Sometimes the idea of meal prepping can feel daunting. What will you prep? How will you prep? When will you do it? And what about all the dishes? It’s enough to make your head spin. But thankfully, here at Snap Kitchen, we’re meal prep experts. One of our RDs, Sam, is on the blog today to give you her best tips for meal prepping in a way that works for you.
But first thing’s first. What the heck is meal prep? Like, what does that mean?
For starters, in my mind, it means setting yourself up for success by planning for the week. Meaning you can get all of your fruits and veggies chopped for easy access during a busy lunch hour. It can mean you prepare everything you’ll be eating and pre-portion it before the workweek begins. Or it can mean something in the middle.
10 meal prep tips:
- Start small. It’s tempting to be overambitious when it comes to meal prep, but know that things will always end up taking longer than you think. If you’re new to meal planning, start small and build from there. That might mean washing and chopping your fruits/veggies plus cooking up one protein on a Sunday before the week begins. That’s a great start! See how much time that takes and plan to bookend more time for your meal prep session next week.
- Consider the components that make up a healthy plate. When I’m planning my meals, I always know that I want the meal to feature high-quality protein, lots of veggies, and ample healthy fats. Knowing that this is my base template helps me to better plan my meals to include the components I know help nourish me best.
- Get organized. Knowing what’s in your pantry, fridge, and freezer is SO helpful—and keeping everything organized helps you quickly see what’s available to you in a given week. This helps prevent you from getting too much at the grocery store. It also means you can quickly throw together meals if you find yourself in a bind.
- Spices and sauces are your friends! Seriously, don’t neglect these two. Stocking some fun spice blends and a few high-quality sauces (look for an extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil base) can make your meal prep so much easier and so much more delicious. These come in extra handy for “component” meal prep, which I’ll detail in the next section.
- Make it a priority. Look, I get that there are about 10,001 things to do in a week, pandemic or not. This means that sometimes, our health takes a backseat. But prioritize what’s most important to you. Even if you only have an hour to meal prep, there’s still so much you can get done in that time. So make sure you’ve budgeted the time in your week correctly, whether it’s meal prep, exercise, or meditation.
- Make use of a slow cooker or pressure cooker. Speaking of saving time, the slow cooker and the Instant Pot (or other pressure cookers!) are glorious inventions. Set it and forget it? Now you’re speaking my language. It’s never been easier to prep protein or even a full recipe without nearly as much hands-on time as those meals may have required in the past. Get ready to become a multitasking pro!
- Save delicious recipes as you find them. It is so important! Keep a list of recipes you enjoy, and add to the list as you find others. This makes the planning portion of your meal prep extremely easy, and it ensures you’ll have food you enjoy eating waiting for you in the fridge. Maybe it’s just because I’m a registered dietitian, but I love having a pre-made lunch that I’m excited about already waiting for me in the fridge.
- Switch it up! As much as it’s essential to keep a list of favorites, it’s equally important to make sure you’re mixing things up. With repetition comes boredom—especially if you’re eating chicken and broccoli every day for weeks on end. Make sure you’re adding some new meals or recipes into the rotation to keep things exciting so you feel encouraged to keep up with your new healthy habit.
- Make it enjoyable. Some people I talk to genuinely dread meal prep. I always encourage them to change their mindset! First, remind yourself what a privilege it is to be able to prepare healthy, nourishing food for yourself. What a gift! Next, make it fun! Put on your favorite music and dance as you cook, turn on a great podcast, or put your favorite show on your TV or tablet.
- Prep smarter, not harder. Did you know that outsourcing your meal prep also counts as preparation? If you truly don’t have the time to cook your meals in a given week, or if you just don’t want to, Snap can help. We’ve got a huge selection of nutritionist-directed meals to suit your dietary needs, whether you want us to replace your meal prep completely or just help to supplement it. That includes those looking to go keto, Whole30, or anything in between.
My favorite types of meal prep:
I’d be remiss if I didn’t share a few of my favorite meal prep methods. I’m not someone who enjoys spending hours at a time in the kitchen, but I do have hectic weeks that necessitate me preparing my food in advance a lot of the time. I’ve played around a bit to find the strategies that work best for me. Find my favorites below!
1. Batch or component meal prep – This is an excellent option if you get bored easily. Practically, you cook up a few different veggies and proteins to mix-and-match throughout the week.
One week that might look like roasted squash, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower, plus some fresh mixed greens in the fridge! For protein, you might opt for shredded chicken in the Instant Pot, some grilled steak, and some oven-cooked salmon. Yay for variety! Lunch one day may look like some mixed green with roasted squash and grilled steak, all topped with an olive-oil based dressing, some sunflower seeds, and olives. Completely balanced and ready in 5-10 minutes, max.
This method is great if you like having your food pre-prepared but don’t necessarily want to eat the same thing repeatedly.
2. Prepping full recipes – This option involves cooking some of your favorite recipes one day to have on hand for the week ahead.
An example of this would be preparing your favorite chicken soup recipe, a delicious Asian-inspired stir fry, and a paleo meatloaf on a Sunday. You might add some extra veggies or healthy fat (hi avocado!) before eating, but the recipes are already set to go. Just heat and eat! We also have some great lunch meal ideas if you’re looking for something else.
3. A mix of component meal prep and full recipes – This is usually my approach! With this one, you may prep a few components in advance, but you also cook up a recipe for dinner a few nights a week and make enough for leftovers. Here’s how it usually works for me:
On a Saturday or Sunday, I roast up a few different veggies. I also cook up a protein or two. But I also make salmon for dinner one night and make four filets instead of 2. Or make burgers and salad with enough to last for another meal. Essentially, cooking in real-time, but also providing myself with extras I can pull from later.
Whichever approach you choose, you really can’t go wrong. By planning and prepping in advance and prioritizing yourself, you’ve won before you’ve even begun. I’ve found that having healthy food available during the week makes such a big difference for me, both physically and mentally.
And if all of this sounds like way more than you want to mess with, Snap has your back. You can still have healthy meals in your fridge, but without any shopping, prepping, or cooking required. Just heat and eat! You can check out all of our nutritious and healthy options.