Whether you've never meal prepped before or maybe you've tried it once or twice and it was a nightmare - don't worry, we're here for ya. Here's what you need to know: the basis of any successful meal prep can be broken down in 3 simple steps leading to a few different types of meal preps. Follow them and you'll end up with a quick and efficient way to prepare your meals for the week ahead so that you can be at the top of your game and reach your goals that much faster!
Step 1: Make a menu
Time to play chef - what's on the menu this week?
Planning your meals is step one. It's not only about creating the menu but also leads into the shopping list while thinking about your macro targets. Here's why it's best to start this whole process by creating a weekly menu of all your meals (or at least the majority):
This last one is especially important (assuming you are in fact counting macros). Your menu is based off what you're eating and what you're eating is based off your macros and your macros are based off your goals. So it makes sense that it's a pivotal tool in planning your meals before you actually prep them. We've found this is the best way to ensure you stick to your diet and your macro count the most consistently. If you're not sure how to calculate your macros, be sure to download our free macro blueprint to get started.
Example: Jen is on a fat loss diet. She works out first thing in the morning. This means she eats the majority of her carbs right after her workout and fewer carbs in the evenings. She therefore plans her breakfast (meal #2) to include more carbs (i.e. 35g carbs = 2 pieces of toast) than meal #3 (i.e. 25g carbs = 1/2 cup rice and 1 cup of fruit) and meal #4 (i.e. 20 g carbs = bowl of oatmeal).
PRO TIP: To get better at planning ahead, try putting all the food you think you will be eating tomorrow in a calorie-tracking app. From there, adjust portion sizes until everything fits your nutrient goals just right. That way you will know exactly what and how much to put into each of your prepped meals.
Step 2: Make a grocery list
Creating a list and sticking to it ensures efficient shopping. And think of this way: the less time you spend in the grocery store during the week means less opportunity for temptation to give in to the chip or cookie aisle. That's why making a list and getting your groceries just once or twice can be more beneficial than stopping everyday.
Here are some of our grocery shopping tips:
PRO TIP: Fresh versus frozen? It doesn't matter. The majority of the macronutrients are the same whether you're buying fresh or frozen meat, fruits or vegetables, so it won't be something that makes or breaks your diet. Also, sometimes frozen items are significantly cheaper and eating healthy doesn't have to break the bank.
Step 3: Get cooking!
This can seem like an overwhelming process - there's so much to do and you don't want it take 5 hours. Here are some tips for once you get into the kitchen:
Lastly, depending on how you want to prepare your food (buffet style vs pre-portioned which we'll discuss below), you can whip out the scale and start portioning. Weighing your food is essential to ensure you're not accidentally eating too many calories and to ensure you're getting the right macros. While eye-balling is fine for certain things like vegetables and fruit, nutrition labels can be extremely misleading when they tell you their serving size. Don't believe me? Next time you have a bag of tortilla shells, pull them all out and notice their difference in size. Yet the nutrition label says 1 tortilla (approximately so-many-grams) equals so many calories and so many macronutrients. These underestimations are can what lead to you not hitting your goals even when the rest of your meal prep is perfect.
PRO TIP: Don't forget about the crock pot! A crock pot is great for cooking beef or chicken, or large meals all at once. You can also just turn it on and move on to something else.
Buffet style vs Pre-portioned
We understand not everyone has 3-5 hours to spend in the kitchen on a Sunday night. So here are two different ways you can prepare your meals based on the amount of time you have.
And here's yet another option...
We can call it the "cooking dinner for 4 even though there's only 1 of you". This is basically if you don't have time on the weekend or evening to dedicate entirely to meal prep, a good way to go is to simply cook your dinner, but way more than you need to, and doggy-bag the leftovers for your meals the following day. The downside to this is that you could be eating the same thing for a solid 24 or 48 hours. But if that doesn't bother you, it's a great option for the busy-bees out there!
Some final words of wisdom
Just so you know, your first meal prep will most likely take forever. You'll be in the kitchen for upwards of 3 hours second guessing your macronutrient to weight ratios and weighing and re-weighing and packaging and re-packaging all your meals. At the end you'll be exhausted and can't fathom the thought that you have to do this every week. But don't worry: it only gets easier. Week after week, you get a little faster, more efficient and you find out what works for you. So trust us, trust the process and know that it's worth it!
Remember, if you have any questions feel free to email us. Or better yet, get started with any of our custom programs which come with a free meal plan so you can stick step #1 completely. Or if you need that extra bit of accountability, you may benefit from one-on-one coaching where weekly check-ins can help keep you on track.
Be sure to share, like and comment and tag us (#beamfitness) on your next meal prep!