HOW TO MEAL PREP | 8 Steps to Consider When Getting Started

Meal prepping is an excellent component to successful fitness, wellness, or weight loss journeys. Have you seen those vibrant looking, uniformed containers of delicious meals on social media and wondered - how can I get started? Well, you've come to the right place. As a proud meal prepper, I'm sharing a few steps to keep in mind when starting or continuing your meal prep journey.

Step 1: Create or Find a Meal Plan

There is no 'one size fits all' meal plan. We're unique and have a variety of dietary needs, restrictions, and preferences. Our needs also change over time. Example: for the past few months, I've been consuming a primarily low-carb / high-fat diet. But soon, I may be switching to a more macro-balanced style of eating. No matter what kind of plan you're considering, you don't have to look too far for assistance in getting your meal prep journey off the ground:

  • Always Talk to Your Doctor: Your Doctor is likely to know or have access to your medical history and current state, which can play a crucial role in understanding your specific and long-term nutritional needs. 
  • Speak to a Registered Dietician or Certified Nutritionist/Health Coach: Seeking out the help of a food and nutrition expert is always a great idea. Note: If you have a commercial health insurance plan (many public programs have this option, too), see if they offer free wellness coaching and/or meal plan recommendations. Think about it, if they can get you well by way of your diet and lower your risk of certain preventable diseases - instead of covering much more expensive bills related to your care - it's an ideal investment for them. 
  • Find a Customizable App: Everything we need these days is just a swipe or tap away. That includes food information, recipes, reviews, grocery lists, and, of course, meal plans. Knowing that more people are interested in making their own food at home, food companies are making it easier for consumers to develop personalized meal plans. There are even free and customizable apps that might do the trick: Meal Lime, Yummly, or Pepper Plate

Step 2: Grab Your Meal Prep Tools

Meal prepping has definitely been a learning experience for me. When I began, I often found that I was missing things, and the process started to feel a little overwhelming. Outside of hiring someone to do my meal preps for me, I had to figure it out. One way was doing my own prep, to the prep. I did so by making sure that I had all the tools of the meal prep trade to cook, store, and take my yummy eats on the go.

  • Meal Prep Containers: You'll want to find containers that are durable and keep up with traveling and hot/cold temperatures. I recently logged onto Amazon and re-purchased both the 2 and 1 Compartment Freshware Meal Prep Boxes ($10.99). Rest assured, it was not because they were unreliable, they were great. I'm just that person that loses and leaves everything behind. Sigh.

  • Knife Set: I usually buy fresh ingredients. That means that I have to do my own cutting and general "mise en place." To do that, I needed more authentic knives to accomplish those quality cuts. The Utopia Kitchen Premium Class 6-Piece Stainless Steel Knife Set ($23.51) caught my eye because it was cute! I can be shallow, I'll admit it. But, these knives are legit and take care of my whole range of cutting, slicing, and dicing techniques. 

  •  Lunch Bag or Tote: I don't need a brightly colored monogrammed $50 lunch bag, it's just not my style. And as I mentioned above, I lose things... so it's best to find lunch bags on the lower-cost end. The Vagreez Insulated Lunch Bag ($12.26) was just right for me, large enough to fit my meal prep containers and snacks. And it's insulated, so my food stays cold or hot, for a more extended period. 

  • Food Scale: If you're serious about keeping track of your calories or macronutrients, accurate measuring of ingredients is essential! Times have surely changed, I remember my mom's analog food scale in the kitchen when I was a kid. While those still exist, they've got a digital upgrade. I measure everything! My Etekcity Digital Kitchen Scale Multifunction Food Scale ($18.95 / on sale $8.95) is easy to operate, has a sleek look, tare setting, and auto shut off. I've also had this for about 2 years, and it's still hanging in there.

  • Dip/Sauce Cups: These handy cups came into play when I started adding salads and fresh veggie snacks to my regimen. All they were missing was a great dressing or dip. But, how do I transport these tasty meal accents without ruining my lunch bag, work bag, or car seat? #FirstWorldProblems! 150 ct. Plastic Portion Cups with Lid ($11.95) was my solution. There are about 4 bottles of salad dressing in the shared refrigerator at work that belong to people. Don't tell them, but I lack faith in my coworkers to leave mine alone. I'll use my handy cups instead.

