Four Steps to Meal-Prepping Success
Yearning for each mealtime, my stomach leaps as I think about the delicious food ahead of me. I love seeing my refrigerator stocked and ready for the meals I have listed to prepare. I’m excited for my meal-prep days. It sounds silly but is so true. I love being able to chop, sauté, bake, boil, whip, stir every morsel of food that will enter my body, fueling it for my runs, my days, my peace for the week. I no longer have to focus on what I am going to do next when it comes to food and feeding a hungry husband and let me tell you, it is the best feeling. I want you all to have this feeling too!
How to get started
1. Meal-prep day
First and foremost, choose a day to prep your meals. Finding a day that gives you a couple of hours to sit, stand and cook is important. I choose Sundays, known as the day of rest, but also known for the day that I have nothing going on in my household other than smelling the delicious breakfast baking in the oven and the coffee in the French press that morning as my husband and I plan our day of relaxation ahead. I fix the breakfast for the week Sunday morning to have ready for us to start eating for our breakfast THAT DAY (you read correctly, a delicious meal ready for the week just in time for my Sunday morning breakfast is crucial and satisfying). My husband and I are morning people and wake up at 8am at the latest. This might be early or late for some of you, and that is OK. Fix the breakfast when you wake up or just fix it during the day, so it will be ready when you wake up for your work week. I love sleeping in on my off day after miles and miles of running during the week and waking up at 5am or earlier, embarking on the stress of balancing work, running, eating, sleeping and repeating day after day.
2. Recipe List
Lists. List after list after list. Seems overwhelming, right? But making a list of what dishes you want to make and providing yourself with a list of groceries will better your chances of by-passing the eye-catching food you don’t need but feel you need in every aisle of the grocery store (yes, you are not alone, my friend). I make my lists of meals and grocery lists about two weeks in advance. I simply put them in my notes on my phone. I strive for three main meals and two snacks per day, one meal every three hours in a day. This will change your life, trust me. I spend maybe 30 minutes to an hour per day deciding and fixing my lists to ensure I have everything right by the time I go grocery shopping on the Saturday of that week.
I set up my list as follows (which you will see this style of list in all of my meal prep plan posts):
- Date of the week (about 6 days) that you plan to fix these meals for (example: 06/23-06/29 –that’s Sunday to Friday)
- Choose food dishes for each meal that will last about 6 servings. I have found that eating a meal three times in a week and varying the days of it help me not feel burnt out of the same meal and feel more excitement about it.
Here is an example of this setup:
Breakfast (Sun, T, Th): find a meal that I can easily prep and will last three out of the six days I cook for
Breakfast (M, W, F): again finding a meal, different in taste than the first breakfast to not cause you to be tired of the meals ahead for those three out of six days ahead.
Lunch and Dinner: exact same thing, same days, same differences in tastes to give me more variety and less same ol’ same ol’ feelings.
Snacks: I usually choose two snacks for each day and try and balance them with each meal. It’s better for your budget to keep the same snacks everyday than trying to eat a different one for variety. You will have enough variety in the day that the same snack won’t even be a bummer for you.
Easy enough, right? Eh, for the most part. I find the hardest part is finding the meals that give you less ingredients for a longer time-frame and more fuel for your days. This is why, I look up recipes online or read them in cookbooks. I’m a food-fanatic, wanting to find better ways to make healthy food taste better to me, especially since carbohydrates is my friend in this long-distance running journey I have stepped full force in without looking back.
Once you find the recipes, you can successfully start building that grocery list. I usually put a list at the bottom of my meal plan to refer back to the dishes I am making, being critical to not miss one item at the grocery store (because who actually wants to go more than one time to the grocery store? Not this girl…well at least for items I need in a recipe). Bananas are a different story since I go again in the middle of the week to get those perfect bananas since they ripe so fast after three days. A runner needs her bananas, which you will see in most, if not all, of my meal prep weeks that I will post.
3. Grocery shopping
Like most people, I dread walking in the aisles of the grocery store, trying to find what I need versus finding what I don’t need. It happens and makes the grocery shopping more time-consuming. But you have a grocery list because you are such a good planner, you! Look at grocery shopping as more of another exercise, getting your brain activated to make sure you don’t miss one item on the list. Best brain activity ever in my mind. Knowing the store is crucial, since most stores leave items in the same aisles and produce in the same area. Of course, when it changes, go with the change, go with the flow of the store. It gets easier, I promise.
Find a day in advance to grocery shop and choose the right grocery store/place that works best and is affordable/close to you. I love the Cherry Street Farmer’s Market in Tulsa, OK (link to instagram for cherry street and facebook for cherry street). Summer to Fall, rain or shine, they are open, ready to give out healthy, whole produce essential for a balanced and happy lifestyle. I love shopping for my produce there, supporting local vendors and finding bulk items over going to the grocery store, paying more for a less amount of top brands in the health industry. Understanding seasons of produce is hard, which is why you get what you can then settle for at least the organic, less pesticide food at the grocery store. During the summer and fall, I like grocery shopping on Saturdays after my runs in the mornings since I’m already out and wide awake for the day. It takes me about an hour to complete my grocery shopping after two hours of a run. The price of grocery shopping for the whole week may freak some people out ($100 to $130 dollars per week) but think about how many meals you are prepping for and how many meals are not being spent at a restaurant. My husband and I now only go out once to twice a week max on the weekends. Trust me, this is a budgeting phenomenon that no one wants to miss out on. It is challenging at first but is exciting in the long run to have a little adventure planned with your husband to get out and spend extra money, knowing you saved all week long.
4. Have fun meal-prepping
It’s time to actually stand in the kitchen and get to meal-prepping. You went to the store, you put all of your items in organized places essentially for their longer lasting flavor. Get to cooking and make it fun. Play some music, dance with the husband, clean as you go for less time dealing with chores and more time living in the moments. You deserve a week of happiness and it all starts with finding just a day to prepare easy food choices for a busy you.