Nutrition

How to: Meal Prep Edition

November 26, 2018

Hey fellow fitness enthusiasts!

Today I’m excited to share a post that is near and dear to my heart. We are focusing on something that many fitness industry leaders rely on to stay lean and clean year round.
Welcome to the world of meal prepping!

Despite nutrition being such an important factor in our weight loss goals, most of us overlook this detail and skip right to exercise thinking it will solve all our problems.

As hard as you may try, you truly cannot out-exercise a bad diet, which is why today’s post will be covering some key tips on how to meal prep and ideas to help you plan, prep, and enjoy your meals throughout each week. Let’s get started!

 

The Plan

Budget

To get you prepared for your grocery haul, you need to start by establishing your budget.

Aim to spend roughly $50 or less per week depending on what’s on sale and which recipes you plan on using. Keep in mind I am only shopping for one person in my example, so for those of you with more mouths to feed your budget might be slightly higher than mine. On a typical shopping day, my spending usually comes out to approximately $50 and can last me about a week.

In addition to this, I factor in items I already have in my pantry. For example, spices are a fully stocked item in my house so I rarely need to replenish my supply unless I am using fresh herbs for a recipe.

Grocery Haul

Keep in mind this is a comprehensive list of items for various food groups. You DO NOT need to buy all these items every week.

Instead, simply pick a few foods from each category and create or borrow recipes that contain those foods. If you lack some creativity or just want some inspiration, check out recipes on Pinterest while you create your grocery list! After doing this religiously,  I noticed my meals were becoming more colorful, delicious and aesthetically pleasing…..and who doesn’t love eating pretty food? This is also a great method to find vegetarian and vegan meal options.

Stick to maybe 3-4 recipes for the whole week, depending on how many people you are feeding.

Pro tip #1: Before choosing your foods, plan on choosing items that belong to a few recipes that have overlap with each other. It is a lot easier to cook only a few meals at a time with similar ingredients compared to cooking 5 different entrees simultaneously. Talk about chaos!

Here is my grocery haul list:

(Keep in mind some foods fall under multiple categories (i.e. peanut butter is both a fat and a protein))

Pro tip #2: Variety is key to preventing boredom. Be creative! Change things up weekly. You can make fewer meals and incorporate more snacks throughout the day or vise versa. You are completely in control.

So, you’ve set your budget, you’ve put together your grocery list… what’s next?

GO SHOPPING!

Look for items on sale or items that are in season. If you are able to, visit a Costco or Sam’s Club for items you can purchase in bulk (rice, beans, spices, coffee beans). This will save you a TON of money long term.   Farmer’s markets are also a fun way to support your local community and ensure you are eating higher quality produce. Don’t forget your reusable bags!

Pro Tip # 3: As a general rule, if you have to go to the store without a grocery list, ask yourself the following questions to see if you are in line with your clean eating habits:

  • Would you classify this product as ‘natural’ or ‘processed’?
  • Would you consider this product as ‘fuel’ or an ‘empty snack’?
  • Does this product have a long or short list of ingredients?
  • If I ate this product every day, how would it affect my body long term?

For the most part, if you answer these questions with a positive result, chances are high that the item is relatively healthy and should go in your grocery basket. If you are on the fence, place the item back on the shelf until you can do some more research about its nutritional benefits, or whip out your phone and do a quick Google search.

 

The Prep

 

Once you’ve gotten all your items, it’s now time to get ready for the week! This is where you get to watch all your meal planning come to life! If you need help putting together some meal prep ideas, I have some ideas listed here to get you started.

Not only does food preparation take some time, it requires some heavy duty dishwashing and a constant supply of clean Tupperware. Take the time to get your kitchen ready for a solid hour or two of well organized cooking, because although it might take a few hours today, you are saving yourself a week’s worth of work. Your future self will thank you.

Pro Tip #4: It is always a good idea to clean as you cook

Sure, those big dirty pans can wait until tomorrow, but if you are standing around playing the waiting game while your chicken roasts, you might as well knock out a few of those dishes. It will be one less thing to think about after your meal prep is over and believe me when I say you will feel like the biggest overachiever ever. Brownie points for you!

Starting your meal prep can be a daunting task, which is why I’ve laid out a generalized step by step process to help you get started. It is essentially cooking like you normally would, just in larger quantities and with various food options. For those of you who are completely new to this or are feeling slightly intimidated, follow the order of preparation below.

1) Proteins and carbs:

If you are using frozen items like chicken or beef, start thawing/cooking your proteins first before anything else. These usually require the longest amount of time and can be cooked in the oven and left alone until the end of your meal prep.

If your protein sources are fresh, hold off on cooking until the end of your prep. Fresh items typically require only a few minutes on the grill/oven/stovetop. Nothing is worse than a leathery, overcooked steak!

2) Carbohydrates:

Starchy vegetables and grains will be your next item to tackle! Items like brown rice, whole grain pasta and sweet potato often take around 25-40 minutes, so get crackin’ on these as soon as you can.

Try to stick with unpackaged or minimally processed carbs. Keep in mind that anything packaged with a dehydrated seasoning packet does not qualify as a “healthy” carb (like Hamburger Helper or Rice-A-Roni). Instead, you can season your carbs with the spices from your panty to ensure that you know exactly what is going into your food.

3) Vegetables:

While your proteins and carbs are cooking, move onto those vegetables!

Keep in mind you are free to add whatever spices you deem necessary to make your veggies delicious if you can’t stand to eat them plain. Once seasoned with a spice and some light oil, cook them however you’d like. My personal favorites include sautéing, steaming, or roasting until tender.

Check back on your proteins and carbs. Remove from heat as necessary and check to see if they are fully cooked. Allow all food to cool before storing in containers and putting them in the fridge.

4) No bake items:

Lastly, if you have any non-bake or raw items, finish up your prep by delegating each item into the appropriate container for easy access. This might include splitting up salads into Tupperware, setting aside yogurt cups for each day, or cutting fresh fruit. This process takes the least amount of time and can be done last since you aren’t actually cooking anything.

Pro Tip #5: Group your foods together based on their ability to freeze and reheat within the same container. This is why I tend to put cold items together and hot items together in each container. You don’t want to accidentally microwave your salad!

 

Enjoy!

 

Once everything is stored in the fridge and your kitchen is clean (well…clean enough), go relax a bit. You deserve it. Your kitchen is now stocked with some lovely home-cooked meals and your nutrition needs are taken care of for the entire week.

I’d love if you shared your meal prepping adventures with me. Let me know how your meals turn out!

Cheers!

-Leah

 

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