When I was ten, my mom taught me basic culinary skills. I learned how to whisk eggs, prepare chicken, and even bake things in the oven. Some nights when mom would work late, she would call ahead and ask me to bread the chicken cutlets or put something in the oven. She was a single parent, working long hours, and didn’t always have the brain space to do it all. It’s only now, as a father, that I can see how tired she must have been, and I can only imagine how much my making a few chicken cutlets helped.
I am grateful that my mom took the time to teach me the basics of cooking. While in college, I cooked most of my meals and packed my lunch. Today I work as a nutrition coach and do all of the cooking for my family. All of this is thanks to my mom teaching me how to crack a few eggs.
My mom and countless clients I have worked with have inspired this article, and I promise after reading it, you will have five ways to make meal prep easier.
Meal prep is a skill that takes practice, but it is one of the best ways to make better choices in the kitchen. Imagine if you could open your refrigerator and grab a quick, balanced meal that would leave you feeling satisfied—grabbing other snacks or meals that aren’t balanced decreases if you have your meals prepared. For many of my clients, this is a good enough reason to at least try meal prepping. Also, when you cook, you save money, and you are aware of what ingredients you are using, which is helpful when trying to lose weight or gain muscle.
Even with all the benefits of preparing your meals, there are roadblocks that people can face.
3 Reasons Why You Aren’t Meal Prepping
You don’t know what you enjoy eating. When teaching a client how to meal prep, I ask, “what do you enjoy eating?” Nine times out of ten, they will struggle to find an answer, and that’s why meal prep seems impossible.
If you don’t know what you enjoy eating, it becomes harder to prepare your meals ahead of time. It’s like getting in your car and driving only to remember you have no idea where you are going. So, take a minute and think about what type of meal you would enjoy. This is a great starting point that can inspire someone to try a new recipe or revisit an old favorite.
You don’t feel confident in the kitchen. It’s ok if you don’t feel confident in the kitchen; everyone has to start somewhere. If the thought of being in the kitchen is overwhelming, think about starting small. Making hardboiled eggs might be more accessible, and you will have protein for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Instead of becoming the next Iron Chef, focus on making something easy that you can grab when you are in a pinch.
You are setting excessive expectations for yourself. No one expects you to have seven days’ worth of perfectly prepared meals in fancy containers. Simply making an extra portion of a meal and enjoying the leftovers the next day can be classified as meal prep. There is no need to go out and buy new cookbooks or try and make everything look Instagram-worthy. When someone attaches themself to an excessive expectation, it often leads to perfectionism which is genuinely just the art of practicing quitting frequently.
My mom asked her ten-year-old son to help her prepare dinner. It made it easier for us to eat at a reasonable hour and not need to order take-out. Make it easier for yourself and understand that you are on your own wellness journey. Hopefully, the following pointers can help you become an absolute meal prep master.
5 Ways To Make Meal Prep Easier
Make the shopping list. Sometimes you get caught up in how hard you think something will be. Remember that it’s essential to know what you enjoy eating. Make a shopping list once you have an idea of the meal(s) you want to eat. Having a list makes it easier because you will know what you need to make your meals.
I know that this seems very easy, but you would be surprised by how many individuals skip over this step.
- Write your list
- Go to the store
- Cook the food
- Eat the leftovers
Pick one meal to make for the week. Don’t get caught in the perfectionist trap of trying to make five different meals. I know that you have good intentions, but if you are struggling with meal prep, make it easier by picking one meal to make for the week.
For instance, if you struggle to eat breakfast during the week, try making overnight oats. You can batch enough to last all week, and it takes less than five minutes.
Here’s a quick recipe that I make for my family every Sunday.
- 4 cups rolled oats
- 2 cups almond milk
- 4 tablespoons chia seeds (fiber bonus points 🕺)
- Sprinkle coconut flakes
- Mix all together and make sure the milk is covering the oats.
- Place in the fridge overnight and enjoy in the morning.
Another option is to take a meal you are making and double or triple the recipe. For instance, if you make chicken, buy extra and cook it for the week. This little trick makes it easier to grab something from the fridge to enjoy for lunch or dinner. You can apply the same tactic to make your side dishes too!
Create a fail-safe menu. This menu is a game-changer if you deal with decision fatigue.
Decision Fatigue – the idea that after making many decisions, your ability to make more and more decisions over the course of a day becomes worse
✅ The Fail-Safe Menu is built on the staples you have in the kitchen.
1) Create a breakfast and lunch menu with your favorite go-to meals that you can make with those staples.
2) Write up the menu.
3) PRINT IT OUT and put it somewhere you can see it in the kitchen.
4) Use it. (Seriously. USE IT)
🍳 🌯 Breakfast and Lunch are the main focus because if you eat both meals, the brain fog will lift, and the likely hood of you picking something balanced can increase.
😉 As a bonus (fail-safe), When in doubt, you can always have something off the menu for dinner too. A lot of my clients love this and swear by it.
Buy pre-cut veggies and fruit or premade meals. Cutting up your vegetables makes it easier to grab them when you are on the go; however, spring for the pre-cut vegetables and fruit if you have it in your budget. No one is judging you for saving time and making it a little easier to make better choices in the kitchen.
One of my clients works 50 hours a week and hardly has time to sit down to eat. When they go food shopping, they buy prepared food at their grocery store. Buying a rotisserie chicken is a great option and can be split into several meals. The same goes for purchasing side dishes too!
Also, don’t forget that buying canned or frozen fruit and vegetables is an easy way to add nutrient-dense options to your meals. Sometimes they can be cheaper, and it’s unnecessary to buy organic.
Use a meal prep service/order meals for the week. After reading all of these tips, you might consider a meal prep service if you still feel overwhelmed. It depends on your budget, but if you order your meals, then you don’t have to buy all of those ingredients at the store. It might end up costing the same or possibly cheaper. Of course, this all depends on the person and how many people they are feeding in their family.
I do not use a meal prep service, and for my clients, we tend to use google and find a local one. So, use google and find one that has good reviews and meals that align with your particular goals.
Maybe you have a favorite restaurant from which you can order a few meals for the week. That is a great option, and when clients do this, we “meal prep the menu .” Look at the menu before ordering and think about how you might portion out the meals for the week. Maybe the portions are large, and you can split a single serving into two. Think ahead before ordering, and things work out in your favor.
Meet Yourself Where You’re At
Remember that you are trying something new, and sometimes that means you won’t want to prepare your food for the week. I’m a busy day who runs his own coaching business, and the last thing I want to do is spend a few hours cooking on Sunday. When I feel that way, I use the same tips I just shared with you. 😉
Give it a try, and if you need a few more tips, book a nutrition strategy call.
Give it a try, and if you need a few more tips, book a nutrition strategy call.