Hands up if you’ve ever found yourself wandering around a grocery store uninspired and unsure of what fits your goals with precious seconds of your day slipping away. That’s most of us, huh?
Well, here’s some good news: a good meal prep strategy can fix that once and for all.
Enter, meal planning & meal prep. Here at Rebel, we’ve coached innumerable clients through the process of planning & prepping their food – for work, for busy weekday evenings, for goal-chasing peace of mind – and, while it can feel sort of overwhelming at first, we can confidently say that with a few tips and a couple of tries, it can add so much ease to your week.
The benefits of good food planning are wild, friends. There are massive time savings for one. I mean, you’re investing a little bit of time upfront in mapping out your plan for the days ahead, but boy, oh boy, do you save that and more when you don’t need to plan, shop, cook and clean from scratch every single day. Never mind saving your cash, ditching the what-to-make decision fatigue AND eating with the confidence that what you’re doing is serving your nutrition goals.
If building a better system around your weekly menu sounds like something you’d like, here are 5 quick tips to make your meal planning & prep efficient, effective and a little more joyful:
1. Map out a *flexible* meal prep plan
The first step to meal planning is designing your weekly plan, but that doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily locked to your decision all week long. You can absolutely leave some room for variety or a last-minute switch if plans change or you just don’t feel like what you wanted last Sunday. That’s all good – the key is to plan for the pivot so it doesn’t throw you off your game.
Meal planning – like all planning – should ADD ease to your life, not take it away. Infuse as much structure and as much freedom in your planning as you need for it to really serve your lifestyle, time and goals. That said, *do* make sure you are writing it out, flexible alternatives and all, to turn your plan into a grocery list/minimize your shopping time.
2. Schedule your prepping & cooking time
Your prep, like anything else, takes some time and energy upfront and so as we’re setting up systems to make it happen more fluidly, it’s a good idea to block out a non-negotiable moment in your week to get this done. A little more structure upfront, a lot more flexibility down the road.
For me, I find two preps a week to be a perfect balance. That includes a big Sunday prep for the first half of the week, and a Wednesday or Thursday prep for what’s left. On Thursday, it’s a mix of more structured weekday meals as well as some easy protein & produce-based snacks for the weekend where I tend to want a little more flexibility in the ways that I meet my targets.
3. If reheated food isn’t your jam, consider a raw meal prep
We get it, reheated dinner isn’t for everyone…but don’t let that steer your away from the value of the plan. Knowing what you’re going to eat and having those raw groceries ready (think protein defrosted in the fridge, produce pre-cut and ready to toss in + a pre-made, not-yet-dressed salad for the side) can save you a ton of time. Toss-in-and-go cooking can be just as fantastic a strategy as any. Remember, it’s about what *really* fits for YOU.
Another way to do this is to harness the magic of freezer prep. Can you double that recipe you’re making for the next day and freeze it before cooking so you have another nutritious toss-in-and-go option on the back burner?
4. If you don’t like to be stuck to just one option, consider a partitioned prep
This one is a team favourite, because it allows for a little creativity, but not necessarily a ton more time. Partitioned prep includes prepping/pre-cooking all the parts of your meal(s) in advance, but not necessarily putting them together in one dish. That way, with a couple of different prepped ingredients, you can mix and match as desired in the moment.
We do this by prepping a couple of protein options, like grilled chicken and baked tofu, a couple of starch options like roasted potatoes and rice and then a ton of pre-chopped veg that you can either cook quickly or toss on the side as-is. Stock up on a selection of ways to change up the flavour profile (think: mustard, hot sauce, soya sauce or lemon juice) and you’ve got yourself some solid throw-it-together meal options in a flash.
5. Stock up on reusable meal prep containers that fit your fridge
Look, the whole idea here is that we’re figuring out ways to make eating well easier on ourselves. I live in the Netherlands and therefore my fridge, from a North American perspective, is absolutely tiiiiiny. My prep wouldn’t work so well if I couldn’t fit it all in the fridge, and having to struggle to make it fit or reach the things behind it once it’s in there doesn’t make this process any more fun.
Set yourself up for added ease by investing in reusable containers that stack well (in AND out of the fridge) and can be used to reheat or freeze in if need be. It’s another one of those upfront investments that will pay off 10000% when you’re not wasting precious life energy struggling with your meals like Tetris peices.
And there you have it; a couple of quick hacks to set yourself up for meal prep success! Have any questions or need more support around building a system that really works for ya? We can help with that, too. Happy prepping, friends!