Meal prepping seems to be this concept that people make really hard for themselves. It sounds overwhelming as well as a time commitment to take a few hours out of your Sunday to make these elaborate recipes for every meal for the week. However, the reasoning behind meal prepping is to actually make your life simpler and easier to eat a healthy meal. Preparing food ahead of time is a great way to maintain a healthy lifestyle and makes it less convenient to eat out.
According to a recent study on Americans, U.S. residents spend the least time cooking and the fastest time eating (1). This accounts for the high obesity rate in the country and high rate of fast food eaten here as well. An example of a country that savors their food is Italy. Marco Bolasco, the editorial director of Slow Food and an Italian food expert says, “Eating fast is not at all part of our culture. Our meals are relaxed, even during lunch break” (2). Think of all the time you will be saving if you already have some cook or chopped food that is ready for a delicious meal that you can enjoy relaxed! Spending time to cook meals and “meal prep” may seem like a huge time waster, but it can actually be done fast and easy and adds to less stress in your life.
Here are 3 tips to simplify your meal prep:
1) Take Inventory of What You Already Have
Nothing is worse than having to spend more money than you need to on groceries just so you can have the perfect recipes for meals this week. Instead, check out what food you already have in the back of your pantry and fridge, and see what inspiration comes from there. You may realize you have more ingredients than you thought! Have some almost-wilted vegetables and a few eggs? Make a frittata for breakfasts throughout the week! Have some old cans of beans and a bag or rice you haven’t used? Perfect ingredients for some healthy burrito bowls! You get the idea.
2) Just Cook and Prep the Ingredients Instead of Meals
We have all seen those pictures on social media of the perfectly filled and portioned out food in Tupperware in very organized rows that seems to take hours to do. Ain’t nobody has time for that! Instead of making the perfect same meals that you have to eat everyday of the week, just prep the ingredients needed for a different variety of meals. For example, make a big batch of roasted sweet potatoes and a big bowl of quinoa at the beginning of the week that you can add to salads, tacos, soup, or stir-fry throughout the week. This saves on cooking time when making meals as well as are convenient to have healthy ingredients prepped on hand.
3) Start Small
Life happens. No one wants to miss out on their friend or family member’s birthday dinner because they already have a meal “prepped” for them at home that they feel like they “have” to eat. You don’t have to plan out all 7 days of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners in advance and “stick to the plan”. That is no way to live! Prepping just 3 days of meals or even just 3-4 lunches to eat throughout the week is realistic and sustainable for eating healthy. Or just having the healthy ingredients or snacks prepped in advance is great for when cravings hit and you are not left empty-handed. Some tasty snack options to have in you fridge could include hard boiled eggs, washed and chopped fruits and vegetables, hummus and crackers, homemade trail mix, yogurts with chia seeds, and any other snacks you enjoy! Follow Italy and enjoy your food!
- Society at a Glance 2011 (Summary in Italian). Society at a Glance Society at a Glance 2011. December 2011. doi:10.1787/soc_glance-2011-sum-it.
- What Americans can learn from other food cultures. ideas.ted.com. https://ideas.ted.com/what-americans-can-learn-from-other-food-cultures/. Published January 4, 2016. Accessed October 5, 2018.