If you want to achieve any fitness goals, or just create good healthy eating habits, then embrace meal planning and meal prepping. Having a meal plan and prepping your meals ahead of time can save you a lot of time, money, and it helps you prioritize important nutrients that help keep your body (and hormones) functioning at optimal levels. Plus, once you get the hang of it you'll notice that your results skyrocket!
The thing is meal prepping often gets a bad rep of being a logistical nightmare due to the misconception about it. Most people's idea of meal prepping is taking a few hours to cook a week's worth of meals in one day - typically Sunday. Although this is a method that some follow, it may not be the best method for you! Successful meal prepping revolves around having a plan, but it's important to make it approachable and sustainable. To help you conquer and start successfully meal prepping we've put together 10 of the best meal prep tips that will guide you to creating a meal prep rhythm that fits you.
Pick your day (or days) to meal prep
Sunday is known as meal prep day because it's close enough to the start of the week, and most have the day off and extra time to spare! However, you don't have to follow the meal-prep Sunday rule. You can start meal prepping Sunday, but you don't have to do it all in one day. In fact, it's best to pick two days to cut down the amount of time prepping and to ensure that your food is still fresh and tasty!
If you want to cut down on time and prefer to have freshly prepped meals then do what feels manageable to you. If you don't want to spend all of Sunday grocery shopping and prepping, break it into two days. A common split people follow is prepping half of their meals Sunday and the rest on Wednesday. But remember, there is no golden rule, so just do what best fits your schedule.
Calculate your macros
If you want to have a successful meal prep, calculate your macros! Fitness goals or not, you should know how much you should be eating to either maintain, build muscle, or lose weight. Knowing how many calories, carbs, protein, and fats you need will ensure that you're prioritizing healthy foods before any treats you'd like to indulge in. For those who prefer not to track macros, just use the given target macros as a guideline for what you should be eating in terms of protein, carbs, and fats.
This is a must-follow tip because it'll help make your grocery shopping and meal planning easier by helping you breakdown your meals according to your macros (or close to if you're not tracking). This brings us to our next point...
Have a meal plan
Creating a meal plan will help make your meal prep experience so much easier. You want to know exactly how many meals you'll be eating and what they should consist of. So, after calculating your macros write down how many meals and snacks you plan to eat. You'll want to divide up your macros evenly for your meals and snacks, so you can have a better idea of how to put your meals together. Let's say your macros based on a weight loss goal, body composition, and other factors are 1,600 calories, 200 grams of carbs, 100 grams of protein, and 44.5 grams of fat daily. Most people eat three meals and two snacks, so we'll use that as a baseline. To divide your meals based on your macros, divide each target macro by four - these numbers will be your three meals. Then divide those numbers by two - these numbers will be for your snacks. So, here's what it will look like:
Three meals, each with:
- 400 calories
- 50g carbohydrates
- 11g fat
- 25g protein
Two snacks, each with:
- 200 calories
- 25g carbohydrates
- 5.5g fat
- 12.5g protein
Doing this will help you stay on track and give you a good idea of how to plan your meals based on the numbers given. Do the numbers have to be split up perfectly all the time? No! Use this as a starting point. As you continue to plan your meals and prep them, you'll figure out what works best for your habits and lifestyle. So, you can tweak the ratios based on your lifestyle. For example, if you're a late-night snacker, adjust your macros so they allow you to eat more at night as opposed to in the morning. You might not be necessarily prepping all of your meals, but you should plan all your meals to help make prepping easier and less stressful.
Pssst.. here's more info on how to create a meal plan based on your macros.
Invest in good meal prep containers
If you're going to meal prep for the long run and constantly be reheating your meals then consider investing in good food storage containers that will last forever - or at least close to. Plastic containers are ideal because they're budget-friendly, but they're not eco-friendly and you'll eventually have to purchase more again. Consider buying glass containers - they're eco-friendly and microwave safe! This is an ideal meal prep container because they came in various shapes and sizes that allow you to easily portion your meals. You can also use them for snacks like pre-cut veggies with a side of hummus. Just try not to misplace your lids and keep it organized to make your meal prepping experience less frustrating.
Record and save your favorite recipes as you plan
Make planning your meals and meal prepping less frustrating by having a designated area for your recipes! You can do this by creating a document with a list of your own personal favorite recipes. Or if you discover new recipes, make it simple by screenshotting the recipes and saving them in a folder on your phone under "Fav Recipes". This will help make it easier for you to figure out what to eat for the week when it comes time to sit down to plan.
Before you grocery shop, check your fridge and pantry
Shop your fridge and pantry! Before you sit down and plan your meals and write out your shopping list, take a look at what you currently have on hand. Check your refrigerator, freezer, pantry, and while you're exploring write down the foods you want/need to use up. This will help reduce waste and save you some money, so work with what you got!
Plan for leftovers
You don't have to plan a new meal every day! Although changing things up every once in a while is good, it can be stressful doing it too frequently. Make meal planning and prepping less stressful and time-consuming by planning for leftovers. For example, if you buy a whole rotisserie chicken that can create at least two days’ worth of lunch (depending on if you're sharing)! You can prep it as a salad for lunch, use it for an easy-to-make stir fry for dinner, and use your dinner leftovers for the next day’s lunch. This is a great way to repurpose leftovers but in a less boring fashion!
Have a detailed grocery list
Grocery shopping is obviously a must! To avoid having spoiled produce sitting in your fridge and wasting time at the grocery store, sit down and write out a detailed grocery list after shopping in your kitchen and planning your meals. That way you can go into the store focused and ready to fight the temptation to buy food that doesn't fit your meal plan. As time goes by creating a detailed list will become easier because you'll have your favorite healthy meals practically memorized!
Stock up on staple items
Make life easier by stocking up on your favorite staple items so you always have them on hand. This will help streamline your meal prepping and planning process.
Here are some great healthy foods to keep stocked in your pantry and freezer:
- Frozen fruits
- Frozen veggies
- White or brown rice
- Chicken or vegetable broth
- Canned tuna
- Healthy cooking oils like, avocado, coconut, or olive
- Nut butters
- Mixed nuts
Doing this will help you stress less when grocery shopping because you can focus on only getting the fresh items!
Wash and prep veggies and fruits right after grocery shopping
Meal prepping doesn't only have to be about prepping your cooked foods, prep the uncooked foods too! If you meal prep, chances are you're going to have a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. So, as soon as you get home from grocery shopping, wash them, cut them up, and put them in containers! This will make it easy for you to grab those ingredients when you're getting ready to cook your meals thus saving you time and stress in the long run. Or whenever you want a snack you can easily access your cut-up fruits and veggies!
Most people reach for unhealthy snacks because they're convenient. Simply prepping your foods in this manner will help set yourself up for success because the fresh fruit and veggies you cut up are ready for you to grab whenever you need them!
Meal prepping may seem overwhelming and confusing at first, but implementing these 10 strategies will help streamline your meal planning and meal prepping efforts and help you build the healthy habit of cooking at home. Remember to make it work for you and your unique lifestyle and goals to make meal prepping sustainable!