Why You Don’t Meal Prep
“I don’t even know where to start when it comes to meal prep!”
This was one of the most common comments I received when I reached out to people and asked what was the single one reason why they don’t meal prep.
It’s a legitimate concern, and I am someone who has meal prepped for a few years.
If you search meal prep on Pinterest, the images are enough to make your head spin, your stomach sink, and cause your eyebrows to shoot up to you hairline. That’s a LOT of work, and holy heck, how much time did THAT take?? Meal prep doesn’t look simple at all!
Meal Prep Takes too Long to be Simple
So, how long does it take to meal prep like I see on Pinterest? I can answer that question! Hours and hours! I’ve meal prepped into those cute little containers and it’s not something I ever want to do again. Not every breakfast, lunch, and dinner. No thank you, I don’t have time or patience to pull off something that looks that beautiful!
With that being said, I will admit, even though I work from home, pulling out a pre measured, perfectly filled container for lunch is ridiculously simple. The time it took to get up, get my lunch, and sit down to eat was less than five minutes. Keeping lunch simple makes it easier for me to use those cute containers.
It might work for you too, especially if you have kids who have to eat on the go – to or from after school events during the year. There DEFINITELY is a practicality to those Pinterest worthy meal prep packaging.
So, where to begin. Not on Pinterest. Not on Google. Not in a book. The amount of information can cause overload with a quickness. The key to meal prep is keep it simple and format it to your family’s biggest needs.
5 Simple Steps to Begin Meal Prepping
#1 Know Your Family and Schedule
Having picky eaters in the family can be an incredible challenge to overcome. Create a list of dinner foods that everyone can eat. What meat, grains, legumes, vegetables can be agreed upon? Write those items down and that can be the backbone of your grocery list. If you don’t have picky eaters, this isn’t as important, but for families with picky eaters, putting what everyone CAN agree on down on paper can help keep meal prep simple.
Know your schedules.
- Who’s home when?
- Do you need to eat on the go?
- Will everyone eat together?
- Will there be a lot of reheating?
- Are there nights where cooking is just not an option?
Know your schedule for the days you plan to meal prep. This is one of the most important steps in meal prep.
#2 Meal Prep in Baby Steps
Since dinner is the most common meal to try and meal prep for, I’m going to keep my examples focused on that one meal. Start small. Start with two nights of meal prep.
Don’t try to jump all in and plan/prep for an entire week. I don’t do that, even now. I plan for 3-4 nights at a time only. Meal prep can be simpler by planning small, andd takes much less time out of my weekend cooking day.
Start with something easy to reheat – a chili, stew, roast, or soup. These all can be made on the stove top, slow cooker, or pressure cooker. There’s a flexibility to them – you use a protein everyone can eat (even tofu or beans only if you don’t eat meat), and add in veggies. They all reheat well, and usually make enough for a couple of nights. If you don’t want leftovers, as long as they are not cream based, will freeze well. Use them again within a month or two.
#3 Don’t Do It All In One Day
If you try to do everything in one day, you’re more apt to burn out as soon as week one. This is one of the most common mistakes made – planning meals, grocery shopping, and cooking all in one day.
If you’re following step 2 which is to start small, planning two meals isn’t too bad. I often take care of meal planning when I’m waiting to pick up kids, sitting at their practices, or while watching tv at night…I fit it in around other things. Keeping meal prep simple is what counts. I use Plan to Eat for my meal planning.
I try to grocery shop the day or night before I cook. If I have the time AND the energy, I will wash all my produce ahead of time too.
Breaking it up over a few days can make it feel less time consuming that trying to tackle it all in one day. It’s about taking smaller steps to reach your big goal.
#4 Simple Steps on Cooking Day
This works if you are doing two recipes or five recipes. I have a very organized system IF I am using recipes (not batch cooking, which is just cooking a bunch of a few items, like rice, chicken, oatmeal, etc…)
- I read each recipe through twice
- I take out ALL the produce for each recipe and get all of it cut up and measure for each recipe. Depending on your space, you might have to get creative how you do this. Before we had a 10 foot table (bought at Border’s YEARS ago when they closed down), I would have a reusable grocery bag for each recipe – then cut the veggies and put them in a container and put them in the appropriate bag. This would allow me to keep things organized while keeping my precious counter space open.
- I then move on to herbs and spices – same thing, measure out each one I need for each recipe and put them in the appropriate recipe’s bag.
- Then I get all the canned items I might need.
- Then everything else (not the meat),
- Then I pick one recipe to start – measure out any cold items that go in the recipe, get the meat out and cook that recipe. Having everything else already measured and cut in one location makes cooking SO much easier!
- Once that recipe is done, I move on to the next recipe, letting the first one cool a bit before packaging it up and putting it in the fridge.
It’s all about finding a system that works for you but sometimes you don’t even know where to start when trying to create a system. Try my way, and adjust what works and doesn’t work for you as you go along. If you are starting small, it shouldn’t take too much time.
#5 Just Try It
Time is always going to be an issue and it doesn’t really matter if you have kids at home or not, if you work or not, if you have picky eaters or not. Time is a universal struggle for almost everyone. So, just pick a week to start!
What do you need? I just posted the best tools to have (What Items do you Need to Start Meal Prepping) but in reality, you need a couple of knives, cutting boards, and containers to store your food. There are other items that can make things easier, but if you are on a budget, you don’t need them.
What if you are doing soup and sandwiches? You don’t really need many tools. Spaghetti and salad? Again, there’s not a lot you need and those items take very little time.
Keeping it simple, start with meals you know and adding a new recipe or idea per week can make things less overwhelming as well.
Having kids fetch the canned goods, measure spices and herbs, and participate in other age appropriate skills is a great way to involve other family members, take the load off your shoulders, and teach them their way around the kitchen.
Keep It Simple
At the end of the day, meal prep is a wonderful idea that can be utilized to save you time, money, and possibly help improve your health. So many people are afraid to try it because they’re afraid it’s all about eating leftovers. To debunk the myth, I have created a simple Meal Prep Doesn’t Have to be Boring Guide (CLICK HERE) to get this absolutely free!