When I first decided to start meal prepping I had no idea where to even begin. I knew that I wanted to eat healthier, but I also live on a very limited budget. I don’t have extra money to be buying all kinds of different foods for myself and my family to eat. It was important for me to find foods that I knew that my son and I could both enjoy. I am fortunate to have been blessed with a child that likes a wide variety of foods (he will eat sushi and jerk chicken). This leads me to my first tip.
#1 EAT FOODS YOU LIKE & CAN TOLERATE EATING EVERYDAY
It’s important that you actually enjoy the meals that you are making. I am not a fan of white rice, so I would NEVER include it in my meal plan. I do however enjoy wild rice, but not enough to eat it every single day for a whole week. I save it for dinner meals, once in a while, maybe once a week. On the other hand, I am a HUUUUGE kale fan. I could eat it raw with olive oil and garlic, cooked, or even baked into chips. I F-ING LOVE IT. If you have small children that you would like to include in your meal prep, I would suggest sitting down one night and going over foods that they both love and hate. Once you have an idea of that then creating meals or finding recipes is much easier.
#2 FIND A RECIPE THAT YOU LIKE
As some of you know, I prep my lunches for the week on Mondays. So from Tuesday through to Sunday I am on the hunt for a decent meal idea. Sometimes I see something posted on someone else’s Facebook page, other times I have an idea of what I would like and I google recipes for that. I use allrecipe.com quite a bit. As an example, let’s say I want stuffed chicken, I will literally google “low calorie stuffed chicken recipes”. I will either go through the search results or click on images. I will look at stuffed chickens until I find one I like. I upload the recipe into MyFitnessPal, the app I use for calorie counting, and make any substitutions that I think are necessary. I like to substitute greek yogurt for mayo, or use low fat instead of regular fat. Sometimes I even leave ingredients out, like in my soup, I skip the potatoes or I add some sweet potato instead.
#3 KNOW YOUR BUDGET
As I previously stated, I live on a very tight income. I don’t have a million dollars to be buying fancy vegetables or all kinds of different stuff to keep everyone in my house happy. I am lucky, my dad buy a lot of the junk he likes, such as hotdogs, for himself and the baby. What I do know is EXACTLY how much money I have each week to spend on food for my lunches. And if it is a week where I miscalculated, I bet we have some chicken thighs in the freezer some where. I like to stay in the $30-$40 range; since I only prep 5 meals, that makes each meal $7-$8. I think that is fair considering most meals that you get from fast food places cost twice that and are 3 times as bad for you. Even a salad will cost you 15$ if you go downtown to eat. A lot of times I have what I need in my cupboard from previous shopping trips. A $5 bag of kidney beans will last a very long time so that cuts from your budget. Which brings me to my next point…
#4 MAKE A SHOPPING LIST
After you found your recipe, make a list of all the ingredients that you need to buy. The ones that you don’t have in your fridge or pantry. Going to the grocery store with a list will not only save you time, but it will stop you from buying things that you do not need. I promise that will not stop your kids from asking you to buy them extra items, but stay strong my friend. If they didn’t need it until they got to the grocery store, chances are they don’t NEED it anyways.
#5 KNOW PROPER PORTION SIZES
Chances are the recipe you found is for the main part of your dish, again let’s use stuffed chicken. It is now your responsibility to pair a veggie and a starch with your meal (personally I am okay with 2 veggies and no starch). If you are counting calories, keep them in mind. One half of your dish should be vegetables, while the other 2 quarters should be your meat and starch
#6 GET SOME CONTAINERS THAT WILL FIT WELL IN YOUR FRIDGE
I shouldn’t have to explain this tip too in-depth. You can go to Walmart, Dollarama, Marshalls, heck you can even order them from Amazon if you like (this is what I did). Just have some containers that are used solely for your meal prep. I have lunch containers that are sectioned off into 3, I have containers for my little snacks, and then big containers that will fit a whole pot of soup into.
#7 PICK A GOOD DAY TO PREP ON
We all have lives; we all like to go out and enjoy ourselves. Some of us have much busier lives than others. It doesn’t matter if you are home every single day with the kids, you work 40+ hours a week, or you sit around all day doing nothing at all… you need to stay consistent with your meal planning/prepping. Like I said before, I prep my meals on Monday. Why did I pick Monday? I cook my meals for the week days only. Saturday or Sunday I go to the grocery store then Monday morning I cook. I have a nice hot fresh meal Monday afternoon when it is ready, then the rest is put in containers in the fridge. You see what I did there? I put one less container in the fridge, therefore I dirty one less container, therefore I wash one less container. So, I picked Monday because I am too lazy to wash ONE MORE CONTAINER.
#8 FIND A FRIEND TO SWITCH MEALS WITH
If you are anything like me 4 months ago then you are the kind of person who can’t picture themselves eating the same thing every day for a whole week. Well then, you need to find yourself a friend to meal prep with. The benefit of doing this is simply variety. Instead of one week every day for a week, you get 2 different meals. It also gives you someone to bounce recipe ideas off; one of you can do chicken the other beef. Doesn’t the saying go ‘variety is the spice of life’? don’t worry if you can’t find a friend to prep with because …
#9 MANY DISHES ARE VERSITILE
A lot of time you can spate your protein and spice it differently or change up the vegetable for half of the meals. It’s up to you at the end of the day how you want to go about planning your meals. If it fits in your budget and makes you happy, I say go on girl!! Switch that broccoli to corn!! There are no rules to this. What I have learnt is that if you get bored, or you are not enjoying yourself any more then you are going to quit doing it. Just have fun. Love the process and you will love the product.
#10 MIX THINGS UP
I don’t know about all of you ladies, but me, I cannot eat chicken every single day of my life. I love so many different types of foods that to limit myself to just one thing is impossible. Get creative in the kitchen. Try new things. Have a night where you let the kids pick out the recipe. Just remember to have fun doing what you are doing; it is the most important thing you can take from all of this.