I recently took a survey of over two hundred people who have an interest in meal prep but haven’t committed for one reason or another. One of the most interesting things I learned is that many of them are completely turned off to the idea of making dozens of meals at a time and the thought of spending that much time and effort in the kitchen was paralyzing.
Honestly, if I knew I had to make, someone counted, 187 meals in a week for their family, yep, I’d throw in the towel too. I don’t know how they came up to that number, just that between specific diets and three meals a day, it added up.
A number like that overwhelms the heck out of me too and I’m someone who uses every imaginable shortcut out there.
Keep it Small
This is my number one rule of thumb, whether you are just starting out or if you’ve meal prepped in the past. Keep it small.
Keep in mind a couple of things.
Pick One Meal to Prep for at A Time
I started with dinner because it’s the hardest meal for me to get on the table. I’m tired, and by the end of the day, too drained to cook. In addition, we have evening activities that make it a challenge to get everyone to the table. But, going out to eat costs a fortune, so this meal is VERY important to eat at home for our family.
Prep for 2-3 Days at a Time
Do not go into meal prep with the idea of cooking ahead for all 7 days of the week, especially if you are new to meal prep and/or are not comfortable in a kitchen. This can sink your very best intentions with a quickness.
Look at your upcoming weekly schedule, are there a couple nights where you are busy? Meal prep for those nights so that all you have to do is heat and serve, OR you break out your prepped dish to just pop in the oven.
Know Your Schedule
I referenced it above, but know your schedule. If you are crazy busy every evening, do not plan elaborate meals. Find quick to assemble sandwiches, make ahead soup to reheat, or throw together a salad to eat somewhere else, if you are too busy to eat at home. There are entire cookbooks devoted to sandwiches, soups, salads, meals on the go, etc.
Keep it Simple
As I stated above, meal prep doesn’t have to be difficult and it doesn’t have to be elaborate. Even if you want to meal prep into those cute individual containers, you can do it without making it complicated. These are actually EXCELLENT for lunch, whether you work from home, at a physical location, or if you don’t work. These are especially helpful for busy moms of itty bitties. Meal prep your lunch and portion it out ahead of time so that when you are frazzled, exhausted and trying to catch your breath at nap time, you can grab your already made lunch.
- Salads can be your best friend, and no, not a green salad.
- Pasta salad – even if you are watching carbs, there are some fantastic pasta out there – make a big pasta salad brimming with healthy vegetables and portion it out in 4 containers. You have a 1 dish lunch ready to go. Again, keep it simple. If you aren’t going to touch pasta, tuna salad, egg salad, or a hearty chicken salad are other options that don’t require a lot of work beforehand.
- Soups and Stews – Make a big batch and then portion them out in single serving containers. All you have to do is heat up your lunch and you’re ready to go.
- Leftover Dinner – If you double your dinner recipe, you’ll have leftovers. Heat them up for lunch the next day. This option keeps your shopping list a bit smaller because you have less meals to prepare.
In terms of keeping it simple, batch cooking is my most favorite way to go at the moment. Cook up a big batch of chicken, brown rice and there are two of your three staples for the week. You can use those two ordinary ingredients in dozens of ways –
- Stuffed peppers
- Burrito bowls
- Chicken fried rice
- Southwestern Chicken Skillet (toss leftover chicken and rice with black beans, green onions, salsa and cook until liquid boils, add shredded cheese, serve up with sour cream and more salsa)
The list goes on, but you get the idea. One or two pre-cooked essentials can go a long way in the kitchen. Google can be your best friend if you’re stuck for ideas. And if you have picky eaters or people following a special diet, batch cooking a couple key elements can really help you serve up different meals throughout the week.
At the end of the day, I’d love to see everyone give meal prep a chance. With so many things you can do to ‘start’ meal prepping, I do believe everyone can do it, but it just might not look like what you see online, or what your gym buddy does, or what you actually imagined it would look like. Meal planning and meal prep do take some time up front, but over the course of busy days, it can pay out dividends. Start small and take baby steps, adding in additional meals as you get acclimated.
To take the next step, I have created a simple 7 page Quick Start Meal Prep Guide (CLICK HERE) to get this absolutely free!