Well, hello there! I’m super exited for today’s post because it’s about a topic near and dear to my heart: meal prep! I loooooove meal prep: I love the planning, the research, the execution, and the payoff. In addition to anything fitness related, this is seriously a topic I could talk about, ad nauseam, with no shame and no regrets. Seriously.
I get that not everyone is into meal prep the way I am, and that’s ok. I understand. It’s brave of those people to be so openly wrong about a topic 😉
Now when I talk about meal prep, I’m usually referring to making a full on meal, not just cutting up veggies for snacks and stuff. I’ll talk more about my specific process in a minute, but first, here’s why I love it so much:
- It saves time. Yes, while I may spend a few hours on Sunday working on meal prep, ultimately it saves me valuable time throughout the week. Instead of getting home at 5:30 and having to worry about making dinner, then cleaning up, then eventually hanging out with the family, everything can be prepped ahead so most of the time (especially during the winter) we could just throw something in the oven to heat it up and dinner was ready! And since you prepped ahead of time, the only dishes to do are the usually plates and the cooking vessel from the meal. Easy.
- It saves money. I don’t know about you, but after a crazy day at work and hitting the gym, my motivation to cook goes right out the dang window. Before I meal prepped religiously, it was very easy to answer the question of “What’s for dinner?” with multiple take-out options. While I do love supporting our local restaurants and treating ourselves to take-out on occasion, it gets really expensive to feed a family of 4. When I know I have the meals made ahead of time, I’m less likely to suggest take-out. I already spent the time and money making the meal, the last step of heating it up really isn’t that hard.
- It’s healthier. Just like how getting take-out costs $$$, it’s also not always the healthiest stuff. We do have a restaurant in town that has AMAZING huge salads (shout out to Undercover Eggplant!), but like, if I’m getting take out I don’t want a salad. I want that sweet sweet comfort food because if I’m opting for take out I’m tired, I’m stressed, I’m probably emotional, and so I want simple carbs, extra bonus points if it’s deep fried with cheese. I love those great salads, but I know myself and I know I won’t always make that healthy option. When I meal prep all of our stuff is pretty healthy, comprised of protein and veggies with some carbs. I know we’re eating fewer calories and just overall healthier stuff when we’re eating prepped meals.
- I love a challenge. So, I’m a weird person, I know this, but I LOVE grocery shopping and cooking and all that goes with it (except cleaning up after, that’s for the birds). I view meal prep as a challenge of sorts, and I totally psych myself up when I’m prepping for meal prep (yes, I prep to prep. I’ll get to it). I love the challenge of maximizing my time while meal prepping, utilizing every burner and every cooking gadget and device, all in an effort to be left with 4 awesome dinners that are mostly ready to go. Gotta love that rush of endorphins 🙂
So now that you know the why, let’s talk about the process. I’ll talk more to how I was doing this over the winter/pre-QUAR, since my meal prep strategies and needs have changed drastically. So back in the day I would look through the sales ad for the grocery stores and take note of any good deals and start to make my shopping list around that. I would also consult the family about what they might want to have during the week (they were typically not super helpful…Lily always just said mac and cheese…). Then I’d plan out the menu for the week. On nights where we wouldn’t be home until late, I would plan a “heat and eat” meal, but on nights where we were home a little earlier we could have something that might take longer (like a protein in the oven or on the grill). I typically did all of this on Saturday, often when I would take the kids to the library so they could play and hang out while I worked my magic. I would usually allow for one night of take out when doing my planning.
We would usually do the grocery shopping on Saturday so that I would have all the supplies I needed to meal prep well in advance. Then on Sunday, it was go time! I would roast up veggies (I always liked doing zucchini and eggplant with EVOO and a little adobo seasoning) and cook up a spaghetti squash while I was at it, bake some chicken breasts for easy lunches, and air fry carrots (so good, and the only way Dan will eat carrots regularly…). We would usually rely on leftovers from dinners to use as our lunches during the week so I didn’t have to plan heavily on prepping lunch stuff in advance.
One of my favorite prep ahead dinners is this Almost 5 Ingredient Pizza Spaghetti Pie from PaleOMG. It’s so simple and so versatile, and you can easily change up the flavors to make totally different dishes. I would prep the whole thing but not bake it until the night we were going to have it. On nights when we needed a really quick meal I would leave bags of frozen shrimp and veggies out to thaw (usually the broccoli, cauliflower, and carrot mix but you can do whatever) and toss the veggies, shrimp, and sliced kielbasa on a sheet pan and bake it. I would season it simply with some salt, pepper, and garlic powder but you could totally use different sauces or marinades to mix up the flavors. I also started cooking up a pork shoulder for pulled pork and shredding it ahead of time, then we could just heat the meat up; even though that’s something that could easily cook in a slow cooker while I was at work, it’s still time consuming to shred all the meat when it’s done.
Meal prep really is a labor of love, but it’s also so rewarding…kind of like having kids. In my next post I’ll go over my current meal prep situation and walk you through what my family eats in a week and how I prep it. I hope you’re as excited as I am!
Do you do any kind of meal prep? I’d love to know of any tips or tricks you might have!
Talk soon 🙂
Another great post, Dani! I have a love-hate relationship with meal prep. I go in spurts. P.S. I noticed you have an Aldi planner, like me! I don’t necessarily prep the food ahead of time, but I do pre-plan the week’s meals. I bought a magnetic board that’s divided into the days of the week and has another bigger space for notes. It goes on the fridge. Every week I plan what we’re eating and write it on the board. I like having it right in the fridge so I can quickly look ahead and take stuff out of the freezer that I will need in a couple days. That’s been a huge help for me in a avoiding ordering out. Many times I would come home and want to eat something we have, but it was frozen, so it wasn’t an option. I also look at the flyer for my local store, but beyond that, I go on Pinterest and look for things that sound good and hopefully the kids will like, then I head to my happy place (Aldi) on the weekend. I try to plan more “adult” foods like salmon for days when Jack is gone to his mom’s so I don’t have to make something different for the kids. I look forward to your next post!
I am a meal prepper, and haters gonna hate, but it has literally saved my life for all the reasons you mentioned!