How to Start Meal Prepping (and Why It’s So Important)
Meal prepping has become popular but it’s still far from universal. The basic idea is easy to grasp. Instead of planning for your meals individually and as you get hungry, you’ll cook and prepare many meals at once. Portioning them into individual containers so they’re available to eat when you want them. Despite this basic premise, getting started with meal prep can be intimidating.
For me, it’s always been one of my biggest challenges but, once you start. It makes life so much easier!
This guide is meant to make meal prep more understandable and more accessible. That way, you can reap the benefits of meal prep in your own life—without adding stress to the process.
The Benefits of Meal Prep
There are dozens of benefits of proactively prepping your meals, but these are some of the best.
- Nutritional balance. First, you’ll get to see many of your meals planned out at the same time. You’ll have a higher-level perspective on what you’re eating. Instead of making nutritional decisions for a single meal or struggling to remember what you ate earlier in the week, you can balance your meals. Do this by using different vegetables, proteins, and sides, all at once. This can help you ensure you’re getting the right nutrients. Plus, your eating plan stays on track.
- Portion control. One of the biggest factors for obesity is excessive portioning. Eating more at every meal results in a caloric surplus, which alongside other factors can result in weight gain. Proactively preparing and portioning your meals in advance prevents the temptation of overeating. It allows you to determine which portion sizes are appropriate for yourself. That way, you can eat the recommended amount, and stop when you’ve consumed the entire container.
- Time savings. If you prep your meals in advance, you should be able to save time in the long run. It’s much more efficient to prepare a dozen meals over the course of an hour than it is to prepare those single meals for 15 minutes each. You can also spend your time more wisely. Prepare all your meals during a day when you have lots of free time rather than trying to do it throughout the week when you’re at your busiest.
- Stress relief. Meal preparation can be stressful. If you don’t know what’s for dinner, or if you aren’t sure what you’re going to eat, you have to spend time making the decision. Then you worry about whether you’ll have enough time to make good food. Meal prep removes that stress from your life. At least it consolidates it to a single day of prep.
- Money savings. Meal prep also gives you a chance to save money. Since you’ll be preparing many meals in advance, you can buy all your food in bulk. Buying in bulk means discounts that can add up to massive savings over time. You’ll also spend less money on going out to eat or ordering takeout since you’ll have more convenient food options at all times.
Tips on How to Get Started
So how can the average consumer get started with meal prep?
- Get the right containers. First, get the right containers. It pays to be able to put each discrete meal in a separate container. it makes it easier to stack and store in your refrigerator or freezer. Even better, get containers that have built-in separators. You can easily keep your food elements separate from one another during storage.
- Start with what you know. Don’t try to meal prep the way someone else does. Instead, work within your own style. Start with what you know, and prepare meals based on that knowledge. Rely on recipes you’ve used in the past, and follow principles you’re already familiar with. You can expand your knowledge later.
- Schedule a day for prep. You’ll probably need only an hour or two for meal prep, but to give yourself flexibility, try to schedule a whole day for it. Choose your least busy and least stressful day, like a Sunday. Knock out all your meal prep at once.
- Get ideas online. You don’t have to look far online to find meal prep ideas. Facebook, Pinterest, and other social media sites are gold mines for this, and you can easily find listicles with popular ideas. It will help you broaden your horizons and keep things interesting. You can find some of our fave no-fail recipes on here too.
- Make use of your freezer space. If you’re feeling really ambitious, consider meal prepping an entire month’s worth of meals. Freeze them to ensure your prepared food doesn’t go bad.
Don’t make meal prep any more complicated than it has to be. You can get started with no experience, even if you only know the basics behind the idea. The sooner you start, the sooner you can start reaping the benefits.
So schedule your first meal prep day and get started.
What are your fave meals to prep?
Let me know, til then–cheers m’deres!
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Nancy Polanco is a freelance journalist, lifestyle content creator, and editor of Whispered Inspirations. She is a proud Mom to Gabby and Michaela, and wife to Darasak. Having worked as part of a health care team for almost a decade, Nancy is happy to be back to her passion. She is a contributor to the Huffington Post, TODAY’s Parents, and an Oprah Magazine Brand Ambassador.