Figuring out what to eat, and shopping and cooking your own food can seem daunting at first but breaking it down into simple steps can make it much more manageable. Research shows that meal prep not only saves time, but is also associated with a more nutritious, well-balanced diet. It can help remove the stress and uncertainty of figuring out what to eat.
- How many meals do you want or need to prep for the week?
- What meals do you want to prep for breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner?
- What day works best for shopping and preparing food?
- What is your budget?
Nailing down a schedule can help you stay organized and on track. This will also help when considering what to buy at the grocery store, saving time and potentially money by sticking with a grocery list instead of making impulsive purchases. Check out these meal planning apps which can help you organize and prepare what to eat for the week!
A common misconception with meal prep is that it gets boring. It’s the same food over and over again. It doesn’t have to be that way! Here are some great tips to spice things up:
- To structure meals, aim for a mix of macronutrients and include a fruit or vegetable for a source of fiber. Check out these meal ideas and consider ways you can mix and match the foods you like to create well-balanced meals.
- Identify recipes and foods you like and would be excited to try.
- If you really enjoy cooking, pick a more advanced recipe. If not, go simple! If you don’t enjoy being in the kitchen, there are some great recipes that keep it short and sweet.
There are many great websites, apps and blogs that have fun and creative recipes. Here are a couple of websites and apps for additional recipe ideas!
Create a Shopping List
Now that you know what you’ll be making for the week, create a shopping list based on the food and supplies you need. A shopping list will keep you focused and more likely to resist temptation while shopping. Take an inventory of the ingredients you have and can use. If you notice anything missing or need more of, add it to the list.
There are a few ways to approach this. Personally, I like to prep my fruits and veggies first. I often found that if I left strawberries, for example, whole, unwashed and in their container from the store, I either wouldn’t eat them or I was less inclined to grab them on the go. Prepping food ahead of time can help to save time throughout the week and decrease the likelihood of food going to waste or dining out instead.
- Consider 1-2 days per week when you have time to grocery shop and/or prep food and carve that time into your calendar.
- After grocery shopping, store any perishable food into the refrigerator or freezer right away.
- Consider cooking larger batches of food at one time and/or prepping some food ahead of time (e.g. chopping all the veggies or a salad or sandwich). This way, you can have food already prepared, saving time throughout the week.
- You can either pre-portion each day’s meal ahead of time or keep all the components separate and portion them as you go through the week.
- When stored properly, most food can last throughout the week.
Remember, this isn’t set in stone. As you go, you will start to figure out what works and what doesn’t, what you like and don’t like. Use these insights to tailor your meal prep for you. Individualize it and get creative.
-Audrey LeMaster, Medical Dietetics intern