Time to Plan! Why Meal Prep is Genius!
Meal prep, how to meal prep and meal prep ideas. Meal prep started for me back in 2012 when I first started doing fitness competitions as it was the only way to stay on top of the very precise 6 meals a day. But it’s not just for fitness competitors and athletes! When I was first introduced to doing all of my food prep on one day (it can be whatever day fits best with your schedule) by my coach I thought it was SO much work!
What is meal prep
Meal prep is when you cook your meals in bulk in advance e.g. for me 10 lbs chicken, 6 lbs tilapia, brown rice and sweet potatoes. I had visions of spending entire days doing meal prep and I had no intention of spending my future like this! However, by the end of the first week I was hooked and realized it was a genius concept!
I still do it for every meal I eat at home 8 years later! When what I’m eating at home is so on point, it means I can enjoy eating out and drinking and follow an 80 : 20 rule to stay on track.
Meal prep ideas
It doesn’t matter which day(s) of the week you do your food prep on. For me, it normally falls on whichever day I’m working from home as I can blog while it bakes.
If you don’t want to prep all of your food, why not just cook a couple of your favorite dishes in bulk and then freeze it into whatever size portions work for you. That way you don’t have to cook it from scratch several times over. I even have my husband hooked on cooking his:
Wholefoods Lean Beef Chilli Recipe and bolognese in bulk! and Pulled Chicken Recipe (which I steal a few bites of). We tweak it by not using the oil or sugar and using Stonewall Kitchens Boozy Bacon Barbecue Sauce. Most bbq sauces are too sweet or too spicy for me but this is my latest addiction. I put it on my broccoli to add flavor to it. He has his with a wholewheat bun and green juice (he’s not into eating veg but will drink them) and I’ll have mine with a salad.
How long does it take to meal prep?
While it takes a few hours in the beginning when you’re figuring it all out, after a few weeks you’ll have it done in no time.
Benefits of meal prep
You can multi-task while a lot of the things are cooking. It also saves thinking about what to eat, cooking, grocery shopping and washing up during the week which is a savior!
It’s also super helpful during the holidays when you’re pushed for time and running about like a headless chicken. I like to eat before I go to parties so that I can indulge a little, but it makes me not want to stuff my face as much as I would if I’d skipped dinner.
How to meal prep & meal prep tips
Save time by cooking in bulk.
• Decide what you’re going to eat for each meal through the week and make a grocery list.
I like to stick to a meal plan for 2-4 weeks because it makes it easier. When you are planning your meal think unprocessed protein, quality complex carbohydrates, and either a fruit or vegetable(s) for every meal.
You’ll also want to add a quality to fat to a few of your meals such as 1 tsp flax or olive oil (use code EVE20 for 20% off) to breakfast and salads or flax/hemp seeds. It may take a while to figure out the exact amount of each that you need to buy, but if you buy or cook too much it can always be frozen. You’ll figure out quickly how much you need.
• Stick to your meal prep grocery list
When you have a grocery list it also makes grocery shopping easier as you know what you’re going there for. I’m in and out of the store in 10-15 minutes (20 minutes absolute max if there’s a line at the checkout). I don’t buy anything that’s not on the list. I’ll grab a bottle of wine or a treat but I prefer not to keep treats in the house unless I’m having guests over as it just leads to temptation and I have a massive weakness for popcorn and European chocolate.
• Stick to outside walls of the grocery store
PRO GROCERY SHOPPING TIP: All grocery stores pretty much have the same layout; fresh produce on the outside and processed or as l like to call them ‘science experiments’ down the aisles.
There are 3 aisles I’ll go down and that’s for grains (rice, beans, gluten free pasta), olive oil and balsamic vinegar, coffee and personal hygiene items. There’s nothing on the other aisles I need. More about that on the podcast.
