I’m going to warn you right now, you’re going to want to click print and have these steps at your fingertips…because #life happens and you might find yourself falling back into old habits by the middle of the week!
Meal prepping is all about you.
It depends on how much time you have to dedicate to prepping and how complicated you want to get. Are you looking to make exquisite four-course meals every night? Or do you want to keep it simple yet tasty? If you are a beginner to meal prepping, I highly suggest keeping it simple by sticking to recipes with few ingredients while using efficient cooking techniques.
You might think this is a silly topic to waste time on, but think about it… You go to work all day, stressed by your boss, coworkers, kids, significant other, pets, etc. and you get home after spending the last 30 minutes in rush hour traffic and your will power is spent. I don’t blame you if you ordered a pizza and plopped on the couch rather than cook up an elegant meal, I’m exhausted just typing out this theoretical scenario!
You can, however, prevent relapses with your diet by having your decisions mapped out so you can focus on execution. Let’s face it, blueprints such as meal guides are great. What really matters is the execution of the blueprint with consistency. If there’s no system in place, you’re much more likely to become overwhelmed by the whole process, and that is exactly what we are trying to avoid.
By prepping in advance, you have more time to do other things. You’ll save 6+ hrs throughout the week that you can use to be more present and enjoy the things you love. Think about it, if you usually take about 20 minutes to prepare lunch and roughly 30 minutes to prepare dinner, that’s a total of 6 hours right there that could be used for something else!
As a final note before we begin, I highly recommend you split up the meal prepping between Sunday and Wednesday. You could definitely meal prep on a Sunday for the entire week if you really wanted. But, from personal experience, I wouldn’t recommend it. At least not in the very beginning.
Certain foods may go bad or get soggy. It will take up a lot of time. Again, it depends on the complexity and number of meals you decide to prep…just keep this mind.
1. Keep It Simple
There is a really good chance you’re not a gourmet chef (I know I’m not!), so when you’re learning to turn your calculated macros into meals – don’t overcomplicate it! Stick with simple recipes from your favorite foods and eat those frequently until you get the hang of it and are more comfortable adding ingredients.
Now is not the time to scour Pinterest looking for super yummy food ideas.
Trying to make complex meals from your macros will only cause you to become frustrated and overwhelmed – totally unnecessary when you’re just getting started! Stick to the basics, and you will be a pro in no time.
For example, if you need to create a meal with 18 g of protein, 30 g of carbs, and 12 g of fat, stick to simple, whole food choicesmacronutrientch macro nutrient. For protein, roll up a couple oven roasted turkey slices. For the carbs, eat a medium banana or apple. For the fat, eat a spoonful of almond butter. There you have it, done!
2. Create the Mother of all Grocery Lists
The amount of prep depends on how much time you have to dedicate and how detailed you want to get. Do you want to make exquisite cuisines or keep it simple yet tasty? Remember I recommend keeping is simple yet tasty…
Next is who are you making this for? Everything I’ve listed below can be scaled up if you’re cooking for a significant other or the rest of your family as well.
How many meals do you want to make? Write this number down categorized by Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Snacks.
Your ingredients are important.
Write down a shopping list for all the items you will need. Take it a step further by mapping out what meals you actually want to make. Remember, this doesn’t have to be complicated. Pick meals that are manageable for you. I try to use meals that I can have for dinner one night, but left-overs for lunch. This is a huge time saver for me.
BUT remember, the purpose of this guide is to make meals that fit your macros! So you will need to use My Fitness Pal App to create a meal that you will a) enjoy and, will b) fit your macros. Fpr example if I want eggs, oatmeal and berries for breakfast, I will need to enter in the appropriate amount of eggs, oatmeal, milk and berries into the app until I have attained the correct amount of macros I need for breakfast. Once I figure out a handful of items I love to eat and they fit my macros, I’ll stick with them until I can no longer stand the thought of eating another meal with those items. I don’t recommend that you go to that extreme, but keep it simple.
Keep it manageable.
