By Kalli Youngstrom Breaking Muscle
We’re all busy. We all know nutrition is more than 50 percent of the equation, but it can also be the most challenging part. If we don’t plan ahead and make nutrition a priority, it quickly gets put on the back burner, despite our good intentions. Having a plan and preparing your food in advance is crucial, so let’s plan for success. It starts with meal prep.
Streamline Your Process
Meal prep simply means preparing your food for the coming days (or week/s). For most people this includes cooking protein and carb sources, preparing veggies, and perhaps even measuring and weighing portions. Although this may seem like a daunting task, it usually ends up saving you time, money, and wasted progress.
An investment in your health and wellness is always time well spent. But we only have so much of it to spend.
My Favorite Time-Saving Tricks
Set a Schedule. Set a day (or days – I use Sunday/Wednesday) and time to dedicate to your meal prep. This will help you avoid small batch cooking, especially if you eat numerous meals throughout the day. After all, who has time to cook six times a day? Not this girl.
Buy, Cook, and Freeze in Bulk. Shop for your main food sources in bulk, cook them in large batches, and freeze what you can to free up time in your schedule. Use different cooking methods in combination to cut down the cooking time and allow you to multitask, such as:
- Rice cooker
- Crock pot
- George Foreman grill (my favorite)
- Microwave (great for sweet potato, spaghetti squash, cauliflower, etc.)
- Stove top
For example, I often have rice and veggies in the rice cooker, sweet potatoes in the microwave, chicken in the oven, and ground turkey on the stove top while I weigh and measure any other vegetables, protein powder, or dry oats I need for the week. I usually have everything I need done in around 1.5 hours (including clean up time) – plus I have extra meals frozen for the following week. Things like cooked chicken, rice, and even protein pancakes are great freezer options and can cut down on your frequency of meal prep in the following weeks.
Make Use of Tin Foil. Save yourself some serious clean-up time by covering your baking trays in tinfoil. This keeps you from scrubbing and sometimes even washing completely, plus your pans last longer this way.
Be Flexible. If you have the ability to swap different protein and carb sources in and out of your diet, you can save yourself time by opting for more fast-cook or even no-cook protein options. Some examples include canned tuna (or packaged tuna, which is even faster with no need for a can opener or draining), egg whites, protein powder, protein bars. The same is true for carb options – think rice cakes, puffed rice, and oatmeal.
If you are a seriously time-crunched individual, you can do a “no-prep” meal prep if needed by opting for these faster food sources in combination with pre-prepared options, like hard-boiled eggs from the deli section, pre-cooked chicken, and packaged salads. And don’t forget about meal preparation services.
My Favorite Money-Saving Tricks
We all know eating the right way can be expensive, especially in the protein section, so saving every bit helps when it comes to meal prep costs. Here are some ways to stretch your buck:
- Hit the Dollar Store. The dollar store is a great place to stock up on tinfoil, parchment paper, coolers, and icepacks, as well as plastic containers for your cooler. If you need to replace the containers or icepacks for a specific brand of cooler, try looking here before ordering from the cooler company.
- Watch the Price Per Weight. When you’re shopping for food sources, especially protein, make sure you check the price based on weight. If you can be flexible with your protein sources, base your weekly meal prep around what’s cheapest that week. Freeze extra when you find a good price so you can tap into your freezer stocks when nothing is on sale.
- Avoid Eating Out. By having your food prepped, you can avoid having to grab and go when you’re in a pinch. Often, the healthiest thing on the restaurant menu isn’t the cheapest, especially if you have to make a custom order. Pack your cooler and take it with you so you can save your money to indulge when you really want to, rather than when you have to.
Success Takes Preparation
Taking the time to plan ahead and prepare your meals will set you up for success, especially if you’re trying hard to make the transition to a healthier lifestyle. When the most convenient option is the food you have prepared and ready to go, you’re unlikely to veer from the plan.