Meal prep has gotten a lot of attention on social media over the past couple of years. It’s a topic associated with “clean eating” and “eating healthy”. There are thousands of articles on meal prep and related “bulk” cooking (think how to make 10 freezer meals in an hour). My approach to meal prep has changed over the years. It has morphed from something that was overwhelming to something that works with our family’s day-to-day reality.
I started my food prep journey with freezer cooking. I was part of a freezer meal exchange group that left my freezer stocked each month with some delicious (some not), nutritious (some not), and convenient meals. But not having control over the meals being prepared left me feeling guilty that I was either throwing out leftovers or eating unhealthy meals because they were in the freezer.
Freezer cooking changed to bulk prepping entire meals for the week. This ended up being quite expensive and pretty wasteful. I’d either make too much or not enough depending on Neil’s unpredictable travel schedule. We’d often get sick of having the exact same meals multiple times per week. It just wasn’t working.
For the past year I’ve landed on a system that works. It’s not exciting or pretty. I don’t have fancy containers lined up in my fridge that I can pull out and reheat. Each night I have a little bit of work but I’ve actually grown to love having a bit of “work” each night because it allows for flexibility.
Here’s what I do each week (and, no, I haven’t made a mistake putting “making a plan” second. I always choose my proteins first based on what I have on hand or what’s on sale. Deciding on protein isn’t really part of the plan in our house. I think of planning as what I need to buy to “build my plate” around the protein.):
First, I pick two meat protein options for lunches and dinners. We typically choose beef/chicken, chicken/turkey, beef/turkey, pork/beef, cod/beef, shrimp/beef. I typically try to have one option that’s low fat and one that has a bit more fat to combine together each week. But honestly, the weekly selection really depends on what I have on hand or find on sale.
(Note: My deep freezer is always stocked with lean protein. We order 93/7 beef and chicken breasts from Zaycon. If you haven’t checked this company out, you should do it! They have fantastic prices and great quality products. Here’s a link to their site: Zaycon Fresh )
Once I have the meat chosen and thawed, I bulk cook it. I recently bought an air fryer that I love for meatballs and chicken breasts. Otherwise, we grill out our meat for the week. So, one day (typically Sunday) each week we cook ALL of our meat for the week (okay, actually Neil typically does it). Once it’s cooked and cooled, I put it in either ziplock bags or storage containers in the fridge (I told you it’s not fancy).
Next, I make a plan for “building my plate”. You’ll need to have an idea of what you’d like to eat each week. When you grocery shop, you’ll need to buy the things you’d like to build your plate around your main protein. I typically always have sweet potatoes, rice, frozen veggies, fresh veggies, and fruit on hand. Honestly, probably 90% of the time my plate has a main protein, something colorful, and a higher carb option (think rice/potato/fruit/chips). This is where your variety comes in!
When it comes to each meal, you can choose whatever you’d like to build your plate. You can go according to plan or switch things up if you’d rather build your plate around a different protein or surround your protein with different sides. It allows for freedom and flexibility, all while offering an easy and uncomplicated way to eat healthy at home. After all, the hard part (the main meal component) is ready and waiting for you! And if all else fails, there’s always eggs!
That’s it. It really is that simple. It might not be exciting but it works.
Thaw 3 lbs of 93/7 beef. Make 6 oz hamburgers and grill.
Thaw 4 chicken breasts. Grill or airfry.
Grocery list (Aldi & Sam’s):
Pre-sliced ham / turkey
8 bags/boxes of frozen veggies (if fresh look better, get those)
5-6 pouches of 90-second grains (or bulk cook enough rice/quinoa for the week)
1 pack flat bread wraps
4-pack of Greek yogurt (snacks)
1 bag of low-fat cheese sticks
1 package of goat cheese
1 loaf of whole grain bread (toast for breakfast)
2 dozen eggs
2 containers egg whites
2 containers egg beaters
3-4 medium sweet potatoes
4 containers raspberries
4 containers blackberries
4 containers blueberries
1 bunch of bananas
1 unsweetened Cashew Milk
1 gal. 2% milk
Pop chips (because I love the Asiago & Black Pepper)
1 jar peanut butter
1 jar sugar free strawberry jam
(Note: I’ve probably forgotten a few things that I typically buy. And, yes, I know this list isn’t all "clean" but it’s achievable for my family and it works for us. Also, I haven’t included the items that I buy the boys like applesauce packets or yogurt, bagels, goldfish, Colby cheese, pasta, sauce, jelly. But for the most part, we just have them eat a version of what we’re having for dinner. Some weeks I cook some pasta so they can have that as an option with little work on my part. And we typically have breast meat chicken nuggets in the freezer if I know they don't enjoy one of the proteins I've selected for the week.)
If you have questions, message me on FB, comment below, or email me at Rachel@truthnutritioncoaching.com.