The Lazy Girl's Guide to Meal Prep
Updated: Mar 25, 2020
Meal prep is certainly a buzz worthy topic right now. With everything going on in our hectic lives, the last thing we want to have to think about is what to take to work for lunch or what to make for dinner. We all want to be healthy despite our busy schedules, so we spend hours on Pinterest collecting 5-ingredient recipes or 30-minute meals every weekend. Then we spend hours in the kitchen preparing and packaging everything into matching tupperware containers.
We commit to the meal prep life for a week or so until convenience gets the best of us and we find ourselves on the way home from work with a fast-food takeout meal in the passenger seat or dreading the 4 day old pre-packaged meal waiting for us at home. So goes the cycle of meal prep...
Meal prep is an amazing tool to have in your back pocket and can actually save you a lot of time and money. If you love spending hours in the kitchen over the weekend and it works for you, that’s great! We love to cook so we are completely here for that. For us, meal prepping is a lot like extreme couponing. Some people are insanely good at it and really enjoy it. If this works for your schedule, budget, and you enjoy it--go for it. Meal prep just isn’t practical for everyone and that’s okay.
Bottom line: You don’t need to blow your whole paycheck on compartmentalized tupperware or spend an entire day in the kitchen slaving over a hot stove to achieve a healthy lifestyle.
Here are some strategies you can use to ensure you’re prepared for the week ahead without all of the decision fatigue and marathon cooking.
1. Check Your Calendar.
Before making your grocery list, check your calendar. Do you have dinner with a friend on the schedule? A late meeting? Maybe you have an early morning workout class that will leave you rushing out the door before breakfast. Rushed mornings mean you’ll need to plan fast breakfasts for the week, like our egg muffins or these overnight oats. If you have plans to eat out one night, that’s one less meal you have to worry about planning for yourself.
2. Choose Two Recipes for the Week.
Once you know what your week is going to look like, only choose one or two recipes you want to try and space them out during the week. Try to choose recipes that make for good leftovers. For instance, you can make a big pot of chili on Sunday night and eat it for lunch or dinner for a few days. You could make another recipe on Tuesday and do the same thing. Planning at least 3 days in advance is less overwhelming and leaves room for flexibility in case your schedule changes, even if that means two grocery trips in one week.
3. Stock and Prep Your Bases.
Keep versatile ingredients on hand for non-recipe lunches and dinners.
Greens - Buy a big container of greens to keep on hand throughout the week. This way you can easily throw a handful into a morning smoothie or veggie omelet. You’ll also always have a base for a salad on hand for work lunches or dinners. They’re great for sneaking in soups as well!
Grains - Pantry staples like quinoa and brown rice take minimal effort to prepare at the start of the week and can be thrown in grain bowls for an easy 10 minute lunch or dinner throughout the week.
Protein - Not every protein requires grilling or roasting. Shredded rotisserie chicken, canned beans, eggs, chicken sausage, and canned tuna or salmon can be thrown into bowls, salads, and tacos all week. No recipe required - unless you want to make your own shredded chicken in the crockpot using our recipe here.
Veggies - Seasonal roasted veggies can elevate any meal. Pro tip: Roast a huge sheet pan of veggies on Sunday to have on hand for salads and bowls. While they’re roasting, throw some things in your Instantpot or crockpot or prepare some quinoa on the stove. All of this can be done in under an hour.
Healthy Fats + Flavor - Nuts, cheeses, and avocado are great to have on hand to add flavor and heartiness to meals. Things like lemons, olive oil, spices, vinegars, and fresh herbs also make great flavor enhancers and can take the simplest of meals up a notch with little to no extra effort.
4. Keep it simple.
We all love to feel like a five star chef in the kitchen, but if you have a hectic week it may be best to stick to simple things you can throw together on the fly rather than trying to tackle a complex recipe.
The reality is that nutrition is intuitive if we allow it to be. Constantly stressing over a meal plan can be exhausting and lead to burn out. Having a few tricks up your sleeve to help you stay prepared throughout the week is a great idea, especially if you’re busy or on-the-go a lot. Just don’t let it consume you! There is a reason we all love to eat. Food is meant to be enjoyed!