I have this thing I do every week that I like to call ‘The Sunday Ritual’. Many of us have things like this – maybe it’s getting up and going to church, maybe it’s going for a Sunday walk or to brunch. Mine happens to be grocery shopping and meal prepping. Usually, I absolutely love to do both. However, I will admit that there are times that they are a chore. When I’m tired or exhausted after having a busy weekend, the last thing I want to do is cook for 3-4 hours. But, it’s become a part of my weekly routine, and it is what helps me stay on track and prepared for the week.
We are all incredibly busy with tons of commitments. We have full time jobs, we are full time students, we balance a social life with our friends, time with our families, activities with people from our jobs whether it be sports teams or leading a club – not to mention trying to fit in time at the gym! With so much going on, how is it even possible that we could eat healthy and make healthy choices?
For me, with so much going on all the time, I’ve found that meal prepping can be LIFE CHANGING and TIME SAVING. I don’t have time every single night to cook a lunch for the next day. Some people do – and that’s amazing – but I absolutely do not. I need to cook as much as I can in advance, especially during the school year, so that I can make healthy choices. Meal prepping requires planning in advance! That means planning out your menu, making a grocery list, buying certain items, etc. Below is a set of tips/thoughts I have on meal prepping. This is not an end all be all list, and if you have any other tips/tricks/suggestions, please send them my way! I am always on the prowl to add to my list.
Invest in a solid set of containers! You can easily grab these on Amazon, at Bed Bath and Beyond, Target, or honestly probably at like TJ Maxx or Homegoods. Bargain hunt if you’re on a budget – they don’t need to be expensive. Here are some I like!
BPA Free Microwavable Containers
Fitpacker Meal Prep Containers
Honestly it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t even have to be pretty, maybe you have a ton already. But I would recommend getting them together, inventorying what you have, and seeing what else you need. It’s nice to have big ones, small ones, medium, round, etc. If you have a set, it’s nice because you can usually stack them and save room in your fridge.
2. Other important items to always keep on stock (COSTCO OR SAMS CLUB FOR THE WIN HERE):
Ziplock bags (sandwich size and gallon size!)
Plastic forks/knives/spoons for if you are on the go a lot.
3. Reuse the same ingredients! As much as possible, I like to reuse the same ingredients in a week (mostly for budget purposes/not trying to waste). Try to be creative with this – if you are going to go to the store and red peppers are on sale, buy a bunch of them, and think about how you can use them in 2-3 meals per day. Maybe that means making a veggie scramble with red peppers for breakfast and stuffed peppers for dinner. Definitely try to reuse the same ingredients!
Plan in advance. Literally, I recommend making a calendar of each day of the week, and planning your meals and snacks. It sounds excessive, but do it on like Saturday night, and go grocery shopping on Sunday mornings. It will help you make a grocery list that much easier (maybe you already do this!) But then you can really think about what you’ll be eating. I usually eat 3 big meals per day and 3 snacks (including a dessert of some sort at night, sometimes just like a piece of fruit or sometimes ice cream 😀 ). You could also get one of those erasable calendars too (I think my sister has one of these)
Pick a day or two per week and COOK, and make it a regular thing.I always meal prep on Sundays – my weeks are built around this. If I know I have a ton going on during the day on Sunday, I will do it on Saturday night. I used to cook two days per week – Sundays and Wednesdays, but honestly I don’t have time right now, so I cook for Monday-Friday lunch on Sunday and just suck it up and eat food that’s leftover. Depending on what I make, sometimes I will make my breakfast the night before, but at the very minimum I’m making my lunches and snacks for everyday. I’m in class 4x per week right now at night, so I have been making my dinners as well. I literally use a huge bag to carry all of my tupperware, it’s annoying haha.
When meal prepping:
– Cook all of your meat at once! Or if you are going to cook on two days per week, cook enough for a Mon-Wed, and then cook again on Wed for Thurs-Sat/Sun. You could either put it in containers and just have to eat, or you can actually put the meals together and put those in containers. I recommend buying in bulk and freezing! I always buy tons of chicken and put them in plastic bags and freeze it.
– Cut up all of your vegetables/fruit that won’t go bad. If you are planning to eat a lot of peppers in meals throughout the week, cut them ALL up and put them in containers right away. It becomes SO much more useful if it’s all cut, and you are a lot more likely to grab for these right away. Technically, it’s better to save vegetables to cut until you eat them (they have more nutrients that way), but it’s honestly easier!
– Make baggies/tupperware of individual snacks. You could bag different veggies and make tupperwares of hummus or dips (Chobani makes an UNREAL greek yogurt dip that is super low calorie).