A lot of people find it is easier to write out their entire week’s worth of meals on Sunday, so they can track it ahead of time instead of trying to track meal by meal – in fact, that’s exactly what I do!
If you are just starting out, I recommend trying to plan at least a day in advance. So, before you go to bed tonight, go ahead and log tomorrow’s food in your macro tracking app (I recommend My Fitness Pal) and pack those exact meals for the day.
Doing this will also give you plenty of practice with creating meals within your food log app. There, you can easily add or remove amounts of your proteins, carbs and fats to balance your meals out to match your macros. If you’re crazy like me – you may even enjoy it! 🙂
Here are some examples for your grocery list:
Chicken breast, ground beef, ground turkey, flank steak, turkey breast, roast beef, salmon, tilapia, tuna,, shrimp, eggs, egg whites
Sweet potato, oats, quinoa, pasta, brown rice, whole-grain tortillas, and bread
Spinach, kale, arugula, green beans, mushrooms, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, red peppers, orange peppers, yellow peppers, carrots, tomatoes, zucchini, pineapple, apples, grapes, strawberries, bananas
Almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, peanut butter, almond butter, olive oil and coconut oil
Last but not least: Tupperware.
You will need lots of these. The first time I meal prepped, I looked like a crazy person with all the different shapes and sizes of tupperware containers I was using. My fridge felt more crowded than it needed to be and certainly didn’t resemble the fridges of expert meal preppers. Find something that is BPA free, microwave safe, air-tight, leak free, freezer safe, and easily stackable so your fridge doesn’t look like it’s about to throw up.
There’s so many options out there, but just buy a value pack of all the same brand of Tupperware for simplicity.
Go shopping! But only on the perimeters of the grocery store. By now, your ingredient list is good to go, and you have a sense of what you might want to make for the week. Join the Beartooth Performance Facebook Page: Get support and ideas from other BP clients and share your successes and ask for advice.
3. Prep Time
Now it’s time to execute. The key is not to feel rushed. Put on some music, turn on the football game, or listen to a podcast about CrossFit (I highly recommend Barbell Shrugged…love those guys).
Take your macros (proteins, carbohydrates, and fats) and break them down into Meats, Starches, Veggies/Fruits, and Fats (refer to the above list I gave you).
Let’s say you’re making a bunch of chicken breast for the week. You can marinate these in a few different ways so you’re getting some different flavors. I personally can stick with one flavor for the whole week, and maybe switch it up the next week. If you find yourself getting bored of the flavor, you might want to use a few different seasonings.
You have a few options as to how you want to cook your meat. Bake, fry, or grill. My personal favorite is to use the grill as often as I can. I enjoy the caramelized taste better, and can get a lot more cooked at once with minimal clean up. Baking or roasting in the oven is my next go-to. Frying or cooking on the stove is my last preference. There are pros and cons to all three options. It just comes down to convenience & preference. Here are some tips to keep in mind for cooking the meat:
Grill – Make sure it is hot enough before cooking so it doesn’t take longer to cook, which leads to your meat being exposed to smoke longer.
Bake – Add a little water to the bottom of the pan before roasting. It will help avoid excessive smoke when it gets to higher temperatures.
Fry – Make sure the oil is hot enough so a crispy shell can be formed around the meat rather than soak up an excessive amount. It will also save time.
Let’s get the starches rolling. Rice, sweet potatoes, pasta, or anything that needs to be boiled is going to be setup now. I can get the rice boiling and set my timer so I can now work on sweet potatoes. Chop & season to your liking, and place on a baking tray. Once all the meat is done, there’s no time being wasted, and you can pop it right in.
Also, use a rice cooker for your bulk rice and oven or crockpot for bulk potatoes and sweet potatoes.
Fruit and Veggie Prep:
Clean everything thoroughly, cut them to your liking, and season them if you’d like. You can either cook them in the oven, fry them on the stove, or just keep them raw. Same goes with fruit, clean and cut and store in the fridge.
