6 Steps to EASIER Meal Prepping

One of the most effective ways to successfully adopt a healthy lifestyle is to learn how to MEAL PREP.  Unfortunately, this is not always an easy undertaking, and is something I've struggled with. I'm still not perfect at it, but I have made great progress, so I thought I'd share my tips for making meal prepping a little easier.

  1. Get organized: This part is hard, but you just have to decide to do it. You must make a plan for what you're going to eat. I have 2 lists.

    1. The first is a list of our most common breakfasts and lunches. I don't really plan those meals, but I always have certain things like sandwich fixings, oatmeal, eggs, pancake ingredients, etc. on hand, and I make sure to have plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables that I can add to all of those meals.
    2. The second list is for my dinners. I generally decide on 8 dinner meals. These often last 10-11 days depending on how many times we eat leftovers. I do not assign the meals to a specific day, but I try to decide the night before which meal I want to shoot for the following night. That way I can get the meat out of the freezer, if necessary, or if it's a crockpot meal, I can throw everything in the pot the night before and put it in the fridge ready for the next morning. (Be sure to let the pot come to room temp before letting it heat up. It's possible to crack them if you heat it too quickly).​
  2. Make your list and stick to it: As you're making your list, group like items.  It will make the actually shopping part MUCH less frustrating.  Don't go shopping when you're hungry.  If you do, it will be REALLY hard to not fill your basket with food you don't need.  
  3. Think ahead about snacks: Keep good snack food on hand at all times...things like fresh fruits and veggies (already prepped to eat), yogurt, cheese sticks, granola bars, chips & salsa, hard boiled eggs, etc.  The easier you make these items, the more likely it is that you will eat them.
  4. Prep your produce before you put it away: This is the most important step for me and is my secret for making my fruits and veggies not only last longer, it also makes them as quick and convenient as pulling a box of crackers out of the cupboard.  If I don't prep my produce before it gets put away...there's a really good chance it will go bad before I ever get around to eating it.
    1. FRUIT:  Before you put away your fruit (berries, apples, grapes) soak it in a water/vinegar solution to clean it up and kill the bacteria that makes them rot and then repackage them so they're ready to eat.  I generally don't portion them out, but you certainly could.  Soaking them in the water/vinegar solution makes them last WAY longer.
    2. VEGGIES:  You can do this same thing (water/vinegar) with peppers, but DO NOT soak your lettuce in vinegar.  My process for getting lettuce prepped is to fill a bowl with water, cut the end off and soak the leaves for about 10 minutes.  This helps crisp them and also loosens any dirt that may be hiding on the leaves.  Rinse the leaves as you pull them out and put them in a strainer to dry out a bit.  Don't leave them too long or they will wilt again.  I store those leaves in a gallon sized baggie with some paper towels thrown in to soak up excess moisture.  My lettuce easily lasts 7-10 days if I use this method...(4, maybe 5 if I don't).  I clean and cut/peel/chunk things like celery, cauliflower and carrots before putting them away as well.
  5. Prep your meat: I know some people cook their meat for the week all at once, but I don't.  I do, however, make sure it's "ready" to cook.  That means, I package it into portions.  I break up the hamburger into 1 pound bags and put it in the freezer so it's ready to pull out the night before I want to use it.  I trim the fat and gross stuff off the chicken and package that into meal-sized portions to freeze as well.  This way the meat never goes bad sitting in the fridge and cuts my prep time when I'm actually getting ready to make a meal.
  6. Don't bite off more than you can chew: It's easy to get caught up in the desire to change your lifestyle by making a whole bunch of big chances and making them right now, but if you take on too much all at once, it will be too hard and you will burn out.  You do not have to search Pinterest for healthy recipes and make a whole list of meals that you've never tried before and aren't sure you'll like.  Start out slow.  Maybe the first week all you do is make a plan - even if that plan is full of meals that are less healthy than the ones you'd eventually like to eat.  The next week, you could add one or two new recipes or make an attempt to "healthy-up" some old faves by swapping sour cream with Greek yogurt or by adding LOTS of fresh fruits and veggies as side dishes.  Even if you leave PIZZA on the menu, make sure you serve it with a big lettuce salad and some cooked beans.  All those little changes will add up and you might even find yourself attempting homemade pizza with cauliflower crust in the very near future.  Be realistic and take baby steps.

These steps are the basics that set me up for a week of healthy meals and snacks that are "prepped" when I'm ready to cook.  Having the tedious steps (planning, cleaning and cutting) done makes it a lot easier to cook at home instead of resorting to fast food...because we all know that a greasy burger and fries after a long day of work and soccer practice is far more tempting than going home to the slimy, fatty bag of chicken that's waiting patiently in your fridge.  (Just keepin' it real)!  Set yourself up to succeed by planning and prepping ahead of time!


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