Weekly meal prep allows for my nutrition to stay in check. In this post, I want to give you a brief, 7-step guide to meal prep (including what I do), why it is critical for staying on track with nutrition, and to encourage you to start small.
(1). Schedule your Meal Prep Time: First things first, you need to decide what day of the week you want to meal prep and then schedule it in. If you are one to find yourself consistently too busy that you "never have time", schedule it in! Really, put it into your calendar. Block off the time. If you want it, make it a priority.
For simply planning my grocery list, I need about 20 minutes. I like to meal prep on Saturday or Sunday. Since my husband (Hank) and I don’t have kids yet, finding time on either day is no problem. I typically choose whatever day is less full. I like to sit down at my kitchen island with my Rifle Paper Co Meal Calendar and a glass of kombucha. Call me crazy, but if I have cute stationery, and a drink I enjoy the task is much more satisfying. Finding little ways to enjoy the task = motivation to do it.
(2). Take Inventory: The second thing I do is take an inventory of my cupboards and fridge (don’t forget the things you don’t eat too…like shampoo). I will likely be adding to a list I already started earlier in the week. Generally, I jot down items when I run out of them in the moment. This is especially important if they are random staple items (...like vanilla extract). If I don't immediately put it on the list the moment it runs out, I tend to forget about it. After I check my inventory, I write down all my weekly breakfast and lunch grocery staples.
(3). Check your calendar: Before I plan our dinners, I will check my calendar for what the week ahead looks like. Do we have plans with family/friends at night? What about our weekend? Will Hank be traveling? Do I have client sessions at night and want to make something quick? You get the point. Determining your tentative plans helps save food, money, and time.
(4). Set the Menu: Once I know what our weekly schedule looks like, I will write down any dinner meal(s) I have been craving, and ask Hank if anything specific sounds good. If I need more ideas, I will peruse one of my favorite cookbooks, Instagram foodie influencers, or Pinterest for some ideas. I like to keep dinners simple. Each dinner I try to include a protein, vegetable, complex carb, and maybe a fruit (I also like to have a healthy fat which is usually easy to add-in). Our dinners are full of vegetables, have a healthy amount of protein, and a small amount of complex carbohydrates.
Some examples of complex carbohydrates are...
whole-grain sprouted bread or pasta
beans (kidney, black, garbanzo, white, lima…)
brown or wild rice
russet, gold, red potatoes
steel-cut or rolled oatmeal
I try to consume very little simple carbohydrates (white bread, cereal, candy, traditional pancakes, cookies, pizza, pretzels, chips, muffins…etc). My goal is for our meals to be balanced. I like to follow the 80/20 rule. 80% of the week I am deliberately putting nutrient-dense food into my body. 20% of the week I live it up. I enjoy going out with family or friends and indulging in some treats. So, if you do the math, I normally eat 21 meals/week = 3 meals/day. That means, roughly 17 meals are healthy, and roughly 4 meals are treat meals (or I eat a healthy dinner and enjoy a dessert, a drink…you get the point).
(5). Organize your List: Once I pick our meals and plan our groceries for the week, I like to organize my list by area in the grocery store (i.e. “Produce,” “Meat,” “Dairy,” “Pantry”). This makes my grocery shopping trips go shockinglyfaster. If I don't do this, you'll see me walking in circles and in every which direction in the grocery store. Even when I do grocery pickup, it is still helpful to organize my list because then I tend to notice if I forgot to put something on my list.
(6). Grab the goods: Make the time to actually get your groceries when you plan! Don't push your grocery trip back a day or two. When you aren't stocked with healthy options, that's when it is easy to turn to eating out or snacking. Often I do grocery pick up because it’s quick, easy, and helps me truly stick to my budget. It limits the items I would have grabbed at the grocery store that looked good, but we didn't need. Additionally, I can look at my cart’s estimated total prior to checking out and remove things that I may have added that we don’t really need to keep us within the budget.
(7). Prep the staple items: This step is critical for staying on track with your nutrition. For one, prepping items may mean almost prepping every single meal. For others (like myself), it's simply spending an extra 20 minutes in the kitchen roasting the veggies and prepping some shredded chicken for lunches. Other than that, I don't do much more. By simply broiling my broccoli, and carving the rotisserie chicken on Sunday, I have quick, simple, healthy options for my lunches that will keep me energized and full.
There you have it! Y'all, if this feels overwhelming, the key is starting small. If meal prepping stresses you out, don't suddenly try to plan out every.single.meal. Plan out two dinners and start there! The key to success is breeding confidence through success in small steps. Just start and don't expect perfection. Happy planning!