The most common reason I’ve heard for people not trying to meal prep is the time involved. Whether it’s because they don’t want to spend time with their family, or because they are too busy with work, kids, or being a mom taxi, there’s just no time to meal prep.
I get it. There are some weeks that life is so crazy, meal prep is the last thing I want to do. But, I’ve been doing it for years and even when it’s chaotic, I can still get the basics done. That doesn’t mean I think you can, it means, once you find your groove, you might still be able to squeak out some form of meal prep for the next few days. There are tools to expedite meal prep, which I talk about here.
I think one of the biggest misconceptions about meal prep is what it’s supposed to look like. Many people believe you need to cook 7 days of food, measure them out in these black single serving containers that are found all over Pinterest. This is definitely a form of meal prep, usually involves the most time. If you haven’t tried meal prep, this is why I feel it is important.
Here’s the thing though, meal prep encompasses an enormous spectrum of preparation. Let me try to break it down for you.
Usually a three step process that includes meal planning, grocery shopping, and some sort of preparation of food on one day.
You do have to plan your meals, you do have to grocery shop, buy beyond that, the idea of prep is pretty open ended. I go into way more detail in my upcoming ebook, but I will summarize 4 common approaches to meal prep.
3 Levels of Meal Prep
This is the easiest meal prep out there. After bringing home your groceries, you read your recipes, and you cut your vegetables for each specific recipe/meal.
This is also where you prep your salad fixings for the next several days.
Chop veggies for healthy snacks. When my kids are in the midst of crazy sports schedules, I bag up all sorts of cut produce for quick on the go snacks. My husband loves when I do this too, because he makes the kids their lunches, and he can just grab bags to toss right into their lunchbox.
If you can spare the 30 minutes to prep your produce for the next several days to a week, you’ll be ahead of the game every night. This is a GREAT way to start meal prepping because there’s not a lot of waste, so even if you throw in the towel and go out to eat, the pre-cut produce can go in smoothies, eaten with any meal or snack for the day.
The flexibility you have by taking this first step is what makes it a wonderful place to get your feet wet with meal prep.
A lot of people think meal prep is all about freezer cooking. This is definitely an option, but not the only way to do things. This is a great method to use if you want to build up your freezer.
Freezer cooking usually involves two different methods:
- Prep a recipe, bag it with raw meat and freeze – cook later
- Double or triple a recipe and cook it – freezing leftovers for later
Prepping and cooking later works great with:
- Marinades for chicken or pork
- Many slow cooker or pressure cooker recipes
Double or Triple a recipe:
This method isn’t the best for some items
- Dairy based recipes
- Recipes with leafy greens
- Cheese based recipes – depends on the kind of cheese, but cheese sauces will break.
- Pasta – have to cook it al dente for it not to turn to mush
I still use this method for a lot of my meal prep because I love having food in my freezer that I can just take out and heat up when I don’t feel like meal prepping one week. Yep, you read that right, there are some weeks I just don’t have it in me to meal prep and knowing I have things in my freezer helps me from becoming overwhelmed week in and week out.
I have followed all the above methods of meal prep in my time, but right now, batch cooking is my best friend. This is how I meal prep right now 99% of the time. I will throw one recipe in the mix just to keep things from getting boring.
Batch cooking is cooking a lot of a few things.
Here is what my batch cooking looks like:
- Steel cut oats – enough to last the week. They go into my pressure cooker first because they cook the quickest.
- Sweet Potatoes – I live on these things throughout the week. They go into my pressure cooker after my steel cut oats, unless I am grilling! If I am grilling, these bad boys go out on the grill too.
- Rice – We always have at least one meal that involves rice so having it premade makes my life much easier. This goes into the pressure cooker last because it takes the longest.
- Meat – I cook up a few pounds of chicken breasts, tri tip, flank steak, or pork loin usually on the grill. Sometimes I’ll put them in the slow cooker and shred them for whatever I want during the week. Yes, even flank steak in the slow cooker comes out as an amazing shredded meat after 7 hours.
All of these things go in large storage containers in the refrigerator and I measure out what I need per meal.
This is the backbone of my meal prep. I’ll add in a recipe or two for freezer cooking as well many weeks, but not all. Sometimes, I’m lucky to get the above done.
I fully stand by that meal prep can work for almost anyone, almost any family, and almost any budget. It can be very hard to find time to meal prep, but if you start small, and adapt to the needs of your family, you might find meal prep can work for you. It doesn’t have to look like my meal prep or your co-workers meal prep. It only has to work for you, that’s the beauty of meal prep!
To take the next step, I have created a simple 7 page Quick Start Meal Prep Guide (CLICK HERE) to get this absolutely free!