Feel free to leave a comment on this post sharing what some of your own tips are for streamlining food prep.
Want more education about how to make meal prep work for your lifestyle?
Master Your Meal Prep is a 7 week email course designed to help you find an efficient way of food prepping that fits your lifestyle and schedule, no matter how busy you are. Master Your Meal Prep is a solution that teaches people that there is no right or wrong when it comes to food prep, and that it can actually be quite simple if you let it be. Prep for only five minutes? Yes, that’s allowed. Prep on a Wednesday? Yes, that’s allowed. The education consists of seven weeks’ worth of emails delivered right to your inbox. You’ll get all my best meal prep tools, insights, and strategies in one place, with one goal in mind: to help meal prep become something that makes your life EASIER! Get all the details on my website here.