One of the biggest barrier to eating well for me is being out of the house for around 15 hours a day Monday to Friday.
If you have a job which leads to you being out of the house most of the day you will probably agree that when you get home the last thing you want to do is cooking, not only some food for that night but also lunch for the following day (unless you really enjoy cooking). If you don’t make your lunch the night before though, the likelihood is you’ll end up going to Tesco to get a sandwich and packet of crisps which won’t be that filling or inspiring and won’t benefit your nutrition as much as a home prepared meal would.
Meal Prep tends to be something that immediately makes you think of body builders and chicken with broccoli. But, whether you go to the gym every day, twice a day or once a week preparing your meals for the week ahead can help you stay within your calorie goal, save money and keep meals tasty and interesting with minimum effort. They don’t need to be just chicken, rice and veg either you can make any type of food you like that fits within your calorie goal for that day / week.
Recently I’ve taken this one step further and started to prepare a months worth of meals at a time but if your new to meal prep start with a few days and see what does and doesn’t work for you.
Benefits of Meal Prep
- Save time – a couple of hours cooking at the start of the week can save you having to spend half an hour every day making food. When you are busy or tired during the week you will have food that you ca pop in the microwave to heat up quickly.
- Save money – Unless every meal is fillet steak the chances are that making your meals for the week is going to be cheaper than going to the shop every day for a Meal Deal and getting takeaways or ready meals on the way home for dinner.
- Save calories – A homemade curry will often have fewer calories than a shop bought one – you can use chopped tomatoes and herbs to make sauces and pack in as much veg as you like. You will also be in a position to prepare food in advance that you know will fit your calorie allowance for the week – it’s much harder to keep to your targets if your going into the shop each day and picking food out whilst hungry.
- Save on boredom – Be honest, if you go and buy a sandwich everyday do you always pick the same one or two fillings. If you plan and prepare your meals you can add as much variety as you want.
- Save on stress – Once done that’s it for the week. No cooking in the evening or having to work out what you have time to pick up on your lunch break. You can pick up your tupperware boxes in he morning and then just wack them in the microwave when your hungry. Whilst I’m at it – home prepared meals are often more filling than your average Greggs or Meal Deal.
Meal Prep Tips
- Plan – Work out how many meals you need for that week and what you are going to take to hit that number of portions.
- Have the necessary equipment to hand- Tupperware boxes don’t need to be expensive. I buy the cheap boxes from B&M Bargains (10 for £1.99) which last for a reasonable amount of time but can be replaced cheaply when they break. Sandwich bags are ideal for freezing food in. A slow cooker is the god of meal prep in my eyes – it doesn’t need to be a fancy one, mine was £10 from Asda.
- Cook things in bulk- Make a curry / chilli / spag bol / casserole with 4-6 portions.
- But keep it varied – Eating casserole every day for a week is rubbish. Try making at least a couple of different meals at a time so you have some variety. If that means you have excess portions left over you can freeze them for another week.
- Portion out your food – Separate food into portions so you know exactly how many meals you have for the week- it will prevent you eating more calories than you planned and stop you running out of food half way through the week.
- Freeze half your portions – Pop half the portions into tupperware boxes to store in the fridge, the rest can go in sandwich bags to freeze.
- Pot Luck or Plan? I tend to just chuck the sandwich bags in the freezer and take them out at random but if you like to know what you’ll be eating that day label up the bags as almost all meals look the same once frozen.
- Let food cool first – My main rookie error with freezing food prep was putting it in the freezer before it has totally cooled. This resulted in a very frosty freezer and an evening of defrosting it because I could no longer open the drawers. Let everything sit on the side until it’s totally cool before putting in the fridge or freezer.
- Slow cooker anything and everything – Meat in a slow cooker will taste so much more tender than that cooked on the hob. You can throw almost anything in and just leave it for a few hours and come back to something with lots of flavour. Amazing taste, minimum effort equals a meal prep win.
- You can meal prep breakfast too- I tend to only do two or three days at a time but if you eat breakfast at work instead of at home or are in a rush in the morning this can allow you to have a good breakfast without the fuss. Sausages and bacon taste ok cold (eggs can be microwaved when you get to work) as done banana and egg pancakes amongst other things.
Experiment and see what works best for you – once you find a routine that suits you it will become second nature to prepare al or some of your meals each week and this system / habit will free up so much time and help reduce the stress in your week.