In last week’s article I covered why the groundwork for getting results from any nutrition plan is the meal prep.
Knowing how to do meal prep quickly was the most important piece of knowledge I had by my side when I was training for my bikini fitness competition. Before I started preparing for the contest, I exercised most days and ate well, but it really wasn’t until I committed to making and packing my own lean body meals daily, that I started seeing a real body transformation.
I have absolutely no shame in busting out a plastic container full of home-cooked deliciousness I made during meal prep at any given public place- I just don’t care if people think that it’s weird. What I do think is weird though, is buying processed, sugar-loaded, additive-filled food out of a packet, which not only costs twice as much but can also contain unhealthy additives and up to three times the calories of a home-cooked meal.
When it comes to meal prepping, the number one concern is usually the time it takes to get it done. Everyone wants to know how I have so much time to make all my meals. Little do they know, I only cook twice a week and I am able to prepare nearly all the food my partner and I need for the entire week ahead.
I want to share my best tips to help you cut your meal prep time in half so you spend less time in the kitchen, save money, actually look forward to preparing your meals, and start seeing real results.
Put time aside each week
Every Thursday and Sunday I spend about 2-2.5 hours preparing my meals for the next 3-4 days ahead. It might sound like a pain, but it actually saves me from cooking and washing up every single night, which would take up even more time. This way, I’m more efficient and it gives me the opportunity to enjoy some quiet time after work with my loved ones.
Prepare your week’s menu in advance
This is key for successful meal prepping. You shouldn’t go shopping without a meal plan and a shopping list. If you have an exact goal in mind, you may already have a lean body meal plan already set out for you. Pick 3-4 new recipes you want to try for the coming days, and buy ingredients for those and a few staple items. That’s all. This will stop you from buying unnecessary items and also save you a lot of money. Calculate quantities and write a shopping list.
Have meal prep staple items on hand
Bags of salad greens, eggs, mixed raw nuts and seeds, canned tuna, 4 bean mix, brown rice cakes, smoked salmon, frozen berries, nut butter and almond milk are just a few of my favourite staples that I have on my weekly shopping list, regardless of what I had planned that week. This means I always have a healthy snack handy.
Have your lean body kitchen tools handy
Minimize time spent chopping, blending, mixing and cleaning up. The better quality tools you use, the less you have to scrub later on.
Buy the right container size
If you follow my lean body meal structure of 4 meals and 1 snack, you should aim for approximately 500mL containers with dimensions of 12cm x 17cm x 3.5cm for each meal – except the snack. Snacks should be just that, a handful of food to get you through the next meal. Generally speaking, this size container full of food will fill you up, but won’t allow you to overeat. Make sure your containers are BPA free – I use glass containers because you really shouldn’t reheat food in a plastic container. If you don’t have glass, just reheat in a bowl.
Portion out your meals during meal prep
Don’t just cook and set your food aside. Use a kitchen scale to measure them out (if that’s your thing!) and place them in individual containers straight away, so that they are ready to grab when you are running out the door. This will save you a lot of time during the week!
Cook in bulk
Soups, rice dishes, bolognese, slow cooked meats, burger patties, stir frys, stews or Mexican chili are perfect examples of meals you can make in large batches and
Cook your meat fresh
During meal prep, I recommend organising all the veggies and side dishes in advance, and at least two day’s worth of meat dishes. For the protein portion, I usually marinade most of the meat/fish and cook fresh for dinner, which only takes a few minutes. Fresh meals just taste so much better.
Never dress salads
Salads prepared in advance can stay fresh and crisp for days IF, and only if you do not dress them. Mix up your favourite dressing in an empty glass jar and dress it just before you eat it.
Try doing your meal prep like this for at least 2 weeks and you’ll be amazed at how much time you save and how much head-space you free up by not having to think about what to cook!
Recommended recipe: Mexican chili beans (in the slow cooker)