5 Tips to Simplify Meal Prep

It’s no secret that I love my Sunday meal prep!  It really is the number one way I’m able to keep the whole family on track with clean eating. It is also a great way to kick off the week with a healthy, fresh mind set.  Having all of our meals planned out and the fridge deliciously stocked also motives me to stay on track with my workouts for that week. Over the years of meal planning I have learned a few tips and tricks to simplify our weekly meal prep so I thought I would go ahead and share those with you. Below you can find the top 5 tips that I find myself using each week!

oneleanlifemealprep

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be hard or time consuming, you just have to commit to it first in your mind and plan the rest out from there!  The first step in meal planning is to start off by making a list of all of your favorite healthy dishes. Pinterest is my favorite go-to recipe finder. Search keywords like “healthy chicken recipe” and scroll through to find meals that you like then start planning your dinners.  (Tip: I typically only plan 5 dinners each week so it leaves some flexibility for eating out or leftovers.) Once you have your dinners planned out then you can decide which ones make great leftovers for lunches the next day so that no food goes to waste in turn saving you money and time in the kitchen!

Here is a meal planning chart I created for easy convenience, you can print that HERE!

Fill in your meal planning chart or menu board

  • Make a list of your favorite go-to meals

  • Choose 5 healthy recipes for dinner each week.  You can typically plan on 1-2 servings of leftovers so plan accordingly for lunch the next day.

  • Once you get your favorite go-to meals figured out along with portion sizes then start adding in 1-2 new recipes each week for some variety.

  • Buy a small whiteboard (I bought ours at target for $1!) This is my lifeline for remembering when I cooked things so we don’t have a fridge full of expired food.  (these kids take all my brain power so remembering when I baked chicken last is a tough task!). Write down what you made for dinner, what you prepped, and any food you bought from the store that needs to be used in the next 3-5 days.

Don’t forget the grocery list

While you are scrollin through recipes on Pinterest write down any ingredients that you don’t already have in your pantry.  Doing this while you are planning saves so much time so you don’t have to go back through to find the recipes, wait for them to load, click out of the million pop up ads on these blogs all just to find the ingredients you had looked at 15 minutes ago. (I learned this one the hard way.)

Lower your expectations

Meal planning + prep takes time! Instead of stressing about it shift your mindset - make it fun and make it a non-negotiable. Acknowledge that this is part of a healthy lifestyle and something you need to do to keep your diet + budget in check.  Plan on spending an hour to two each weekend to make it all happen. Turn on some tunes, grab a piece of paper, and open pinterest for some inspiration.

Don’t forget the tupperware!

I can’t tell you how important these are to have on hand because you’re prepping anywhere from 10 to 20+ separate meals each week (I prep my husband’s meals too so extra containers are a MUST for us. My husband uses a 6 pack fitness lunch bag so we have been using those containers for as long as I can remember.  (Highly recommended if you are needing to upgrade!) You really can’t go wrong with whatever you choose. Just know that having sets of washable containers on hand really makes prepping food so much easier each week.

Keep it simple.

Last but not least.  If finding recipes and building a grocery list seems all to overwhelming then simplify it even more with some basic foods.

  • Scramble eggs for breakfast (enough for the next 2-3 days)

  • Slice avocados (2) for a quick add to eggs, salad, chicken, sandwich, recipe, etc

  • Bake 2-4 chicken breast or protein of choice (use for salad, recipe, meal, etc)

  • Portion out fresh greens in tupperware, add protein + toppings for a quick lunch

  • Bake veggies (we buy the Tommy frozen veg which are AMAZING!)

  • Roast potatoes or cook some brown rice to complete each meal with some sort of carb. (YES, carbs!! They are a macronutrient for a reason. Don’t be afraid of them)  

If you were to follow these basic meal prep recommendations you would have breakfast, lunch and dinner for 2-3 days! So easy + so worth your time!

yes, we still have ranch and some not so good for you things in our fridge. Life is about balance… plus my husband would kill me if we were ever without the ranch!

yes, we still have ranch and some not so good for you things in our fridge. Life is about balance… plus my husband would kill me if we were ever without the ranch!

