What is Meal Prepping?
Meal prepping is the art of preparing your meals ahead of time. Instead of having a fridge full of various leftovers from the past week, it will be transformed into a myriad of portioned containers that can be easily pulled out and taken with you when you’re ready to eat. Meal preppers often pick a day or two to prepare meals for the week and organize them into meal containers.
This method is perfect for catering to a hectic work schedule and is often implemented to improve eating habits by helping people stick to a well-thought-out eating plan. It is easily customizable to your own personal health goals and it also doesn’t require any particular skill in cooking or baking.
The millennial generation often gets a bad wrap when it comes to our habits, but one especially unhealthy one is our tendency to eat out. Our generation is brimming with the avid Yelp user, frequent coffee runner or aesthetic Instagram food creator creating a definite trend that shouldn’t be ignored.
Studies show millennials are the number one offenders of lazy food prep, as a 2017 study by Bankrate.com found that the average millennial eats out five times a week. While we often equate our overspending on food to the value of experience and unique ambiance of our favorite cafés, bars, and restaurants, let’s face it, it’s eating away at our savings.
Also, according to Business Insider, the highest share of the meals millennials eat are already prepared, even though we work fewer hours on average than other generations do.
While spending a chunk of our paychecks on the food service industry is helping these businesses grow exponentially, it is by no means benefiting us with anything else but extreme convenience.
One alternative to this destructive eating out cycle is “meal prepping”! It’s a ritual that is made to be both easy and convenient for the busy millennial.
Here’s a full guide that will help you get started, and level up when it comes to meal prepping the healthy and fiscally responsible way.
Meal Prepping How-To Guide Summary
For those who aspire to live a healthy lifestyle, meal prepping is a part of the path to helping you gain control over what you eat in a way that is organized, easy to implement and for saving money.
Having a specific meal plan eliminates aimless trips to the grocery store that can lead to purchases with no reasoning behind it, other than you like the specific food. You can make the most of your shopping trips and finally put to use all of the groceries you buy to use.
Ever wanted to start to go vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free or paleo? While the fear of not finding enough options that a specific diet entails often stops people from taking the next step with these lifestyle changes; meal prepping is the perfect way to get started. This is because you have the power to only prepare meals using only your desired ingredients to prepare meals.
You might not realize it, but constantly coming up with new meals on the fly is likely a source of stress. Especially if you are aware that you are spending too much money on food per week and splurging on groceries that you might consistently forget about until it’s too late.
When little thought goes into your food preparation, you can also find yourself in a rut, picking up and making the same things week after week. Meal prepping allows for time to be creative with your food preparation, therefore opening up new possibilities for meals you didn’t know you could make yourself.
The first step to meal prepping is making a commitment to fitting it into your busy life by picking a day when you will be able to make time to create your meals. I would recommend the night before you start your work week such as Sunday because it’s usually the time when you are preparing for the week ahead anyway.
Your social circle is likely winding down before the dreadful Monday ahead as well, so it won’t likely cut into any exciting plans either.
Adding something extra to your plate also requires a hefty serving of motivation that will have you turn meal prepping into more of a habit rather than a temporary phase.
Before you start filling a single container, write down the specific reasons you want to start meal prepping, including some health and/or money-saving goals.
For example, if you are hoping to use meal prepping to finally give up meat or spend a certain amount on food per week, make it a clear-cut goal. You do this by motivating yourself from the beginning as to the reasons why this will be the best move for your health and finances.
You also need to decide on a method to organize and plan your meals such as a calendar, meal planner, notebook or through a smartphone app. Using a method that can attach to your fridge or hang somewhere in your kitchen is especially recommended to remind you of your goals and meal prepping plan.
Below is a method that allows you to plan your weekly meals, figure out what you need and what you have and in a notebook that you can easily take along with you to the grocery store. Check out Liv B’s meal prep DIY:
However, as a meal prep beginner, you don’t want to take on too much too soon. For your first go at meal prepping, pick one meal (breakfast, lunch or dinner) that causes the bulk of your meal stress when it comes to achieving your goals.
Maybe you don’t usually give yourself time in the morning to make breakfast, don’t have time on your lunch break to prepare a meal or are too beat when it comes to dinner to cook yourself a meal.
Before really getting started with meal prep, investing in some containers is key to providing the right portions for your meals that will also be able to neatly fit in your fridge. Here are some options on Amazon that are good for meal prep:
Freshware Meal Prep Containers, $15: This deal offers a pack of 15 reusable meal prep containers, at about a dollar for each individual container. They have a divider that splits the container into three sections to add variety into your meals.
