I get asked a lot, “How do you do it?” with regards to the breaktfasts, lunches and snacks I bring to work. The simple answer is I meal prep every weekend (or sometimes during the week). And the next question I get asked is “Is it worth it?” and my answer has always been “Absolutely”. The key is being organised, from getting the groceries done to setting some time aside to actually doing the cooking. I have always meal prepped but it was not until I did the recent F45 challenge that I have become smarter and more efficient at meal prepping. I guess I got this from my mumma.
Growing up, my mom would always have all our meals and snacks ready for us even before it was our meal time. She always had good nutritious home cooked food for us. But back then, we did not appreciate it as much as we do now as we would have preferred some Maccas or Chinese takeouts. I used to remember my mom cooking over 10 different dishes on the weekends (she made made sure we had two different vegetables and a protein dish for each meal :O), so that we will have some food in fridge during the week just in case she was late from work or something came up out of the blue. Back then, I did not know how much effort this took, but now I am beginning to realise and appreciate what she did for us.
So, how do I meal prep?
- I write up a meal plan for the week ahead
On Thursday or Friday nights, I usually get my meal plan spreadsheet out and set out the meals I would like to have the following week. I would also pencil in any work lunches, morning/afternoon teas and/or dinner that Dorian and I have for that week. This way I am not buying too little or too much groceries that will go to waste.
I also leave one breakfast/lunch and one dinner for dining out or takeway meals – this is usually for the weekend. The breakfasts are usually pretty standard from week to week, but the lunches and dinners are quite different from one week to another. We like to eat a variety of dishes and I am always looking for new recipes to try and experimenting in the kitchen. The snacks too vary every week from biscotti to banana bread to protein bliss balls. I typically make one or two snacks for each week.
For each meal, I write down exactly what ingredients I need. For example, if I am making Kung Pao Tofu, I would list down the bigger ingredients such as 300g tofu, 2 carrots, 1 brown onion and 1 capsicum. This way I know exactly how much and what to buy at the supermarket for the week. I would usually leave out the smaller items such as soy sauce, dried chilli, etc but I would check that I have those ingredients in my pantry.
- I come up with a shopping list
Based on the meal plan, I come up with a grocery shopping list. This not only saves time at the supermarket but also stops me from buying unnecessary perishable items that I think I would use but I do not end up using.
- I set aside 2-3 hours on the weekend to do some cooking
I usually make all the breakfasts and lunches on the weekend. This stops me from stressing out during the week to cook when I am pressed for time and end up eating something that is not substantial enough that I find myself grazing throughout the day. I also save money from not having to buy a takeaway meal whilst at work. I think of this time spent cooking on the weekend as an investment and time that I will get back during the week when I am knackered after work.If I have time, I also make one of the snacks on the weekend. Otherwise, I make the snacks during the week. The snacks I make are usually pretty simple such as protein balls, cookies or muffins.
- I make my dinners when I get home from work
I find cooking relaxing. So, I like coming home and cooking on most nights after work. I typically cook once every two or three nights and on one of these nights, I also make one of the snacks.
So, there you have it, my four simple steps to meal prepping every week. Of course this routine may not work for you, but you should find your own routine and try to meal prep when you can. This will not only save you time but money.
The benefits that I have found from meal prepping are:
- Reduced wastage of fresh food because I bought too much from the lack of meal planning;
- Saving money from buying lunches or dinners when I am too busy during the week;
- Nutritious and healthy meals ready for me to grab and go to work during the week;
- Unlikely to make a poor breakfast/lunch choice because I was too “busy” to make breakfast/lunch;
- Reduces my chances of grabbing a cookie or crackers from the work kitchen because I did not have a substantial meal for breakfast/lunch; and
- And the best of all, I know exactly what goes in my meals and I don’t have to think about getting a “healthy” breakfast/lunch whilst at work.
Please let me know if you have any questions at all on meal prepping and I will be more than happy to answer them and/or provide suggestions.
Happy meal prepping because failing to prepare is preparing to fail and your health is your wealth 🙂