Meal prep has been a regular part of my lifestyle for a few years now. Once I entered adulthood I quickly realized that finding time to cook on weeknights is NOT easy. Thus, I started taking a few hours every weekend (usually on Sundays) to prep some easy meals and food items. This way, I have healthy, balanced meals to turn to all week long.
Full disclosure: I don’t meal prep EVERY weekend because sometimes life gets in the way and it’s not always feasible. Additionally, I realize that meal prep isn’t for everyone. Some people like being able to choose what to eat in the moment, and prefer to spend their weekends doing other things. I think there’s a lot of dogma around meal prep in the health/nutrition world and “influencers” out there who claim that meal prep is THEE solution. This is absolutely not true for everyone, so just remember to always do what works best for you. I’m sharing this today to help inspire people who WANT to start meal prepping, NOT to make people feel like they have to meal prep in order to live a healthy life.
Another note is that meal prep doesn’t have to take place on the weekends. If you have more time to meal prep on week days or nights, that’s great! Once again, do what works best for you.
Benefits I’ve Experienced from Meal Prepping
Some of the benefits I’ve experienced from my weekend meal prep aren’t necessarily related to having more time during the week (although that is a major perk!). Perhaps you’ve noticed these benefits from meal prepping, too:
- A chance to try new recipes. I love cooking and trying new recipes, and my weekend meal prep gives me a chance to experiment with new foods and cooking methods.
- Gets me moving. I don’t know about you, but I often feel inclined to lay around on weekends. Meal prep gets me on my feet and adds some movement to my day. Remember, “movement” doesn’t necessarily have to be an intense workout. It can be as simple as standing up and running around your kitchen for a few hours!
- It’s relaxing. We often associate cooking with stress, just another thing to add to the to-do list. Cooking doesn’t have to be stressful (in fact, it can be straight up meditative), especially if you plan your meal prep time in advance. Additionally, it’s important to be kind to yourself: as you start adding meal prep to your routine, choose recipes that you’re familiar with, that don’t include 100 ingredients or complicated steps. Otherwise you’ll set yourself up for stress which will likely scare you away from trying meal prep again.
- Saves time and money. These are obvious, but I couldn’t write this list without them! Adding a few hours of meal prep to your schedule can save you TONS of time during the week, so you don’t have to worry about spending your evenings cooking after long days of work. It can also help save you money if you plan your grocery list around your meal prep agenda. You won’t end up buying a bunch of unnecessary ingredients that you forget about or can’t use before the expiration date.
How I Meal Prep
There really isn’t any rhyme or reason to how I meal prep. Sometimes the items I make are based on what we already have on hand in our kitchen. Other times, I go grocery shopping for foods and ingredients I need to meal prep successfully. Sometimes I follow specific recipes for meal prep, other times I just throw things together and hope it turns out OK :). If I decide to follow specific recipes, I’ll explore Pinterest and/or my favorite food blogs for inspiration (PinchofYum, Ambitious Kitchen, and Fit Foodie Finds are three of my go-tos!). I also have a few real life cookbooks on hand that I love paging through to find delicious recipes to try.
Depending on how much time I have and what I decide to make, meal prep can take anywhere from 1-3 hours. I try not to spend more than 3 hours on meal prep – spending more time than that is a bit excessive (at least for me!).
I will say that one meal prep lifesaver for me has been all the Pyrex we have on hand (thanks to everyone who got us Pyrex for a wedding gift, ha!). I wouldn’t be able to store all of this food properly without it. So if you don’t already have storage containers on hand, they are a great investment to make before you start your meal prep adventures
Example of what I prep:
Listed below are 6 recipes/food items that I prepped on one particular weekend. This was a longer meal prep, I would say I typically make between 3-4 recipes.
Burger patties: From Fed & Fit’s cookbook, Cook Once, Eat All Week. We’ll eat these with a side of veggies for a quick dinner this week, and I’m sure my husband will take the leftovers to work with him for lunch 🙂
Peanut butter cup chia seed pudding: followed the recipe and added sliced almonds that I had on hand for some extra crunch and healthy fats. Made this for a quick breakfast or late night snack when I’m craving something sweet!
Vegan white lasagna soup: This was the first time I had ever made “cashew cream,” and let me tell you – I am HERE for it! In my opinion, it tastes very similar to regular cream and there’s absolutely no dairy in it (just soaked cashews, vegetable broth, lemon juice, and salt). I added some broccoli and mushrooms to the soup because I had some on hand, and felt like it was lacking veggies.
Buffalo cauliflower salad with tahini ranch: I like to make one veggie-filled salad per week that I can pack for lunches or have as a side for dinner (or even eat for breakfast!). I made my own tweaks to this recipe – didn’t add chickpeas or celery, but combined in some roasted peanuts, dried cherries, shredded carrots, and arugula. Also added some cooked orzo to the mix. I had some hiding in my cupboard and thought adding a grain to the salad would make it more satisfying!
Cinnamon toast crunch chickpeas: I don’t typically meal prep snacks butttttt I saw these on Pinterest and knew I had to make them. I thought it was such a fun/unique way to use chickpeas. I haven’t been using them lately so I’m excited to have them back in my belly 🙂
Roasted broccoli: Didn’t follow a recipe – simply preheated the oven to 400 degrees F, tossed some broccoli florets with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and kept in the oven for ~20 minutes.