Last week we talked about KEEPING IT SIMPLE. We discussed breakfast, lunch, and supper options that align with our goal of integrating a healthful mindset. Continuing with the simplicity theme, we are diving right into making meals with intention and ahead of time...yep, you guessed it, MEAL PREP!
Meal prepping is an amazing way to ensure you and your family integrate healthy eating choices throughout the week. Cooking healthy meals can be a challenge, especially for those who have busy schedules, but meal prepping can help us save time, money, encourage portion control, better organize our eating habits and choices, and encourage us to eat balanced meals more often.
Meal prepping has been a game changer for me on a personal level. I’m going to get REAL for a minute: After I had my twins and started to work outside the home again, I found myself coming home with two shrieking babies that needed to be fed STAT. I was starving too, had nothing ready to go and found myself reaching for any kind of pre-packaged food that I could basically inhale. I started to gain weight and even began to resent my evenings spent with my kids and the chaos that each supper time brought.
Then along came the glorious concept of MEAL PREPPING! The organization, structure, and healthy foods brought so much stress relief to my days and evenings. I eat healthier for the day and my mornings are a breeze because I already know what I’m going to have for breakfast and lunch, and when I get home I know what my family and I will be eating for our coveted family meal time.
It saves me so much time, effort, and money! Think about the amount of time you spend each night planning, buying ingredients for, and making for your family’s supper! And when things are planned out you buy exactly what you need for your meal prepping and eliminate a lot of the unhealthy snacks and impulse purchases so many of us make!
So what is meal prepping?
Meal prepping is preparing food ahead of time for one or more meals. Think of a TV dinner but with fresher, healthier, and unprocessed ingredients!
Let’s get this party started...
Pick a day to prep: It’s a bit of a process that takes 2-3 hours when you get comfortable with it. Aim for a day when your schedule is relatively open!
Pick the meals: Think about what meals are your current biggest obstacle. Maybe you’re trying to get four kids ready for school and neglect breakfast daily; Maybe you come home after the work day is done and are starving. Start with one meal and prep for 2-3 days. Prioritize what meal struggle is important to you and conquer that one first; the rest of your meals can fall into place later.
Make a list of ingredients you’ll need for your upcoming food prep and stick to the list! (This is where the saving money part comes in!)
Organize your ingredients and set up a game plan.
I typically start with the prep work- including chopping vegetables, cutting thawed meats, getting my grains, and all oils and seasonings out and ready to go.
Then I start my vegetables, drizzle some olive oil on them and add seasoning to bake/roast them.
Afterward, I cook my proteins (baking my chicken breast, browning my ground beef, etc. and will use that later in any casserole-type dish, etc.
I then move on to my slower-cooking grains- I roast my sweet potatoes, I make my brown rice or pasta, etc. Try to cook as many things in the oven at the same time as possible (i.e two sheet pans- 1 with veggies, 1 with chicken) to save time.
Then I assemble any casserole-type meals, any slow cooker meals, etc. that will take time to come together.
**The key is to multi-task, roast your vegetables and chicken at the same time, or assemble pre-packaged wraps/salads while your food is cooking.
5. When all the food has been cooked, it’s time to assemble! Look for containers that have dividers to keep food fresh. Utilize the largest section for veggies and then add a healthy grain to one of the smaller portions and the protein to the other. These should be good in the fridge for 3-4 days.
Make sure to use a quality BPA-free container. If the bottom of the container has a triangle with a “7” in the middle, do not use it! BPA-free means it is safe and microwavable. Look for containers that are BPA-Free, freezer-safe, dishwasher safe, microwavable, stackable, and reusable. Click here for a good option at a relatively low price:
Meal prepping can be intimidating but you can absolutely do this! Start small, start with prepping just one meal this week and see how it goes and adjust as needed. Continue this for a couple weeks until you get the hang of it and add another meal to the mix. You have the tools and the knowledge to do this and after you turn meal prepping into a healthy habit, it will become a lifestyle!
-Be healthy, live well