Stumbling across #mealprep is unavoidable. A quick flick through social media and you can be certain to find plenty of images of pre-prepared meals; row upon row of containers filled to the brim with veg, protein, carbs, fruit, snacks and everything else in between.
There are several possible reactions to this. First up is smugness, because you are one of the #mealprep crew. You have prepped a weeks’ worth of meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner, showoff!) and had the time to let your Instagram followers know. Well done you.
Or, you will be in a state of disbelief; disbelief at quite how many containers one person can actually own and disbelief at how said person found the time to cook 21 meals on a Sunday. We are with you on this, some people have a lot of containers and can magic up a lot of time.
Don’t worry though we are here, as ever, to help and we have some TRAINFITNESS tips and tricks to help guide you to #mealprep heaven.
Plan Plan Plan
All the enthusiasm in the world won’t cover a lack of key ingredients or a lack of containers or fridge/freezer space. Before you even think about prepping a weeks’ worth of meals have a plan. Do you need breakfast, lunch and dinner prepped or do you just need lunch? What food are you actually going to eat, do you have the ingredients to make everything. When are you going to do your cooking, can you dedicate a good couple of hours to it without distraction? These are the questions you need to ask yourself.
Write down what you would like to eat and what meals you need to cook ahead of time. Create a shopping list, set aside a few hours dedicated to prepping, make sure you have all the utensils and paraphernalia to hand, crank the music up and then get cracking.
Keep it simple but don’t be boring
As a general rule, the more complicated the dish, the less tasty it will be after a few days in the fridge or freezer. While we wouldn’t suggest dishes of plain rice, protein and broccoli day in day out, we do recommend keeping it fairly simple. Instead of going mad on the dish, go wild on dressings and marinades. Play with marinades and sauces, herbs and spices. A lemon and olive oil mix can bring a salad and veggies to life. A spicy rub of oil, cayenne pepper, paprika and chilli flakes can bring great flavour to a chicken breast. Herbs, spices and marinades are the best way to make your creations interesting. Buy small sealable pots for your dressings and sauces so you can put them on your veggies and salads just before eating. It will stop them from going soggy when stored in the fridge.
Additional portions please
Meal prep can sometimes be as simple as cooking a meal that is large enough for a dinner and a lunch. If you are having a lasagne on a Wednesday evening (good choice) make a slightly bigger portion and Wednesday’s dinner becomes Thursday’s lunch too, genius. If you are really clever you could make even more and freeze a portion for another day or even next week. If you can keep doing this, you could have a range of lunch-time meals without having to prep too much ahead of time.
Become that container person
Yes, you might not have believed it was possible to own that many containers, but to effectively prep your meals you will need something to store them in. Glass, stainless steel or plastic (BPA-free please), there are plenty of options out there that don’t cost a fortune plus most containers are stack-able, ensuring they don’t completely take over your kitchen. Whatever you go for, make sure you have plenty of them in a variety of sizes.
Half prep – make cooking easier
Don’t be fooled into thinking #mealprep means making enough food for three meals a day, seven days a week all on a Sunday afternoon. If you can do it, great, go for it. For everyone else relax, you can #halfprep your meals.
Pre-chopping your veggies and storing them in food bags means you won’t have to do it when you get back home. You can do the same with your protein, pop it in a bag with a marinade and all you have to do when you get back is pull it out of the fridge and cook it, along with your veg. This will save you valuable time when you get home and help ensure you stick to your set caloric requirements i.e. less temptation to go and pig-out.
Meal preparation is great; it allows you to have some tasty and healthy meals ready to go and it takes the guesswork out of eating. But don’t let it be a chore, cooking itself should be a pleasure and the eating even more so. Even more important, don’t obsess. Some days you just won’t have the time to prep everything. When those days happen, head out and pick the healthiest meal you can. Don’t sacrifice a good meal out or a cheeky (occasional) takeaway because it doesn’t fit in with your prepped meals either. Eat well, have balance, be happy