I usually rely on a bag of frozen mixed berries for my morning oatmeal and other fruits in their whole form as snacks throughout the day (i.e. banana, apple, and oranges). Meal prepping an apple then becomes easy as setting it out to pack for the next day – you don’t need to cut it into perfect wedges…nobody cares (unless of course you do, then cut the apple into perfect wedges…)!
Regardless of how you like to eat them, I’d recommend cutting all your veggies up for the whole week. It’s something easy that you can do while waiting for everything to cook, and requires no effort when snacking on them throughout the week.
I also keep large bags of broccoli, asparagus and green beans in the fridge and microwave a serving for each of my meals. I like my veggies just steamed slightly (still crunchy) so a quick 30-60 seconds in the microwave is perfect and quick. Buying those veggie steamers in the freezer section might be the easiest, no-excuse way to add vegetables into ANY meal.
Cooking some stir fry? Throw in another bag of frozen veggies. Making a casserole? Throw in a bag of frozen veggies. They take up the flavor of your dish and add so much extra fiber and “free” calorie bulk to your meals. It’s insane not to take advantage of all the extra vitamins and nutrients.
When portioning and storing the vegetables, wait until they are completely dry before you put them away. Otherwise they will get soggy if you put them away while they are wet. No one likes soggy vegetables. Depending on the vegetable of your choice, something that contains a lot of water will not last as long.
Fat and Snack Prep:
Next up is your fats and snacks. Keep nuts, nut butters, olive and coconut oil and avocados in stock to add quick and easy fats to your meals. This is easy for the most part because you will mainly just have to portion all the nuts & seeds in sandwich bags so they are easy to grab and go. If you eat any type of protein bars, you can also portion them out here.
It is so easy to get home from a busy day and eat junk food if you don’t have something readily available. With these bulk cooking tips, it is much easier make a wholesome, balanced meal quickly to stay on track with your goals!
When Wednesday approaches, you may need to cook more meat, but everything is already portioned out, so it’s not a headache. If you didn’t on
Sunday, you can chop up your veggies while your rice or starches are boiling. Follow the same process as Sunday.
4. Don’t Give Up Your Favorite Meals
Meal prep is all about keeping it manageable for yourself. Everything I listed above is just a suggestion from personal experience. Feel free to customize this however you’d like to make it suitable for your needs.
If this becomes a pain point for you, it won’t work in the long run. Turn it into a refreshing experience for yourself. The pleasure comes from you looking in the fridge after all your hard work and seeing it fully stocked. It’s a work of art, so pat yourself on the back. This is a personal thing, but I like to take a second and be grateful that I have such an abundance of food in the first place. It’s easy to forget that not everyone has the privilege to afford healthy meals, let alone stock up for days in advance.
Everything we did above was planned and routined.
Leave room for spontaneity and treats throughout the week. Maybe have certain items in mind to spice things up when you are in the mood. I do not like the term “cheat meal” as it leads to the idea that some foods are “good” and some foods are “bad.” It also can lead to disordered eating. But if you stay within your macros, you get to eat the foods you love every day and never have to plan a “cheat meal” – that’s the whole point!
Food is food. Macros are food – proteins, carbohydrates and fats. When you learn to think of food this way, you will see how you can make your favorite foods fit into your macros. You no longer have to deprive yourself of the things you love or feel guilty when you eat them. If you plan ahead, there’s a really good chance you will be able to devour that burger! It creates a healthy, automated mindset around food and keeps you from getting obsessive and disordered.
Once you are all done, it’s time to reflect.
What was your favorite part of the process? What was the biggest challenge on your mind? How can you make it even easier next time? You can use these reflections to tweak your future meal preps as necessary. Over time, it becomes natural because you realize how valuable the benefits are. We’re keeping it simple, but as you get advanced you can refine your strategy based off your experience and observations.
I wish you the best with your meal prepping journey. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions. Feel free to share this with anyone who might benefit from this system!
Most importantly, be patient with yourself – you will get better and more comfortable and it is SO worth it!