Picture this: colorful containers line your refrigerator with typed labels and tops overflowing with veggies. Is it Pinterest worthy? Perhaps. Is it overwhelming?
Confession: Although I’m a dietitian, I don’t love to cook. Between the prep and the cleanup, I’ve struggled with my fair share of kitchen anxiety. As a mom, however, cooking is an essential part of my family’s week. It’s an economical option that enables me to boost my family’s intake of veggies, lean proteins, and fibrous whole grains.
So I’ll admit, while it might sound overwhelming, the *#mealprep* trend is on to something. Planning ahead saves hours of cook time each week! Now I want you to tackle this trend. Here’s my step-by-step approach to guide you towards your own #mealprep-worthy snapshot.
8 Steps to Meal Prep for A Balanced Meal Plan
#1: Check Your Schedule
Separate your time between days (or nights) that are free and those that are busiest. You’ll prep for the busiest nights.
#2: Assess Your Pantry & Fridge
What do you already have that you can use to create your meals? This may include grains, seasoning, frozen veggies, snack bars, etc. Keep a running list of pantry staples that may be to be restocked.
#3: What are You In The Mood For?
Nourishing bowls? Animal (or plant) proteins versus fish? Maybe you’re interested in a Taco Tuesday night? Add it to the list!
#4: Search for Recipes
Here’s the fun part. Once you have a sense of what you’ll serve for the upcoming week, find recipes that sound good! Use Google, Pinterest, or swipe along your Instagram explore page for inspiration. Since most recipes include multiple services, only pick 2 or 3 for the week (you’ll likely make enough for leftovers).
#5: Pick Your Prep Day
This is the most important step because it takes commitment. Pick 1 or 2 days out of your week. You may want to specify whether you’ll prep in the morning, afternoon, or evening. The more specific your intention, the more likely you’ll stick to it. I use Sunday afternoon since it’s my most reliable time to sit down, plan ahead, and assess my upcoming week’s schedule. From there I’ll come up with a plan for meals and snacks that I know won’t overwhelm me.
#6: Create a Shopping List and Head to the store
Remember your pantry staples and add additional ingredients for the recipes you chose earlier.
#7: Get Prepping!
When cooking, separate your proteins, grains, legumes, and veggies. Reusable glassware helps to keep prepped food organized and ready. Most often, I prep the grains and legumes first as these stay fresh the longest, but you’ll want to review these food safety guidelines before storing cooked food.
#8: Don’t Forget Snacks
This is key. Snacks are an important component of any balanced lifestyle and help to lessen the anxiety around mealtimes throughout the week. Use snacks as an opportunity to get in nutrient-dense options like LARA bars or nut mixes with fruit. Here’s a guide to a few snack time favorites that can be ordered in bulk.
There you have it! If meal prep stresses you out, then I challenge you to follow my strategy. Create a meal plan, stick with it, and tell me how it goes in the comments below!