How-To Meal Prep: 5 Basic Steps
Posted on 31 May 2017
Imagine being able to have healthy, home-cooked meals on the go all week, without even going into the kitchen on a work-day. This is the goal of learning how to meal prep.
If you follow any fitness Instagrammers or bloggers, you’ve probably heard of meal-prep. If not, we’ll introduce you to the time-saver’s and health-monger’s best friend. Meal-prep is the preparation of meals in advance, usually for a time longer than two days, but can take place for even months in advance.
What are the advantages to meal-prep? Well…
- It saves you money
- It saves you time
- It allows you to stay on track with your dietary and fitness goals.
This last point might be the most relevant to you, and is also the main reason meal prep has gained so much popularity. A meal-prep routine helps to prevent those unplanned fast food stops when your hunger strikes, and it also helps you refrain from bingeing on junk food when you are running out of the house.
Planning and making your meals in advance will allow you to be consistent with your diet, thus achieving your health and fitness goals.
Ready to start meal-prepping?
Follow our 5-step guide to get started:
1. Determine Your Food and Diet Goals
Before you start thinking about what you are going to prepare, take some time to think about what you are trying to achieve. It might be losing 1lb per week until you hit a goal, reducing grains like pasta and rice, eating more veggies, going plant-based or paleo, eliminating processed foods, etc.
Remember if you are thinking of making any changes, you are making informed decisions. Not all diets work for everyone, and if you don’t fully understand your body’s needs before taking on a new dietary regimen, you could really damage your health. The safest bet, is to stick to whole natural foods. Whole foods are more satiating, more nutrient-dense, and have less calories than their counterparts. Jaxx has lots of great recipes to choose from.
Another option is to make an appointment with a registered nutritionist and talk to him or her about your goals, and what foods you can add in, take out, and in what amounts. This will really prepare you for ultimate meal prepping.
If you are like most people who have fitness or body goals, this calorie calculatormight help you decide what to prep each week.
2. Make Lists
Once you have defined what foods, and how much of each food you need to be eating to achieve your goals, start making list #1: recipes.
Here you want to be specific about what you want to eat, whether you want to prep each meal of the day or only one meal, and variety of meals.
For example, you might want to prepare only lunches for the week, and you are okay with switching between two lunch options. You do some research for recipes that fit your goals, and you decide on two days of tuna-stuffed peppers with carrot salad and three days of grilled chicken and steamed veggies.
Find out what a serving of each food actually looks like by checking out the American Heart Association’s guide here. This will help you buy just enough for what you need.
Not sure how to make sure you prepare a balanced meal? Check out our infographic for general guidelines below:
Then make list #2: the shopping list. This should just be a consolidated version of your recipe list, taking into account how many days you’ll be eating each food.
Keep in mind that having enough storage containers to store your meals is very important, so if you don’t have these already, make sure to add these to your list as well. Having the right meal prep containers help you stay organized and they also have portion control measurements on them so you know how much food you are packing.
To make your shopping trip as quick as possible, it might be helpful to categorize the list into sections in the grocery store: protein, produce, frozen food, dry goods, etc.
3. Go Shopping
Finally! You get to go shopping. Take your list with you, and stick to it. As tempting as those cheese balls look, they aren’t on your list.
One tip to keep you from making impulse purchases at the supermarket is to go with a full stomach. When we are hungry, everything looks delicious, and we tend to crave greasy or sugary foods over whole foods because they deliver energy quicker (not to mention blood sugar spikes and energy crashes soon after).
4. Cook and Assemble
Find a time where you can set aside a few hours for cooking and assembling. While this may seem like a lot of time, you’ll get faster as you practice more, and you’ll forget all about time invested one day when you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor the rest of the week. Invite your roommate or significant other to join in on the fun with you, and it’ll soon become a social affair.
It is common for people to do their meal prep on Sundays to plan for the rest of the week, but there is no right or wrong way to do meal prep. Find out what works best for you, build a routine, and try and stick to it as best as possible.
When your cooking and assembling is all done, lay out your meal prep containers. Use masking tape and a sharpie (or whiteboard markers) to write what day the meal is for. This will help you find it easily in the fridge before leaving the house.
Divide up the food among the containers, and…
Put your meals in fridge, pantry or freezer, depending on the nature of the foods you prepared and how long you meal prepped for.
If you’ve included almonds as a side for the week, for example, there is no need for you to put these in the fridge. If you’ve made chilli for the month, however, you will need to put this in the freezer. Remember that some foods don’t store well in the freezer – like lettuce – so find out what the best storage method is for the food you prepared.