Do you want to know how to radically simplify meal prep? Here’s how.
How to Radically Simplify Meal Prep
I’m talking about the habits, the strategies, and how to flip the switch on how you’re thinking so you can use less effort and have bigger results.
Listen on for a simplified and streamlined meal prepping system.
The first thing you should know is that I don’t go about meal prep the same way many people do– I add my own twist with an eye for simplifying, streamlining, and taking out any of the efforts that don’t actually move the needle.
Simplifying just makes it all easier.
9 Tactical Strategies to Radically Simplify Meal Prep:
1 | Mindset matters.
Here’s the thing: when we apply perfectionism, all or nothing thinking, comparison, or a striving mindset to wellness, it takes all the joy out of it and it makes it much more complicated than it has to be.
Check your thinking, and notice when comparison, perfectionism, and all or nothing thinking are creeping into how you’re approaching meal prep.
Try to step out of it, because it’s not going to help.
If you ever hear yourself say, “it’s just too much work,” or “this is for everyone else,” there’s an opportunity to rethink these thoughts.
Work can come from putting in that focused effort in making sure you have the food, or it can come in the effort and energy it takes to run on less nourishing foods.
“Invest in your energy, invest in yourself, invest in your vitality for life.”
You can start with just meal prepping for yourself, it doesn’t have to be for everyone.
Of course, you can build to meal prep for others in your family, but if that idea is standing in the way of doing it for yourself, pull back and start with just yourself.
“Habits and strategies have nothing to stick to if you don’t work on mindset as well.”
2 | Define what meal prep means to you.
We have this definition of making food ahead of time, putting it in plastic containers, and laying it all out for Instagram.
But really, you get to decide what it means.
To help, I’ve come up with the Effort + Payoff Equation: How much effort are you willing to spend and for what payoff?
The effort is the time and energy it takes to get the groceries, wash the veggies, and do the actual cooking.
The payoff is how you feel when you eat that food when you have something prepared and you can grab it and go.
I think our brain often focuses on the effort component and it forgets about the payoff.
When you’re thinking about what meal prep means for you, look for the trouble spots:
Is breakfast really difficult and you find that you’re rushing out the door or skipping it altogether and your body is actually craving food at that time?
Maybe it’s lunch, or snacks in the afternoon, or maybe it’s dinner.
Pick one of those things and define meal prep as something you’re using to solve one trouble spot.
3 | Start by prepping just one thing.
If prepping everything and stocking the fridge full of perfectly prepped meals all done ahead of time seems unreasonable or just not fun, take all or nothing out of it and start with one.
Start with prepping just one thing and build from there.
For example, roast one batch of veggies, or boil 12 eggs for the week.
Some of my favorite versatile recipes to prep ahead of time:
The more you make a recipe, the easier it is.
If you start with five new recipes it’ll be much more difficult than starting with just one.
4 | A little as you go.
There is no rule that meal prepping needs to consume an entire Sunday afternoon.
Instead of carving out an hour or more, you can try prepping a little as you go.
For example, if you’re boiling water for tea, boil some water for hard-boiled eggs too.
It’s less about multi-tasking and more about, “how can I optimize the time I have right now?”
Another idea is doubling or tripling a recipe.
Double or triple this recipe for Lemon Herb Pulled Chicken: you’ll have leftovers for a chicken salad or chicken wrap.
If you happen to be in the kitchen if you happen to be making something, what can you do it make it easier for yourself later?
5 | Use your freezer.
When I make a double or triple batch of anything, I always freeze in individual portions in mason jars.
By freezing in individual portions, you have a little library of options in your freezer.
Some of my favorites to make ahead and freeze:
Freeze the leftovers in individual servings, label it, and repeat.
As you continue freezing leftovers like this, you won’t have to eat the same leftovers every day and you’re not wasting food.
You’d also be surprised by all the things you can freeze: cooked rice or quinoa, cooked pasta, most sauces, roasted veggies, so many things.
You can grab and go and not really have to worry about it.
6 | Meal map instead of meal plan.
When you start prepping, it does help to have some sort of a plan without it getting too overwhelming.
Meal mapping just means that you use a template so that you don’t have to make so many decisions during the week.
Monday is soup, stew, or chili.
Tuesday is tacos.
Wednesday is a bowl night.
Thursday is pasta.
Friday is eat out or burger night with oven fries.
By having a map, there’s a template to use and you can switch things up for variety.
You can also make a double batch, freeze it, and then the following week pull some out of the freezer.
7 | Prep the essentials.
The essential six are the building blocks for any recipe: protein, sauce, cooked veggies, raw veggies, grains and bases, toppings and extras.
It’s really the components of a meal, and you can combine them a number of different ways– you can pull a meal apart and prep the parts.
When you’ve already done a little of the work, it’s an incentive to skip the drive-thru line, too.
8 | Use your slow cooker or instant pot.
If you don’t have a slow cooker with a timer, it’s definitely worth it.
You can set the timer for 4 hours, and then it switches to warm.
It’s something you can use without requiring a lot of hands-on time.
9 | It’s okay to eat the same things.
If you have a go-to make-ahead breakfast that you love or a hearty salad that sustains you through the day, put that on the permanent-prep list.
Decision fatigue is such a huge issue when it comes to food, so if you just have a handful of breakfasts or lunches that you know work and you don’t even have to think about: permission to do the same thing.
“Variety is great, but so is ease”.
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