For so many the biggest question about meal prepping is, “How do I get started?” The entire process, if looked at as a whole, might seem overwhelming in the beginning. However, I have found that if you break it down into steps and choose one step at a time to implement, then it actually saves time. Plus, it’s so much easier to eat healthy when you have a plan. I don’t know about you, but if I wait until 5pm in the afternoon when the baby is going crazy and my big kids are ready to run wild, cooking can easily be put on the back burner while I look for the quickest escape, such as having my hubby pick up a pizza on the way home. While a cheat meal is okay, if I’m not intentional cheat meals become the norm and healthy eating only happens every once in a while. Here are 3 easy steps to beginning meal prep that have helped my family tremendously to create a healthy eating lifestyle.
- Plan 7 days of breakfast options. This might look like meal replacement shakes for 2 days, protein bars for 3 days, and eggs and nitrate free (or turkey) bacon for 2.
- Plan 7 days of lunch options. This could include sandwiches with nitrate free lunch meat, leftovers, precooked lunches prepped in advance, salad in a jar, or a healthy meal at your favorite restaurant.
- Plan 7 days of dinner options. Make sure to consider nights when you know you won’t be able to cook, meetings that include meals, and dinner out with friends and family.
- Plan snack options for 7 days.
Please note: This doesn’t mean that you have to cook every meal at home all 7 days.
If this is your first time meal planning for the week, you may want to choose one group of meals to tackle first. For example, start this week by planning breakfast. Once you feel like you’ve got breakfast under control add lunch or dinner. ven though my personality says, “Girl, you can do all of this!” I know that taking one step at a time is going to help me create lasting habits that fit into my already full life.
This may seem very elementary but it is the first step in meal planning and intentionally eating healthy. I would like to clarify, when I say plan 7 days of breakfast, lunch, or dinner I create a very “loose” meal plan. I just know we are going to eat these particular foods this week, but I don’t plan out days. This gives my free spirit personality some breathing room and choices. Otherwise, I feel a little boxed in. For some, creating a daily meal plan with specific meals may work out better.
- Clean out your pantry, fridge, and freezer. I like to start fresh each week and get rid of everything that has expired, or gone bad. If this is your very first time meal planning you may want to donate any unopened food that doesn’t fit with your new commitment to a healthy eating lifestyle. It’s so much easier to not eat cookies if they aren’t in the house. As you do this each week, it only takes just a minute or two. I typically do this on Friday afternoon after lunch since I don’t cook much on the weekends.
- Create a grocery list from the meal plan that you created in step one. Make sure to look in your pantry and spice cabinets for ingredients you already have on hand. These was a completely new way of shopping for me as I used to shop with coupons for most items on my list. This all changed when we started eating healthy. Since I mainly shop the perimeters of the grocery store for fresh ingredients I have found the best way to keep my grocery bill within reason is to buy what we need each week based on our meal plan. My goal is to empty my fridge by the end of the week. The exception to this is my monthly trip to Costco where I often buy produce that will last more than a week since they sell in bulk.
Stay tuned for my next post in this brand new Meal Prep series. My goal is to make it easier for you to make a healthy eating lifestyle change. I’ve included links below to some of my family’s favorite healthy recipes to help you create your meal plan.
Southwest Breakfast Cups
Mexican Chicken & Quinoa
Honey Dijon Chicken with Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Bountiful Chicken & Veggie Harvest Soup
Rosemary Chicken and Veggies in Rosemary Mustard Sauce
Baked Chicken Fajitas