Don’t forget to throw in some healthy snacks like fruit, nuts or granola bars and you really can’t go wrong!  I love making my own protein balls and you can get that recipe here if you’d like.  I typically keep a stash of these snacks in the fridge and I'll pack a couple in my husbands lunch so he will have a healthy pick-me-up post lunch.

So as you can see it really isn’t too hard to plan your week of meals!  I do all of my planning the week before, write them on the whiteboard, then make a grocery list for everything I need to get based on the meals I have planned out.  We typically do our big grocery haul either on Saturday or Sunday morning. Once we get home from the store I immediately start prepping. This is another pro tip! If you put the food in the fridge before you prep you’re much more likely to let it go bad or forget to add it in a recipe.

Once all the groceries are unloaded I immediately turn on the oven and line all my baking pans with foil.  I bake the chicken first and then roast the veggies. I start cooking the brown rice and chopping the veggies and fruit. Then I pull out all of the tupperware to portion out the meals.  Once the chicken and veggies are done cooking I start adding to the tupperware and continue on with cooking other things on the stove like hard boiled eggs, turkey burgers, protein balls, etc.

I’m usually done with everything within 1-2 hours and still have the rest of my day left to enjoy!  Don’t worry if this takes you longer to do the first time you start, you’ll get into a normal routine as the weeks go on and this will all become second nature to you.  The first time I meal prepped it literally felt like I had been cooking ALL day long, but the end result made me feel SO incredibly accomplished and really excited to start the week!

ollmealpreprecipe

One other thing I have found myself doing lately to make things a little easier is I will only prepping breakfast, lunch, and snacks and the rest of the week I’ll make dinner as usual each night.  I actually prefer this (if I have the time) because dinner always tastes so much better freshly cooked, it allows us flexibility with our dinners, and then it's not so overwhelming the day of prep. You can still plan this out of course and purchase all your weekly ingredients on Sunday, this is just something I personally like to do.  Everyone is different with varying schedules each week so do what works for you!

Last but not least, I have included the top 5 reasons I continue to meal prep each week!  I know this might be information overload but I want to be sure to pass along off the know-how I have to hopefully make your life easier and more efficient!

Less cheating!  

It’s no surprise when you don’t have any idea of what you are cooking for dinner that night and the hubs calls to ask if you want him to pick up something your answer will more than likely be a big “HELL YESS, thank you-I had no idea what to cook and the kids are losing it!” (or is that just me??) Yep this is sooo true guys. Convenience over everything when it comes to the #momlife.

When I prep my meals every Sunday, I make a point to only purchase those items that are on my grocery list so this helps keep those little moments of weakness under control because guess what, if it’s not in our house, then we can’t eat it!

Saves you money.  

At least this is true for us!  I don’t know about you, but when we don’t meal plan for the week we tend to just wing it each night, either by running to the store to make whatever we are in the mood for that night, ordering in or spending even more money on going out.  This is also true for our lunches. With the husband working downtown and me running around with the kids we end up spending way too much money each week on lunches and dinners. Meal planning saves us SO much money!

HUGE time saver.  

Not only does meal prepping help us stay on track with consistent healthy eating, but it also gives us more time in the evenings to catch up on the day went, play with the kids, get them to bed at a reasonable time and then relax!

Helps get you to your fitness goals.  

I know I have already said this, but this is worth noting-  When you plan out your meals ahead of time not only are you learning portion control, but you are also fueling your body with wholesome, nutrient dense food that makes you feel good.  When you feel good and healthy it just makes you want to work out that much more! It is so true when they say that “abs are made in the kitchen” – food is fuel and your body requires healthy food for strength, energy, and even weight loss!  It is a no-brainer that consistent meal planning should correspond with your fitness routine.

Variety!  

Sometimes planning out meals each week can get a little monotonous since I tend to have a few go-to meals that are just too easy and delicious to pass up, but one thing I have committed to doing is trying out at least one new recipe each week.  

Remember living a healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be stressful, you should have fun with it!  Step outside of your comfort zone and try new foods, schedule time for your workouts, and enjoy the journey.  Small changes can make a world of difference!

If you are ready to dive deeper into your nutrition + fitness  Join the 12-week Slim Down + Tone Up Challenge kicking off on May 13th where we will be connected daily - supporting, encouraging, and motivating each other!

Enrollment closes on the 11th. See you in the group!!