Tips to Make Meal Prepping Easy!

Written by Niamh McWalter

‘Fail to prepare, prepare to fail’ is solid advice for many aspects of your fitness journey, but particularly when it comes to your diet and nutrition. We have all set off on a Monday morning with great intentions to “be good” this week, but come Wednesday, you’re home late, you have no food in the house, and suddenly a DoorDash driver is knocking on your front door. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the occasional takeaway, but do it a bit too often and it may really impact your fitness goals.

Three meal containers with beans and fresh vegetables

There’s an easy solution: meal prepping

Unfortunately, even those words can make us think about bodybuilders dragging around plain chicken and broccoli in old lunch-boxes. In this blog post, we’re going to dispel the myths around meal prep, look at why meal prep is for you, and how it’ll help your fitness journey (and maybe even the health of your family!).

Why meal prep?

  • Waste less time shopping and cooking. 

Two full grocery bags with apples, bananas, bagels and cabbage on top

There’s absolutely nothing more time-consuming than mindlessly wandering around your local grocery shop. Of course, you can always make a list (and this is encouraged!) but if you haven’t thought about your meals ahead of time, nine times out of ten you’ll realise by Wednesday that you’re missing a vital ingredient for your dinner… *opens the DoorDash app*. With meal prep, you know what your meals are for every day, you have a proper list with everything you need, and you can zoom around the shop knowing exactly what you need

Meal prep will also save time cooking. You can cook meals simultaneously (i.e. a lasagne in the oven with a curry on the stove), you can bulk chop all your veg in one go (or buy pre-cut: there’s no judgment here!), and having a plan will always save time over winging it. I try to get most of my meal prep done on a Sunday – usually in two hours or less, with no reason to stop by a shop on the way home.

  • Save money

Takeaways aren’t just less than ideal for your fitness goals – they’re also less than ideal for your bank account! Generally, a main for one person will cost more than 6 portions, and most recipes are easily replicated at home.  Getting ahead with your meal prep will help you budget for the week without worrying about a random midweek takeaway expense. 

Meal prep will also save you money while grocery shopping, stopping you from buying extra items you don’t need which will go to waste (p.s. It’s also better for the environment!). Let’s be honest, we have all gone into the shop to pick up rice and ended up with a $50 bill. It makes good sense that the less time you spend in a shop, the less money you’ll end up spending. 

  • Better for your health…and your family’s, too!

There is a reason why takeaways and restaurant food are so good – they generally use more oil, butter and salt than we do at home! Don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer that there are no good or bad foods and food is made to be enjoyed, but consuming high-fat, high-calorie meals with little to no veggies included is probably not the best for our overall well-being. Meal prepping gives you full control of you and your family’s diets, including fats used, the amount of vegetables, and portion sizes. 

This is particularly useful if you are currently pursuing fat-loss or muscle gain. Being able to control variables like protein, overall calories, fibre and salt content is so useful when trying to accurately monitor your food intake. The more you “guesstimate,” the less accurate your tracked calorie intake will be. This may lead to frustration and disappointment when stepping on the scales. 

The salt content in restaurant food may also leave you feeling bloated and lethargic, and less likely to get your training in, having more knock-on effects to your overall health. Eat out as a treat, pre-planned: don’t use it as a crutch because you haven’t planned ahead ;). 

Top tips for meal prepping

Person Holding Blue Ballpoint Pen Writing in NotebookBefore you shop

  1. Set aside time in your diary for your grocery shop and your cooking time. Make sure you have enough time, and try to do it on the same day to ensure freshness!
  2. Plan your meals before your shop: breakfast, lunch, dinner. Consider how many portions you need, and whether they need to be transported for on-the-go.
  3. Make a concise shopping list based on all the ingredients you need – or even get your shopping delivered through an online service!
  4. Make sure you have good quality lunch boxes that can also go in the freezer. This might be a bit of an investment initially but remember – this will save you money in the long run (no-one likes ruining their new handbag with spag bol!)
Peppers, tomatoes, broccoli on a chopping board

The cooking

  1. When you start to prep, prepare all your veg in one go or buy pre-chopped veg.
  2. Prepare your evening meals first – these generally take the longest to cook, so you can prepare your lunches and breakfasts as they are simmering away. 
  3. Decide if you will cook your carb source during prep or when you reheat your meals – chips don’t taste as nice when reheated!
Prepared meals, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, strawberries, peppers, lemons and limes in a refrigerator

Portioning and storing your prepped meals

  1. If you’re cooking for yourself, simply take note of the quantities and divide by the number of portions – no need to weigh it out!
  2. If you are cooking for a family, get the total weight of the meal when cooked and weigh each portion. Express the weight of each portion as a fraction/percentage of the total meal weight. Divide the nutritional information of your bulk ingredients by those percentages to find out how much protein and how many calories are in each portion. Make sure you label which is which!
  3. Store Monday-Wednesday in the fridge, and throw Thursday-Saturday in the freezer. Don’t forget to take it out the night before!

The only thing left to decide now is, what are you going to cook?