How to Meal Prep Like a Boss

Meal prep is a polarizing topic. Some people live by it and for it. Others tend to shy away from it.

For anyone striving toward a healthier lifestyle, meal prep can go a long way to help people reach their goals and retain sanity on busy week nights. Meal prep is the action of setting aside time (typically on a weekend) to plan and prepare meals and snacks for the week ahead. This saves time in the long run, and makes life easier when juggling work responsibilities, family duties, workouts and other stressors. (Plus, it stops us from grabbing take-out menus from the kitchen drawer.)

Some people live for meal prep. These are the people that probably make all of their week’s meals ahead of time and portion them out into cute bento containers. They probably spend hours in the kitchen on a Saturday or Sunday prepping their meals and snacks to ensure they have a successful and stress-free week ahead. There’s probably some array of hard-boiled eggs, chicken and broccoli and pesto. As great as this plan sounds, it can be easy to get sick of eating the same thing week after week, and it’s easy get burnt out.

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Then, there’s the camp of people who get stressed out about the idea. Although they understand meal prep is an important part of the healthy lifestyle equation, they just don’t know where to begin.

Meal prep doesn’t have to cause anxiety and it doesn’t have to take upwards of four hours. With just a little bit of time and a plan of action, meal prep can be easy.

What’s the secret? Batch cooking!

Batch cooking is simple in principle: By preparing some staple ingredients—proteins, vegetables, grains/starches, snacks—come busy evenings all you need to do is reach into the fridge to prepare a meal. This also enables a bit of creativity so not all meals are the same.

Your meal prep session can happen on any day during any time—it doesn’t always have to happen on a Sunday. Do what works best for you and your family. Before cooking, take stock of what’s in your pantry and refrigerator. Think about what’s in season, what your week looks like and start formulating an idea of what the week’s meals may look like. (There are hundreds of great food blogs and cookbooks out there to give you a little inspiration!)

Healthy Snack Ideas

You may need to run to the grocery store.

Now, the trick to a successful meal prep session—regardless of what track you take—is to work efficiently. Go in with a plan of attack and only spend time on what needs to get done.

For the batch cookers, start with these considerations:
  • Prep a protein or two—Whether it be cooking chicken breasts in the slow cooker, simmering beans, marinating steak or hard-boiling eggs, create at least two proteins.
  • Remember you don’t need to prep for all meals—Consider what you time have for throughout the week. If you know your mornings are very busy, it may not be a bad idea to prep breakfasts ahead of time. (Have you tried overnight oats or baking egg cups?) If you make extra dinner servings, those can easily be translated into packed lunches for the next day.
  • Turn on really good tunes—This step seems silly, but mood music can go a long way to making this session as stress-free as possible. Don’t be afraid to sing.
  • When in doubt roast—Roasting gives you the gift of time. You can easily stick a few things in the oven, set it and move on with the next part of your plan. It’s easy to prick a few sweet potatoes and push them into a hot oven to roast. Or, you can prepare a sheet pan of roasted veggies that can be reheated later in the week.  Plus, who doesn’t love roasted veggies?
  • Prepare a few vegetable options—Vegetable prep does not need to be fancy. You can simply wash and chop lettuce for salads, cut carrots into sticks, floret broccoli so it can be steamed when ready to serve, or roasting a pan of vegetables.
  • Simmer a grain or prepare some other starch—Quinoa, rice, roasted sweet potatoes are all great examples of complex carbohydrates but they do take time to prepare. By making them ahead of time, you can easily save time during a busy week. And they last a few days in the fridge until ready to eat. (Cutting back on carbs? Cauliflower rice can easily be prepped ahead of time, too!)
  • Read recipes and prepare anything time-consuming ahead of time—If there is a recipe you plan on eating sometime during the week, prepare some of its components ahead of time, especially those that take a lot of time. This may mean blending the sauce, simmering the grain or cooking the chicken ahead of time. These tiny steps will make weeknight prep that much easier! Nobody wants to spend a long time in the kitchen after a hard day’s work.
  • Don’t forget a snack—Everyone needs a snack or two. Homemade energy balls or bars are easily customizable and can be whipped up in less than 20 minutes. They take pantry staples like oats, protein powders, nuts and/or dried fruit. (Need some inspiration? Check out these chocolate hippie cookies, banana protein balls or red velvet cake balls!) 
  • It doesn’t need to be perfect—Your meal prep session doesn’t need to be perfect nor does it need to take up a whole day. Give yourself some grace. If you only have time to shred lettuce, that’s fine. If you’re able to prepare a batch of quinoa, chop carrot sticks and make a healthy salad dressing, then do that. Do whatever you can and whatever you have time for. And understand that as you continue meal prep each week, it will get easier.
Need some recipe inspiration? Check out these four recipes made with an athlete’s needs in mind! They’re plant-based and loaded with ingredients to sustain your busy lifestyle. (Plus, there’s a recipe for healthy cookie dough!)

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