Eating healthily is super important to me. It helps me perform better in my workouts, feel energized through the entire day, preserve my long-term health … well, you know all the benefits of eating healthily. But, just like you, I’m busy! Most nights, I get home from work around 8pm, and since I wake up before 4:30am to fit in my morning routine and workout, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t go to bed soon after. So, if I want to eat a healthy dinner, it has to be easy. Better than easy, maybe … it has to be ready to go!
This is where meal planning and food prep save me. Without my weekly food prep routine, I’d likely be surviving on cereal, chocolate, and peanut butter for dinner (which, while delicious, wouldn’t really help me reach those goals I mentioned!). Instead, each night when I come home, all I have to do is take my container out of the fridge, heat up the food, and eat. Easy peasy.
If you regularly food prep, you’re nodding vigorously with me. If you’ve thought about it and it feels so overwhelming that you haven’t gotten started, that changes today! Take it step by step – you don’t have to start with 21 gourmet meals per week. But an hour or two of meal planning and food prep can save you a lot of time, money, and stress throughout the week.
Here are my top 10 tips for meal planning and food prep:
1. Stock up on containers. I personally like glass snapware containers (like these: https://amzn.to/2MsHRIV), because they are leakproof for carrying food into the office. I also don’t personally microwave plastic, so keeping food in a reheatable container is key. They freeze well, too! Although it’s an investment, you need more containers than you probably think you need. We have an entire deep drawer filled with empty ones on Sunday mornings, and a refrigerator filled with portioned, delicious meals on Sunday evenings!
2. Put meal planning and food prep on your calendar. I know, I know … you think you won’t forget it. But having it as a repeating block on your calendar ensures that your weekends (or whatever day you choose to do it) don’t get too full for this priority. Treat your meal planning and food prep time like you would any other commitment. If you have an important meeting come up at the same time as a doctor’s appointment, you don’t just not show up and never go to the doctor, right? You move the appointment! Do the same thing for your food prep time – if something gets scheduled over it, move it to another place; don’t just skip it.
3. Write your meal plan (yes, with real pen and paper). Many people think they can do it in their heads, or want to keep it in Excel for easier editing, or don’t want to feel restricted by putting actual meals in the boxes in case they don’t “feel like” eating their planned meal at a given time. But I’ve seen hundreds of people try to avoid writing it on paper … and they all succeeded when they started writing it down. If that lack of flexibility gets you, know that you can be flexible with the days and times you eat the food. Writing meals in squares just ensures that you’re buying and eating appropriate portions. For my printable meal planning template and my best instructions on how to fill it out each week, I’m giving you free access to my best-selling Meal Planning Webinar! Just use code HOPTOIT when you check out at thelyonsshare.org/store!
4. Make things you’re actually excited about! It might sound obvious to make things you enjoy, but many people think their only option for food prep is baked chicken with steamed broccoli and brown rice. If that’s your jam, by all means, go for it! But if not, there are so many other possibilities! If you choose things you enjoy, you’re more likely to keep up the habit. To whet your appetite, check out these 20 One-Pan meals or these 20 Slow Cooker meals. Enjoy!
5. Keep a list of food prep successes. As soon as you find something that was quick, easy, and you actually enjoyed, keep it on a list to trigger your memory. It’s easy to get bored if you’re having the same thing week in and week out, but if you build up a list of 10-20 recipes that you love, you’ll only have to repeat every few months.
6. Make it fun. It may not be your favorite activity of the entire week, but try to make it fun. Turn on some music and sign at the top of your lungs. Dance around the kitchen. Turn on your “guilty pleasure” TV show (and don’t feel guilty about it!). Invite a friend over and food prep together. Just do what it takes to make it fun!
7. Cook intentionally. I always try to add one slow cooker or InstantPot meal, one oven meal, and one stove meal to my plan. I start with the slow cooker meal, and have one cutting board for veggies and one for meat (to prevent re-washing many times). Once the oven and stove meals are cooking, I take care of any raw items (like my weekly veggie packs).
8. Portion right away. Almost everything I make has 4-6 servings, and while it’s tempting to dump it all into one big container and stick it in the fridge, I make sure to portion it out right away. Not only does this ensure I’m eating the appropriate portion size each time, but it makes it far easier to grab and go, since every portion is in its own container.
9. Try batch cooking ingredients. I love leftovers, and think you’d be doing yourself a service if you learned to embrace them, too, but if you’re not quite there yet, try batch cooking ingredients. You might bake some chicken breasts, roast a few pans of asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and zucchini, and make a batch of quinoa or cauliflower rice. Then, you can repurpose these ingredients during the week – throw them on a salad, make a stir-fry, put them in lettuce wraps or tortillas, or add a different sauce or dressing.
10. Keep fallback meals on hand. Even after blocking off any social occasions or work events, I usually keep 1-2 meals blank on my meal plan, to allow for life’s inevitable curveballs. Usually, this nets me the right amount of food, but for those situations where I need a meal I haven’t planned for, I keep some fallback meals on hand. My personal favorite is frozen vegetables with eggs and salsa (doesn’t go bad easily and comes together in a veggie scramble in 7 minutes flat). I also recommend frozen veggies and frozen turkey burgers or veggie burgers, or frozen portions of any meals you’ve made previously (your freezer is your friend when it comes to food prep, so use it!).
I hope those tips help! I’d love to see how you use these tips and what you prep – tag me in your photos at @thelyonsshare, and follow along for more meal planning and food prep tips!
Megan Lyons has shared her game-changing approach to wellness with thousands of people through personalized health coaching, corporate and group wellness programs, and motivational and educational speaking. As founder and owner of The Lyons’ Share Wellness, she’s deeply passionate about inspiring others to feel their healthiest and happiest. Megan is the author of “Start Here: 7 Easy, Diet-Free Steps to Achieve Your Ultimate Health and Happiness,” a Top 10 Amazon Bestseller in Nutrition. Her Lyons’ Share Coaching Academy helps aspiring coaches streamline their business and skyrocket their success.
Megan holds degrees and certifications from Harvard University, Northwestern University, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, and Masters in Holistic Nutrition. She lectures widely at hospitals, corporations, and organizations. When she’s not health coaching, you can find her working out, teaching fitness classes, cooking, reading, traveling, and cheering on the Dallas Mavericks. She currently lives in Dallas with her husband, Kevin, and adorable dogs, Maverick and Riley.