I love Pinterest. I’ll be the first person to jump on that bandwagon. There are so many great ideas and suggestions for food, crafts, really anything you need. But, Pinterest can be overwhelming. Heck, Facebook can be overwhelming too, when you are trying to learn something new.
Meal prep can look like a doozy if you type ‘meal prep’ into the search box. For beginners, meal prep can be too much, and it can be enough to make someone quit before they even begin. I can’t blame them.
Those little boxes of premade food laid out over a big counter. Yes, that is some dedication, and although it’s beautiful, it’s not practical for all people. If it seems like I’m digging on those, I’m not. I’m all about doing what works for you. I’ve tried the individual meals a few times, but for me, it doesn’t work. It takes longer, it takes up way too much space, and for a family of five, it’s impractical.
Meal prep is about doing what’s right for you. And if you are just starting out, keep these three steps in mind:
#1 Meal Plan
What are you going to cook?
You need to plan your meals. Knowing WHAT you’re going to cook is necessary to plan accordingly. Now, that doesn’t mean you need to know every breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It doesn’t mean you need to know all your snacks. Heck, it doesn’t even mean you need to know what everyone in the house is eating.
Meal prep doesn’t have to be utilized by the whole family. For example, when I first started a 20 pound in 6 week challenge, I prepped only my food. And not every meal at that. I prepped a lot of my lunches. Then I started cooking big batches of lean meat, and would eat that while everyone else ate something else.
Over time, my system has evolved. So, start small. Maybe, plan your snacks and prep them ahead of time. Or breakfast.
Whatever it is you are going to meal prep, you do need to plan ahead. Keep it small and keep it simple in the beginning if you are overwhelmed at the idea.
#2 Grocery Shop
Once you plan your meals, it’s time to shop. So many people I know, HATE grocery shopping. I, thankfully, am not one of those people.
But, there were times, when my kids were much smaller, that the idea of taking all four of them to the store filled me with dread. Besides the crying, arguing, there was bound to be, “can we get this?” asked at least 15 times per child. Minimum.
People look at me crazy when I suggest that online grocery shopping might be less expensive than going in person. Yes, you have the fee, usually $5, but think of how much you can save by the lack of spontaneous purchases! Or, of all the little extras your kids might toss in when you aren’t paying attention.
For other people, money isn’t the issue, but time is a big hurdle when trying to get your weekly shopping done. And then, there are the people who HATE it. So, is that $5 fee worth the sanity saving by having the grocery store do your shopping for you? It’s something to think about.
#3 Meal Prep
When you are at step 1, planning your meals, this is when you schedule in your meal prep time. Remember, meal prep doesn’t have to be intricate and drawn out.
Rinse your produce, chop up your produce for the next several days.
Assemble all the ingredients for you recipes and bag them together. Then, the day of cooking, grab the bag, and start cooking. Getting items together ahead of time will shave time off being in the kitchen later, when you feel like being anywhere else but in that kitchen.
Start with a clean kitchen, and bring in help if you can. Maybe you’re just making side dishes for the week – roasting vegetables, prepping salads, making a batch of sweet potatoes or quinoa.
When it comes to meal prep, the single most important piece of advice I can offer is to just start. Fine one meal and plan for 2-3 days. Get your feet wet with small steps.
Once you get the hang of that, add in more. Don’t try to do what you see on Pinterest, especially if it seems overwhelming! This process, just like most out there, is individual to you and you alone.
If you’re ready to learn everything about meal prep, including food safety, time management and more, check out my ebook, Meal Prep Made Easy.It’s a taste of the ebook I’ve written on everything you need to know about meal planning and prep.