Meal Prep 101
Written by: Coach Slater
“Abs are made in the kitchen.”
“Weight loss is 80% diet and 20% exercise.”
You’ve heard the cliches.
The reality is that if you want to perform better in the gym and look better outside of it, you need to improve your nutrition. Meal prepping is a cornerstone of anyone who’s successfully done so. But meal prepping sounds daunting to many people, so I’m going to try to make it easier for you to tackle.
If you’re new to meal prepping, I recommend starting off by cooking on two days of the week. Try Sunday & Wednesday. Doing everything on a Sunday can be burdensome and overly time-consuming for someone new to this process, and the last thing we want to do is associate any painful thoughts with meal prepping. We want our brains to associate pleasurable thoughts to meal prepping, so we’ll keep doing it, making it a habit. And, we’ll do so by keeping it simple, and sticking to recipes with few ingredients that are easy to cook.
How Much Time Am I Saving?
First off, know that investing three hours in meal prepping is saving you a ton of time the rest of the week.
15min in the morning x 5 days = 1.25 hours saved
30-45min x 5 days = ~2.5-to-4 hrs
30-45min x 5 days = ~2.5-to-4 hrs
Save all this time throughout the week and you can use it to enjoy the things in life that you love. Is one of those things Netflix? Cool, I ain’t judging. Check out “Gringo: The Dangerous Life of John McAfee”. It’s nuts.
Preparing to Meal Prep
Before hitting the grocery store, you need a plan in mind for your meals. I’ve already recommended keeping it simple with few ingredients, so just answer two questions: Who else will partake in the meals? And how many meals do you want to make?
Afterwards, your shopping list might include stuff like this:
Chicken breast, lean ground beef, ground turkey, flank steak, turkey breast, roast beef, salmon, tilapia, tuna, shrimp, pasture-raised eggs
Sweet potatoes, oats, quinoa, whole-grain pasta, brown rice, whole-grain tortillas, and whole-grain bread
Olive oil, almond butter, coconut oil, almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, organic peanut butter
Spinach, kale, arugula, green beans, mushrooms, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, peppers, carrots, tomatoes, zucchini, pineapple, apples, grapes, strawberries, bananas, blackberries
And don’t forget food containers… Tupperware or Pyrex. You need something to store these meals in. At a bare minimum, you want something that is BPA free, microwave safe, air-tight, leak free, freezer safe, and easily stackable. I started with plastic tupperware and have since graduated to all glass Pyrex. It’s worth the money considering how many meals I eat out of them.
The Actual Prep
Now that you’ve brought your delicious items home, you begin the actual meal prep. I typically start with the meats. If you want to marinate them, get that knocked out now. Maybe stick with one flavor for the whole week, and switch it up the following week. As for actually cooking the meats, you’ve got the option to bake, fry, or grill. Pick whatever is the most convenient for you. Here are some tips I’ve picked up from master meal preppers:
Grill – Make sure it’s hot enough before cooking so the meat 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. The water will help avoid excessive smoke when the oven gets to higher temperatures.
Fry – Make sure the oil is hot enough so a crispy shell can be formed around the meat. It will also save time.
Now, get the starches rolling: rice, sweet potatoes, pasta, or anything that needs to be boiled. Get the rice going while you work on the potatoes. Season to your liking, shove them in the oven once the meat is finished (or alongside the meat so you don’t waste any time). Or knock out the potatoes on the stove.
Then, move on to your veggies. Clean everything, cut it up now, even the stuff you don’t need to cook. I find it’s easier to snack on veggies & fruits during the week if everything is already cut and ready to eat immediately. That makes my decision-making easier, which is definitely the goal with meal prep. Don’t give yourself the opportunity to make a bad decision. Also, wait to store the veggies until they’re completely dry. They’ll get soggy if you put them in the fridge while they’re wet.
And, if you feel like cooking something fresh later in the week, you’ll already have the cutting process knocked out. By doing most of the planning and prepping on Sunday, your second day of prep (Wednesdays?) doesn’t take as long.
Lastly, knock out your fats and snacks. This is easy because you’re probably just have to portion your nuts/seeds into sandwich bags or tiny plastic containers, so they’re easy to grab-and-go.
Long Term Success
Successful meal prepping means keeping things manageable for yourself, so you’ll continue doing it in the long-term. If it becomes a pain point for you, it won’t work in the long run. So, we need the process to be easy, and the pleasure you get from doing so to be significant when you find your fridge full of your hard work.
Everything I’ve listed is planned and routined, but if you don’t do well on that, then leave room for spontaneity while still working to take out some of the necessary prep work. Just eliminating a few steps ahead of time makes the actual meal creation simpler during the week. Portion the meats and veggies if you want; you don’t have to pre-cook everything if that’s not your bag. But regardless, make the process of healthy eating easier and more consistent by automating some part of the meal prep.
Once you’re done with your meal prep, it’s time to reflect. What was your favorite part of the process? What was the hardest and needs to be reconfigured, shortened, or somehow retooled so it doesn’t risk sabotaging future efforts at meal prepping? Over time, meal prepping becomes natural because you realize how valuable the benefits are. You’ll pick up more advanced techniques and refine your strategy based off your experiences.
Good luck with your meal prepping journey. Don’t hesitate to shout at me, or any Derby City coach, if you have any questions!