By Emily Lawrence
We all have that annoying person on our social media feed who is ridiculously organized. They seem to have their life together in a way that seems unimaginable. How do they get in their dog walking and workout in before 6am? How do they find matching outfits for their entire family? How do they cook all their food for the week in two hours??? We all know the benefits of meal prep: we save time and money, and can eat a little healthier. It seems so simple, but oftentimes when we try, it just doesn’t live up to the hype.
I know the struggle well. I get paid to meal prep professionally for families in Halifax to make their lives easier and to help get nutritious and satisfying food on the table. I create customized menu plans for my clients, and cook delicious meals and snacks in their homes. I’ve learned a few things along the way, so here are my top tips for getting started doing successful meal prep every time.
1. Make meals you actually want to eat.
The last time you attempted meal prep, you made 12 portions of a quinoa kale turmeric detox soup you saw on online with high hopes of a week of healthy eating. The first bowl of it was… ok, but definitely lacking in the satisfaction factor. You’re not even sure if you made it through the second bowl before ditching it and grabbing a tasty chicken pita wrap instead. The rest of the soup sat in the fridge until it eventually went bad, in all of it’s detox glory.
What do you actually like to eat? What do you gravitate towards at restaurants? Whatever it is, I’m sure you can find a healthy and manageable version of it to make at home. Make sure there is an element to any meal that excites you. It could be a handful of delicious olives added to your grain bowl, a spoonful of pesto sauce over some roasted veggies, or some cheese to top your chili.
2. Start small.
It can be tempting to make all of your meals in one prep session. Besides, isn’t that the point? Unless you have lots of practice, starting small is really the best way to go. Otherwise, you might end up with bland meals, something burning in the oven, and a lot of food going bad during the week. Try out just two recipes or two smaller prep sessions during the week. Maybe you want to spend an hour making a couple of marinades, a batch of muffins, and chopping some veggies. As you practice, you’ll gain a better sense of multi-tasking and how to plan your meals for the week. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself having longer prep sessions, prepping plenty of food, and getting faster at it too.
3. Don’t forget about snacks.
Thinking of your future snacking self is the best self care hack, in my opinion. We often forget that by the time we get to lunch or dinner, we’ve allowed ourselves to get ravenous! Getting to this level of hunger makes getting take out so much more appealing. Having snacks ready to go will make you feel so much more prepared, and will help you have mindful eating habits. Try out some granola, muffins, baked egg bites, or roasted chickpeas. Some pretzels dipped in crunchy peanut butter is a favourite of mine at the moment.
4. Be prepared when shopping.
Always create a grocery list to ensure you have the ingredients you need for your recipes. This will save you from wandering around the aisles and picking up things that you already have at home. I like to organize my list by section: produce, bulk, frozen & aisles. This helps me stay on track and make my shopping as efficient as possible.
5. Plan around protein.
I find this to be an easy tool for planning meals throughout the week. For my clients, I often suggest fish or chicken for meals early in the week, and red meat or vegetarian meals for later. Fish and lean meats should be cooked and eaten first to eliminate an old fishy smell, or dry chicken. Red meat can typically last longer in the fridge, or stay more moister for longer after cooking. A block of tofu or a can of beans will always be there for you when you need it.
6. You don’t need fancy containers and tools, you just need good recipes.
The fast track to effective meal prep might seem like expensive stainless steel containers or some trendy new smoothie vessel, but the only way to do it successfully is to just make food you enjoy. No bells, no whistles — just recipes you love and crave. Use Pinterest and cookbooks for inspiration, and look for versions of your favourite meals that you can make at home. Save the recipes you love to repeat as desired.
Emily Lawrence is a professional meal prepper based in Halifax. To learn more about her services, visit her website here.