Glass Meal Prep Containers, $29: For meal prep containers that will last a bit longer and feel more elegant while you eat out of them, pick up this four pack of glass containers. They also include handy sauce containers and labels where you can add the date prepared and the meal title.
Rubbermaid TakeAlongs 10-Day Meal Prep Kit, $17: This 30-piece set offers a variety of sizes for your meal prep containers since not all of your meals might not call for three separate sections. This kit allows some freedom to add snacks and sides to your meal prep routine.
Ready to begin meal prepping but can’t come up with meal ideas? Read this: Nxt Modern - Healthy Recipes
Now it’s time to sit down and decide what meals you will be prepping on your designated day for you to conveniently enjoy days later. For your first go at meal prepping, you can make a plan for five meals for the week, but you’re definitely welcome to work with more.
Think of the meals that you would prepare if you had the time, before venturing out of your comfort zone into the many meal prep recipes you can find online. Also be mindful in terms of using your groceries wisely, by beginning your week with the foods that will go bad first and reusing ingredients such as tomatoes in multiple meals so they won’t go unused.
For a simple first meal plan: Decide on a protein such as chicken and then compliment it with things like salad, rice, different veggies, etc. to make the most of your meal prep time and add variety to.
If meal ideas don’t come easily to you, don’t sweat it, there are plenty of meal preppers online who have shared their recipes on their personal blogs or on Pinterest. Coming up with themed meal days such as Meatless Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, etc. is also a good way to get the gears turning and keep you on a schedule for your daily meals.
My Freez Easy is a service that gives you recipes, shopping lists and step-by-step directions for putting together meals that can be stored in the freezer.
Implementing it into your meal prep program could be the answer for new meal preppers who need guidance on coming up with recipes and prepping for the freezer is a good idea for having food ready for longer than a few days.
$5 Meal Plan is also a great tool for the uninspired prepper! If you subscribe, the website will fill your inbox each Friday with a menu and shopping list for the month. It includes five dinner entrees with sides, one lunch, one breakfast, and a random goodie.
The meals are meal prep friendly as they always include 20-minute, freezer-friendly, slow cookers and make-ahead meals every week.
When meal prepping, it’s important to look for ways to make the most of your time and your kitchen. It’s definitely possible to cook multiple components all at once that can be crafted into your meals for the week.
Having components that can be turned into batches such as a pot of rice, soups, mixed veggies, cooking an entire chicken, etc. are good ideas to implement into your meal prep.
Once you have a rough idea for your first five meals for the week, it’s time to start breaking them down into a grocery list.
First, take inventory of what you already have and decide how you can implement them into this week’s meals in any way. Don’t worry if you have to fine-tune your current meal plans, because meal prepping is all about saving money on food and using what you have to the best of your ability.
Looking around for a discount and coupons is also a really smart way to shop for your meal prep groceries. It can also drum up some inspiration that will set your week’s plans in stone if you find a great deal on an item.
For some great deals on organic products, check out Thrive Market, which delivers right to your door and saves you money on healthy products. Using online grocery delivery services such as this can eliminate the temptation to shop outside your list.
Ready to begin meal prepping but can’t come up with meal ideas? Read this: Nxt Modern - Healthy Diets
All that’s left is to get prepping! Try out these amazing recipes made by meal preppers for meal preppers that are both simple and delicious.
For Breakfast – Roasted Potatoes and Eggs by The Schmidty Wife: It’s a classic favorite but you may not always have time to prepare it in the morning. Scrambled eggs and roasted potatoes are both good for you and a delicious way to start your day.
For Lunch – Vegan Burrito Bowls by The Fitchen: This recipes requires zero cooking and takes just 15 minutes to prepare. It combines tofu, black beans, avocados with a side salad for a healthy and cheaper alternative to your lunchtime Chipotle run.
For Dinner – Crockpot Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Bolognese by Half Baked Harvest: There’s nothing like having Italian, at home, that you made and with healthy ingredients. This crockpot recipe is a slow-cooker recipe that you can make last!
To see how a pro meal prep is done, check out the video by Shephi Nguyen. In under 10 minutes, she will show you how to meal prep for the week with a few healthy ingredients and by using simple methods to get them into your fridge.
Once you buy those containers and start preparing those weekly meals, going back to overpriced burger shops and trendy restaurants around the corner from your office can be saved for special “treat yo self” occasions. Having a handle on what you are putting into your body every week is worth the effort in planning and preparing.
You will see a difference in how much money you have left over each week and start gaining some valuable skills about organization and goal achieving. Making a little bit of time each week for your health is incredibly important and it’s not out of reach. Our millennial generation is growing up and so should our habits!
Happy Meal Prepping!