Step 3: Make a List (check it twice)

So, you've got a meal plan and the accessories needed for your meal prep. Now it's time to make that grocery list! Many meal plans are accompanied by the necessary grocery/shopping list. If not, review your planned meals, and build your list based on what's needed for each meal. Budgets are a thing, whether we like to admit it or not. Stay reasonable and consider how much of each item you'll need so that your money is not wasted. Oh, when creating your list, don't forget those seasonings and condiments.

  • Notes / Memo App:  My preference for creating my grocery list is my iPhone's NOTEs App. It makes it easy to jot down and check off my items.
  • Grocery Store App
  • Gold Ol' Pen/Pencil and Paper 

Step 4: Shop (stick to the list)

When you go to the grocery store, remember that you're only shopping for the items that go with your meal plan. Impulse buying frequently happens because stores are designed that way. Keep a laser focus! Cheat code: To avoid last-minute purchases and people (#anxiety #nocharlamange) ... I opt for the $4.95 pick up service provided by my local grocer. I create a digital shopping cart, pay online, then pick up my haul during my designated timeframe. When I do shop for myself, I tend to go during off-peak hours to get in and out!

Pro-Tip: I didn't make this a step, but my grocery store is surrounded by fast-food restaurants galore. Don't take the bait. Get in your car and go home! Laser focus!

10.14.19 Kroger Grocery Haul: Produce
The Extras

Meat and Seafood

Step 5: The Prep

I prep my healthy meals for 3-4 days at a time. Therefore, my prep days usually occur on Sundays and Wednesdays. This is a personal preference to ensure that my cooked food stays fresh, moist, and flavorful. I also prefer to cook most of my dinners in real-time, not ahead of time. What can I say? After a long day in the office, I want a glass of Merlot and a beautiful, sizzling steak. For those evenings, my "prep" is slicing and bagging up my veggies so that they are ready to go when it's time to cook.

Whether you meal prep 3 or 7 days in advance, be prepared to spend some quality time in the kitchen. I usually put on some music or a podcast and get it done! I start with produce, cutting lettuce for salads, chopping veggies for oven roasting. Then I move to my proteins, using baking, stovetop, or slow cooker methods. And last but certainly not least, I make sure I get my sauces/dips/condiments/seeds/cheeses added to my cups and slide them into my meal prep containers. 

Pro-Tip: When meal prepping, I clean up as I go. Trust me, it saves you from the frustration and headache of looking at the piled-up mixing bowls, pots, and pans at the end.

Step 6: Keep it Simple

Prepped Veggies Ready to be Olive Oiled / Seasoned and Placed in the Oven to Roast
My brand of cooking is simple! If a recipe calls for more than 7 ingredients, you've probably lost me. To take the hassle out of complicated meal prep, I have a few tricks:

  • One Pan / Sheet Pan: I love tossing broccoli, mushrooms, bell peppers, and marinated chicken cubes on the stove to saute or to simmer in a homemade sauce. Are you looking for a more "set it and forget it" approach? Sheet pan meals are the way to go! Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or foil and add desired food (veggies and protein), season, pop it in the oven, and voila!
  • Salads: So versatile and can be loaded with so many healthy, clean ingredients. All you need are leafy greens, veggies, a protein (doesn't have to be meat), and you're set! Quick, simple, and chock full of nutrients, you can throw a salad together in minutes.
  • Green Smoothies: Great for breakfast, smoothies are similar in nature to salads. The variations are endless. Key components of a tasty and nutritious green smoothie are leafy greens, veggies, fruits, water, or milk, and you can even throw in seeds or nuts for a protein boost. I love chia seeds!  

Step 7: Prepare for Success and Changes

Life happens. The average person eats out a few times a week, whether it's planned or spur of the moment. That's okay. To think that each meal for the rest of your life is going to be prepped and consumed is kind of unreasonable. We've got happy hours, celebrations and even date nights. Don't stress, try to plan your meals with consideration to your schedule that week. Only prepare meals for the days and times that you are likely to eat them. That way you aren't wasting your effort, food or money. If you happen to have extra food and you don't want it to go bad, seal it up and freeze it to reheat on another day.

Step 8: Have FUN!

Meal prep shouldn't be mundane or uninspiring. We want to stick to it, right? It's on you to be adventurous, try new things, and make sure the healthy meals you prepare are something you will actually eat. Be creative with your meal prep, and best of all, have some fun!

Important: Please review's Disclosures + Disclaimers

No comments