Wondering how to make meal prep easier?
If you’ve always followed the I’m-hungry-find-food-now approach to eating, it’s easy to think cooking all your meals for a week at a time is a daunting task.
That’s because you can grab a burger, fries, and a soda without even getting out of your car.
A lot of quickie marts and grocery stores have ready-to-eat meals like griller dogs, and deep-fried chicken.
And you can even sit at home on the couch, tap and swipe your smart phone, and voilà, foods shows up at your front door.
Maybe it’s fast and convenient, but it’s not going to help you shred fat, build muscle, or transform your body.
Set aside goals to build a better-looking body for a minute, and these kinds of eating habits are also bad for your health.
According to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for 2015-2020, poor eating habits can be linked to:
- Heart disease
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes
- Certain types of cancer
- Poor bone health
- Early death
In fact, only 1 in 10 adults in the U.S. eat the recommended 1 to 2 cups of fruit per day, and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables today.
What most people are eating is a lot of junk loaded with empty calories. That sounds anything like your eating habits, meal prep can help you change that.
The Power of Preparation
Here’s another way to get your mind right about prepping your meals. Think about it like this:
If you’ve ever lived through a natural disaster or had your car break down in the middle of nowhere, you know being prepared can make a huge difference.
A power outage is no big deal with flashlights, food and water, maybe even a generator. And if you’ve got a jack, spare tire, and a few tools, a flat tire won’t keep you from reaching your destination.
Or as Abraham Lincoln put it: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
That’s the power of preparation.
When you take the time to prep your meals, you’ll discover that it:
- Makes decision-making about food when you’re hungry a lot easier
- Costs less than going out to eat all the time
- Supports your goals to shred fat, build muscle, and transform your body
- Helps you make planned decisions at the grocery store instead of impulse buys
- Requires scheduling to prep in advance, but ultimately saves you time
- Has a positive impact on body composition, your health, and how you feel
The big question is: How?
If you’ve never prepped all your meals for about a week at a time, you might feel overwhelmed or wonder where to start.
That’s pretty normal. In just a sec, I’ll fill you in on how to make prepping your meals easier. But first, you have to realize that everybody has their own way of doing things.
For example, maybe you prefer a rice cooker to the old-school rice-in-boiling-water approach. Or grilling all your meats on the barbecue works better for you than baking it in the oven.
The only way you figure out what works is by giving it a try, refining the process, and improving. Take that approach and after a few meal preps, you have it dialed in.
Meal prep made easy to keep your diet on track
Ready to get started? Here’s what I recommend to get the most out of meal prep:
Before You Buy Any Food
You’re fired up to improve your diet and stock your fridge and freezer with healthy meals. That’s great. But there’s a few things you should do before you start throwing food in a shopping cart.
1. Create a meal plan. When you’re aiming to shred fat, build muscle, or transform your body, you should know your macronutrient ratios (protein, fats, carbs), and how many calories to eat per day. That info helps build an effective meal plan. If you need a meal plan, start here.
2. Write a shopping list. Open the fridge and the pantry. Do yourself a favor and throw out any foods, treats, or snacks that aren’t on the list. See what you’ve got to fill your meal plan, and make a list of what you need.
3. Stock up on storage containers. Maybe you already have some Tupperware, or similar storage containers. If not, you can buy a set of storage containers online. You might even check with a local restaurant supply store, or neighborhood restaurant to see if they have storage containers suitable for one meal.
4. Get a food scale. Think you’re good at estimating portion sizes? Check out this Portion Distortion quiz, and you might be surprised. Get a food scale, and use it to measure all your food (cooked weight) in grams or ounces.
5. Schedule prep time. It’s going to be hard to guesstimate how long prepping a week of meals will take when you’ve never done it before. My suggestion: Take a look at your schedule, and carve out a four-hour block of time for prepping, cooking, and storing your meals. Don’t worry, you should get faster as you refine your process.
Shopping, Prepping, and Storing
Take care of the stuff you need to do before you buy any food, and you’re ready to take a trip to the store, cook your food, and stock up on the meals you need to reach your goal. Here’s what to do next:
6. Go shopping. Have a healthy meal or snack before you go to the store. Then grab your list, and a shopping cart. Stick to the list, and be on your way.
7. Take over the kitchen. Once you’re home with all the food, take over the kitchen, the stove, the oven, the barbecue grill, the rice cooker, the cutting board, maybe even the InstaPot and the George Foreman Grill to cook all your meals for a week in just a couple hours. It’s going to look like you’re cooking for an army. But doing it this way will ultimately save you time, and help keep your diet on track.
8. Freeze and store. Once all your food is cooked, dish up your meals in the storage containers. Store a day or two of meals in the fridge. Put the rest in the freezer for later. Check out one of the best meal preps I’ve ever seen, by Team RSF Member Ben S.
It’s not that complicated. You can do this. Sure, it takes a little time to get used to planning, prepping, and storing meals. But it’s worth it. Besides eating the right foods is even more important for fat loss and building muscle than what you do in the gym.
How do you prep your meals? Let’s discuss on Facebook.
1. U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (2015). Nutrition and health are closely related. U.S. Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020. From https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/introduction/nutrition-and-health-are-closely-related/
2. Lee-Kwan, S.H., et al. (2017). Disparities in state-specific adult fruit and vegetable consumption – United States, 2015. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. From: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/mm6645a1.htm?s_cid=mm6645a1_w.
3. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (2018). Servings sizes and portions. We Can! Eat Right. From: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/wecan/downloads/portion-quiz.pdf