• Cook and allow all of your food to cool and then portion out for the week
Generally, my portion sizes are 3-4oz (cooked weight) protein, 2-4oz carbs, a large serving of vegetables or a small serving of fruit and 1 tsp-1tbsp of a high-quality unsaturated fat. That’s because I eat 6 times a day so if you’re not a weirdo like me, you’re probably going to want and need bigger portions (especially if you’re a guy)!
• Choose how to pack and label your food
You may wish to label it with a marker or hand written sticker (frozen tilapia and frozen chicken tend to look the same). Now here’s the issue I have with meal prepping containers; I use zip-lock bags (don’t judge) rather than Tupperware as it takes up less space and means less washing up (another time-saving bonus).
However, I really want to cut down on my plastic waste. I don’t feel comfortable reusing the plastic bags that have had meat and fish in but don’t have space for 40-50 Tupperware containers in my freezer (thats how many meals I make at a time). My friend Coco gave me 2 food prep storage suggestions to share with you that stack well, are BPA free and reusable
Leakproof Containers Stand Up, Completely Plastic-Free, microwave, freezer and dishwasher safe, and one of the few that I’ve seen that are oven safe, They’re also flexible and expandable so you can use them in the freezer. Squeeze out air then zip to save space. They come in a ton of different sizes, some of which are even designed to fit in your car cup holder!
S’well Food Prep Bowls 10oz and 14oz sizes that are BPA/BPS-free. Reusable and sustainable. Can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer. Microwaveable and top-rack dishwasher-safe. Bonus: each bowl is marked with handy measurements to help Power Your Prep. But at $20 for 4 it’s an expensive solution and still takes up a decent amount of storage space.
If you have a solution please drop a comment below on how to minimize plastic waste for food storage options so I can keep updating this post and share it with everyone. Thank you!
• Leave 1-2 days of meal prep food in the fridge and then freeze the rest
Take out of the freezer whatever you need for the next day and put it into the fridge to defrost each night ready for the next day.
Meal prep recipes : Choose nutritious recipes that you’ll love.
You can tweak most recipes to be healthier by making a few switches. Bodybuilding.com, Quest, Lorna Jane, and Women’s Fitness are all good resources for nutritious recipes. I’m pretty boring and just bake my protein and boil my carbs plain and then just add a little sauce or balsamic vinegar when I’m ready to eat it.
Benefits of Meal Prep
• You don’t have to cook during the week as it’s done. Besides reheating and prepping vegetables so they’re fresh; lettuce, asparagus, and spinach don’t freeze well!
• Minimal washing up as you’re not cooking during the week.
• No excuses for resorting to eating rubbish whilst you’re out all day as you can take your food with you. Six Pack Bags are brilliant for stylishly carrying around your food whilst keeping it cool and fresh. No one wants to carry around a dorky cooler!
• You won’t overeat or have to worry about calories and you’ve already pre-portioned it.
• It saves money, as you aren’t buying excess food you don’t need.
More Meal Prep Ideas
Have fun, try and include as many varieties of protein, quality carbohydrates: think brown rice, pasta and sweet potatoes, and avoid anything white, and seasonal, fresh, colorful vegetables (not out of a can). The more variety you use the more nutritional value you are likely to have.
Choose fresh, organic, locally sourced, produce as far as possible.
Do you have any meal prep ideas or time saving tips? Leave them in the comments below, I love sharing here on glamourandgains.com
Happy cooking and don’t forget to share these meal prep ideas with anyone you think would find them helpful.
Photos: Pixabay & Noel Daganta. Sportswear: Bodyrock
Eve Dawes is a Blogger, Podcaster, Mrs. England World 2020, a WBFF Pro Diva, SAG-AFTRA actress, NASM certified Personal Trainer, Founder of Dawes Custom Cosmetics and GlamourandGains.com. Eve's also the host of BFF (beauty, fitness & fashion) segment on Spill The Tea Live! The show for British Expats. Eve has over 15 years experience in the fashion world, is an avid traveller and cruelty-free beauty advocate.