You know the feeling: You want to meal prep, but you don’t even know where to start. Luckily, prepping for the week is super easy—as long as you know what to do. Follow these quick tips to make meal prep a breeze and stay healthy all week.
Keep the grocery list short
We all know the feeling of buying an entire can or container of something and only using it for one recipe—it’s money wasted. The first and most important thing you can do when meal prepping is overlap ingredients. This will help to keep your grocery list short and prevent you from wasting money on ingredients you’ll only use once. You can make endless recipes with grilled chicken; there’s no need to buy both chicken and steak. Veggies are a must, but choose between iceberg lettuce and kale instead of buying both, and save the other one for the following week’s meal prep.
Buy in bulk when possible
It’s hard to pass up a good sale. If that whole wheat pasta you love is 10 for $10 this week, stock up. The same goes for anything that can be frozen—especially meat. Find out when your store marks down meats (just ask any employee), and put it in the freezer for later use. While your cost might be high in the short term, you’ll save money in the long run. Another money-saving tip: frozen veggies are usually cheaper and last longer than regular veggies, so if you’re on a tight budget, there’s no shame in going frozen versus fresh (more about that later).
Consider the food groups
It can be difficult to figure out what to include in your weekly meal prep. To ease the stress of coming up with lunches, write down a few staples for each food group that you’d like to include weekly. If you have few favorite fruits and veggies, jot them down. The same goes for protein and whole grains. If you love black beans, include them on the protein list. If you’re a fan of whole wheat pasta salad, keep that on the list as well. Every meal should contain a fruit, a vegetable, some protein, and complex carbohydrates. If you know which ones you like and don’t like, you can keep a handy list that will make it easier for you to mix and match different meal combinations throughout the week.
It’s okay to cut corners
Throughout life, you’ll learn that there are no shortcuts to any place worth going. However, there is one exception: Meal prep. While fresh vegetables might be ideal, it’s perfectly fine to stock up on frozen veggies to make sure nothing goes to waste (some studies even suggest they have more nutrients than fresh veggies). Plus, cooking simple recipes that overlap ingredients ensures that you’re getting the most bang for your buck and not wasting any of the food you purchase. Make a cheat sheet to remind you which meals are for which days, or which veggie you want to pair with which protein; it’s a great way to stay on top of things and make your life a little bit easier.
Carve out the same time every week
Sometimes, the trickiest part of meal prepping is actually finding the time to do it. If you make sure to carve out the same time every week, you’ll be more likely to stick with it. Try spending a few hours on Sunday morning prepping everything. Once you prep for a few weeks, you’ll start to plan the rest of your day around your meal prep rather than planning your meal prep around the rest of your day. Cooking can be therapeutic if you remember to relax and enjoy it. If you let meal prep become a part of your weekend routine, it will soon go from a “to-do list” item to an “I want to do this” item.
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