– Buy prepackaged individual items. You are way less likely to eat too much of any single food if they are prepackaged or you pack them yourself! Buy like apples, bananas, string cheese, I would make bags of pretzels or chips, etc. That way you eat a good amount and don’t over eat! Unfortunately, a lot of times prepackaged items are expensive, that’s why I recommend just buying the big bag of stuff and then cutting up/reusing same ingredients.
Places to shop:
– Obviously, Costco/Sam’s Club are amazing. You also have a family and might be cooking for them also, so it could be good to buy things in bulk there! The membership costs money, which sucks, but it’s worth it!
– Fresh Produce Shop: If you are in Chicago, Stanley’s is awesome. There are some places that have tons of fresh produce for cheap!!!
– Trader Joe’s tends to have lots of inexpensive ingredients, but some are off brand. If you need a specific brand, you’ll obviously have to go to a more mainstream place!
– Marianos – just has everything you could imagine, I love it for that reason, and it’s not terribly expensive, in my opinion
-We don’t have these in Chicago, but I’ve heard Kroger is great!
Products to have on hand
Here are just general things that I recommend having on hand/I think have helped me make healthy choices!
Egg Whites (you can buy containers at Costco in bulk and freeze them!)
Protein Bars (I love quest bars)
Tuna (super high in protein)
Eggs (to make for breakfast or hardboil for a quick and easy snack)
Low fat mozzarella cheese
Fat free mozzarella cheese
Laughing Cow Cheese wedges (legit obsessed with these)
Chicken strips or just frozen chicken
Shrimp (if you like seafood!)
Greek yogurt (0% or 2% fat)
Cottage Cheese (Low fat – I think it’s like 2%)
Milk (I usually get fat free Fairlife milk – it’s higher in protein, sooo good)
Fat free pretzels (Snyders or Rold’s Gold!)
Flat outs (they are like wraps for sandwiches/quesadillas, pizzas)
Rice cakes (love to put avocado and eggs on rice cakes or pb and banana)
Fruits of all kinds (Lots of berries, apples, pears. I worship bananas, but they do tend to be higher in carbs, so you don’t always get a big bang for the buck)
Vegetables of all kinds (Obsessed with spinach, red pepper, zucchini, tomatoes, carrots, brussel sprouts, you name it).
Old fashioned oats
Kodiak Cakes (protein pancake mix)
Ezekiel bread or whole wheat bread
Whole wheat pasta (my personal fav)
Avocado (literally obsessed)
Peanut butter (I literally have 3 different kinds right now because I LOVE PB)
Olive oil cooking spray
Nuts of any kind! (I love walnuts, pecans, cashews, you name it!) Try to get unsalted and raw, if possible!
Cacao nibs (a little expensive sometimes, you can find these on amazon or at the grocery store. They are like choc chips but way healthier and they are like CRACK)
PB2 – this comes in handy when you want peanut butter but maybe don’t want tons of fat/carbs!
Sugar free, fat free pudding mix, any flavor- I will mix this with greek yogurt for a sweet treat!
Greek yogurt dips (Chobani has incredible dips that are like 25 calories a serving, it’s insane. so good)
Stevia – artificial sweetener. I’ll probably die from it but oh well
Green tea/any tea! So good for you!!
Coffee (because let’s be real we are women and we do too much all the time, we need caffeine somehow)
Diet soda – again, I’m probably going to die, but I’ve accepted that.
Carbonated, flavored water (Le Croix or they have these delicious carbonated waters everywhere with flavor that are sooo good)
Fat free, sugar free jello
Unsweetened vanilla almond or cashew milk – super low in calorie, but delicious to have!!)
Seasonings – Mrs. Dash, Flavor God, you name it. I put garlic powder, salt, and pepper on almost everything I eat.
Halo Top ice cream – this is a little expensive, its like $5 per pint and I can only find it at Whole foods, BUT it is like a high protein, low carb ice cream, it is UNBELIEVEABLE. I AM OBSESSED.
Walden Farms Syrups – They make pancake, chocolate, caramel syrup that are all 0 calorie (don’t know how, probably all chemicals, but don’t care, it is so good haha)
Bolthouse Farms salad dressings (any major grocery store has these, they’re usually by the produce)
9. Invest in a solid bag/cooler/container to carry your meals & snacks.
We’re always on the go. When you know you live a busy life, invest in an insulated bag/cooler that you can put ice packs in to keep your meals cold. If you are going to be gone from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., it IS possible to stay on track – you just have to be prepared and push yourself to make it happen. Using an insulated cooler/lunchbag will ensure you are always prepared.
Anyway, this was a long post. If you have any other suggestions, insights, or ideas on meal prep, send them my way using the contact form below! Thanks for reading. xx <3