Getting Started with Meal Prep
Meal prepping has been such a part of my life that I seldom think about the basics anymore. But I know that’s not the case fore everyone! For those of us who are new to meal prepping or who are thinking about trying it, I would like to step back and answer some common questions about getting started. Why do we meal prep? What are the worst foods to make in advance? Where do we get our containers? Does food taste palatable after five days? I’ve got answers to all these!
WHY MEAL PREP?
This quote sums up my meal prep motivation more than anything:
“If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail.”
Meal prepping keeps your goals in check. For years, I ran my butt off trying to lose weight and gain muscle …exercise just wasn’t cutting it. In fact, the old adage is true: weight loss is only 20% activity and 80% DIET. I can attest to that claim after trying for years to outrun a bad diet. But when I buckled down and put a little preparation into my food, my body responded and has been thanking me ever since.
Meal prepping gives you control of what you’re eating. Fast food restaurants and even frozen food manufacturers are most concerned with:
1) Making food tasty enough that you’ll buy it, and
2) Making food last as long as possible
That’s why these options often have a considerable amount of salt, preservatives, and added ingredients. When you meal prep, you have full control over these additions and you can adapt your meals to meet your taste preferences and your macronutrient targets, if you track them.
Meal prepping saves money. Justin and I try our best to eat colorful whole foods but, when you aren’t meal prepping, that gets expensive fast! You can grab a hamburger for a dollar but a salad will run you $6-10. Pretty ridiculous, but that’s the “price” of convenient perishable food. Produce and protein are much cheaper at the grocery store; you just need to prepare it. For most people looking to better their health, that’s a fair trade.
WHERE TO GET CONTAINERS
THE DOLLAR STORE. It’s a gold mine for containers of all shapes and sizes for an incredible price. If you’re new to meal prepping, I would start here. We have since acquired sets of glass containers which have their own benefits, but we still use our plastic dollar store containers regularly.
GREAT FOR DAILY USE (+)
LOTS OF SIZES (+)
CAN STAIN (-)
LIDS MAY COME LOOSE (-)
CONTAINS BPA (-)
STURDY AND DURABLE (+)
EASY TO CLEAN (+)
BAKE MEALS RIGHT INSIDE (+)
SOMEWHAT BULKY (-)
POTENTIAL TO BREAK (-)
MORE EXPENSIVE (-)
WORST FOODS FOR MEAL PREP
We sometimes run into problems with vegetables. We don't want them becoming moist, soggy, or, well, slimy. That’s why we store many ingredients separately and only combine them when we’re ready to eat them.
As a general rule, firm vegetables hold up better than water-retaining vegetables.
Sweet potatoes, winter squash, carrots, cauliflower, cabbage, peppers, onions, and kale are very meal preppable.
Leafy greens do well if they are stored separately.
NEVER add dressing or sauce to veggies until you’re ready to eat them.
ALWAYS keep your vegetables as dry as possible. Sometimes storing them with a folded paper towel inside the container goes a long way to retain freshness.
BEST PRACTICES FOR ANY MEAL PREP
Wait until your food is COMPLETELY cooled before adding the lid and storing. Steam will cause excess moisture which causes sogginess.
Store dressings, sauces, and other liquid separately until you’re ready to eat. Use 2 oz condiment cups or reusable dressing containers.
Do not crush leafy greens with heavy toppings, they bruise easily.
There you have it! I hope you learned something or gained a little inspiration to try prepping your food. If you have any other questions, I’m happy to help, just drop me an email!