Meal Prep 101

MEAL PREP: some people love it and some people hate it, but you guessed it…I LOVE it!  I basically love all things planning and organization, so meal prep is right down my alley.  Meal prep can be extremely helpful in reducing stress and staying on track with nutrition, however, it can also be difficult to figure out what food to prep and what food to wait to cook.  Everyone has their own way of doing meal prep, but I have learned a couple tips regarding the meal prep process over the years.

meap prep

  1. Decide what meals you are wanting to prep.  Some people like to prep an entire week of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.  Others only prep lunches and some do a combination.  I encourage you to look at your busiest time of the day or times of the day you don’t have access to cook anything.  Consider prepping meals for either of those times to truly reap the benefits of meal prep.  I like prepping lunches because I am in an office working during that time and I typically prep something for breakfast because my mornings are packed with dogs and workouts.  However, some people have unique jobs that create slow mornings and busy evenings.  Figure out what works for you!
  2. Be realistic with yourself and your palate.  Some people can eat the exact same breakfast for years (aka my father and his honey nut cheerios obsession), but others don’t like eating the same meal more than two days in a row.  If you find a meal that you absolutely love and would enjoy eating everyday, great!  Prep that meal for your week and bring variety to your diet through other meals.  If you know your palate requires more range, be willing to mix things up with your prepped meals throughout the week.  It’s really easy to use your side of sweet potatoes from last night’s dinner for a base for your morning veggies, eggs, and sausage bowl.
  3. Choose your food wisely.  Be aware of how long food typically lasts and how long it can be in the fridge with you will still wanting to eat it.  You could prep tuna, crackers, and veggies for an entire week of lunches and be golden.  However, prepping salmon, green beans, and rice for an entire week of lunches will probably leave you going to Jimmy Johns come Wednesday.  Most meat is only good for 3-4 days after being cooked and often times by day four, the meat (and other cooked foods like veggies, potatoes, rice, etc.) doesn’t sound that good to eat.
  4. Meal prep doesn’t always have to be a Sunday to do.  If you’re someone who enjoys a lot of variety with your food, try doing two smaller meal preps instead of one big meal prep.  You can meal prep once on Sunday and once on Wednesday.  This allows you to vary the foods your making and prepping more and keeps you eating FRESH food the entire week.
  5. Make sure you like the food you prep for multiple meals.  I’m all about trying out new recipes and food, but leave that for a weekend dinner or another night you’re not running around like crazy.  The last thing you want is to meal prep a meal for four days and then find out on the first day you don’t actually like what you made.  SUCH A BUZZKILL.

While I do dabble in some recipe creation, it’s minimal and all things very simple.  Once or twice a week I may be winging a meal that basically doesn’t need a recipe because it’s so easy.  Typically, I follow some sort of recipe created by someone much smarter than me.  I use Pinterest occasionally, but really lean more on my favorite blogs and cookbooks for meals and inspiration.  I highlighted some of my favorite blogs and cookbooks below so you can check them out too!

Favorite Food Blogs:Image result for healthy blogs

  • Life is but a Dish
  • Fed and Fit
  • Paleomg
  • Balanced Bites
  • Physical Kitchness

Favorite Cookbooks:

  • Practical Paleo
  • Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow.
  • 100 Days of Real Food

I would definitely encourage you to check out the blogs and cookbooks I love for some new meal ideas.  You can always try one of these out on a more chill night and if you like it, you can use it for a meal prep later on!  While recipes can be awesome and delicious for meal prep, I also wanted to provide you some more simple and quick ideas for the super busy person!

In general, I like to build my meals throughout the week keeping a couple things in mind.    Each meal I try to incorporate a protein, starch, vegetable, and fat.  I often use fruits as snacks or desserts and pair it with a fat like some sort of nut butter.  I also try to create a IMG_8957variety within each of those categories throughout the week.  For example, I don’t want to each chicken for lunch everyday and for two dinners throughout the week. That’s just way too much chicken for my liking!  If I know I’m going to have chicken for dinner twice in one week, I like to try to incorporate ground beef, sausage, turkey, bison, or venison in my lunches and breakfasts.  I’m not perfect at this (especially with vegetables) but I strive to eat a wide range of food and look for items in season.

Below I put together a list of some of my go to foods for each category I build my meals from.  You can pick one or two foods from each list and then bam..you have your meal!  These are the super easy, “I don’t have to actually cook things” types of meals, which are sometimes the best ones.

Proteins:

  • Aidells Chicken SausageImage result for proteins
  • Hard Boiled Egg
  • Applegate Turkey
  • Applegate Salami
  • Tuna
  • Yogurt

Starches:

  • PotatoesImage result for healthy starches
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Quinoa
  • Simple Mills Crackers
  • Homemade Oat Muffin
  • Bread or Tortilla

Vegetables: Image result for vegetables

  • Peppers
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Broccoli
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers

Fats:Image result for healthy fats

  • Natural Nut Butter
  • Avocado
  • Cheese
  • Nuts
  • Tessamae Ranch

Fruits:Image result for vegetables

  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Berries
  • Oranges
  • Kiwi
  • Grapes

The options are endless, y’all!  You could do a PB&J with carrots, yogurt, nuts, and an apple.  You could do hard boiled eggs with potatoes, avocado, peppers, and kiwi. You could do a turkey and cheese roll up, broccoli, ranch, and berries.  You can easily make all sorts of on the go meals with this list.

Depending on my week and how busy I am, I mix it up between making recipes and doing these quick on the go meals for meal prep.  I choose whatever I am feeling that week and it allows me to still be flexible with my nutrition while also experiencing the benefits of meal prep.  Sometimes I just want a hot bowl of chili every day at lunch and other weeks I want to alternate between a PB&J and some salami and cheese crackers.

There are a couple different ways to do the meal prep process.  You can do it how I typically do it and make meals individuals for each day or you can do a batch meal prep. Some individuals enjoy making different foods that they can mix and match.  You can alter the food with different seasonings and what you decide to pair with it.  For example, you can use ground beef for tacos one night and sausage the next morning.  Just wait to season it appropriately right before you eat it.

Meal prep is what you make it.  It can be easy, quick, and painless or more extravegant and adventurous.  As you meal prep more and more you will learn what works best for you and become a master at the meal prep process!  Happy Prepping 🙂

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