Meal prep has become a huge part of my weekly routine. Why, you make ask… Because…
I love food.
And I hate cooking.
Well, not necessarily cooking… but coming home after a long day and then having to cook.
I situation-ally like to cook, I guess you could say.
Surely I’m not the only one with this problem…
Raise your hand if you’re also tempted by those oh so yummy, quick, effortless runs to get takeout… Or those pop-in-the-microwave freezer meals that are always BOGO at Publix.
Yes, I too am sitting here with both hands in the air.
Our society is one of instant everything… Food, shopping, free two-day Prime shipping… don’t get me started on the instant gratification of social media.
I’m not saying everything instant is BAD, but when it comes to food, quick and easy is often expensive and loaded with a bunch of yucky, hidden, bad-for-you ingredients.
(Insert research about the rise in obesity, the rise in ADHD, the rise in about a million other diseases… all connecting back to our food.)
So, where am I going with this, you ask?
It’s 100% the only way I manage to eat healthy… Even healthy-ISH, if I am honest.
About a year ago, I did the 21 Day Fix meal plan (Just the meal plan, because those workouts SUCK and make you want to die, so I sold those bad boys on the Facebook marketplace and made a quick $25. Anyway… Kudos to y’all that stuck with those… I liked Country Heat better.)
Anyway, when I started the 21DF, I was a little overwhelmed and quickly realized I couldn’t do all that cooking and measuring every. single. day. I am not that disciplined.
So, I started researching this whole meal prep deal and got started. I tried lots of different methods, but here’s what has worked for me… Let’s get started!
First things first – plan your meals ahead of time.
This should be a DUH moment, but I’ve tried heading to the grocery store without my meals planned and it was a disaster… I came home with about 1/2 the ingredients for three different meals. #FAIL
So naturally, I needed a meal PLAN for my meal PREP.
You can find some of my FAVORITE and EASIEST buffalo chicken recipes here.
I do 90% of my meal prep on Sunday.
What this means, is I choose what I want to eat every day for lunch and every night for dinner.
Then, I go ahead and cook it. And I divvy it up in containers. All of it.
Yes, it seems ridiculous. Yes, I sacrifice a few precious hours of my Sunday afternoon to do it. (Aka, I listen to Netflix from the kitchen as I work, instead of laying on the couch watching it.)
I promise it’s worth it, though. At least for me!
I eat the same things for multiple meals throughout the week.
Yes, you read that right. I eat the same things over and over. It makes my meal prep routine so much easier. Some people can’t do this, but if you can… Go for it.
Now, I won’t eat just anything every day. It has to be something that is not only good, but good leftover. There is a difference! Some meals aren’t good leftover, but some are, and some are even better leftover. (Think soups, chilis, and saucy things like spaghetti.)
So after a lot of exploring, I found meals that I don’t get tired of and I eat them for lunch five days in a row.
I portion out and pack up everything ahead of time.
I usually only do this for lunches, because mornings are such a struggle.
That means I portion out everything from my “meal” to my dressings to my snacks. (By portioning out, I mean MEASURING how much you’re packing. This is super important, because even if you’re eating healthy, that doesn’t stop you from overeating.)
If the 21 Day Fix (note the green container in the middle) taught me anything, it was about eating the correct amount of each food group for my body type. There are other ways to measure out your food, though. (Note the measuring cup on the right.)
So, with all of that being said, I have also explored a lot of storage and packaging hacks, because meal prepping proposes a problem with space and uses a lot of dishes…. And I really hate doing the dishes.
So, here are my tried and true meal prepping must-haves:
Containers for portioning
I’ve found it’s better to use containers that are about the same size as the portion you should be eating. If your container is too large, you will feel the need to put more food in it even though you measured out your portion. Not to mention, research shows using a smaller plate or bowl tricks your brain into thinking it’s eating more… so choose wisely!
Here are some of the containers I use:
- Diamond Disposable Containers with Lids – 2 oz. – You know when you order food to go and they give you the little dressing containers? That’s what these are! I have found they’re perfect for dressings and nuts. Plus, you can throw them away when you’re finished… I may hate washing dishes, but those little dressing containers are the worst to me. If you’re super eco-friendly and don’t want to be wasteful, baby food containers like these would work as well!
- Portion Control storage baggies – These little ziplock bags are great for meal prepping because they have measurements on them. If you can’t find the portion control bags, the snack size bags like these are great as well. They will hold about 8 oz. And again, they’re disposable!
- Reusable Compartment Containers – I order these off of Amazon and they are great. For $12.99 you get 10 containers. My roommate and I share these to pack our lunches in sometimes and we still have plenty of refrigerator space, as they’re stack-able. We wash them in the dishwasher and they’ve held up fine. We’ve only had them since August, so I’m not sure about the longevity of this product, but for such a low price they will be easily replaceable. They also come in different sizes.
Organization is not my strong suit. I know y’all probably thought I chose my blog name because I thought it was cute or catchy, but really… my life is literally organized chaos. So when it comes to being organized, I have to be super intentional about it.
While organization isn’t 100% related to meal prep, it does save me a ton of time while I’m cooking, preparing, and most importantly, when I’m running out the door in the mornings. At the beginning of the year, we revamped our pantry and then used the same set up in our new house, even though the storage space was way smaller. Here’s what we use:
- Hanging Shoe Rack – I am sure you’ve seen this one floating around Pinterest and social media. We have one hanging on our (very tiny) pantry’s door and it makes organizing and pre-packing everything quick and easy… Which is important because we both prefer to trade in 5 minutes of packing lunches for 5 minutes of extra sleep… #priorities
- Baskets/bins – This is simple enough and doesn’t need much explanation… plus the teacher in me REALLY loves a good basket. As I stated earlier, our pantry is TINY… Like ridiculous little, plus we had to put our own shelves up. So, with those shelves we added plastic bins and, like the shoe rack, this has offered easy access to those things we need on the go! I got ours at the Dollar Tree (hello, ballin’ on a budget), but I’ve also seen where people use plastic drawers like these.
This is what the end of my lunch time meal prep looks like…
My dinner meal prep is a lot easier and less detailed. I just cook whatever dish I planned and portion it out as I eat it, since there are no early mornings involved in dinnertime!
So, there you have it. A few easy peasy ways to make healthy(ish) living a little easier.
What are your best meal prepping hacks? Comment below and share what works for you!
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