No, not THAT kind of prepper. Although those folks can be fun too 😊 I am specifically referring to meal prepping, which has become an indispensable part of my weekly life. I began looking into it seriously in November of 2020 when I decided to explore calorie counting and portion control – a path that resulted in a healthy 15lb weight loss (I wrote all about it here). I have been posting photos of my meal preps every now and again and received so many questions that it made sense to lay it all out once and for all. This approach brought so much freedom and simplicity to my life that I can no longer imagine having it any other way. It has saved:
– time: it takes less time to make food all at once rather than start from scratch each day
– money: I eat out only when I intentionally choose to do so rather than having to grab food somewhere because I am tired and don’t want to cook
– environment: because I cook all my meals from scratch I use very few disposable containers or single use plastics, and I collect all my veggie scraps in a compost bin to give to my friend who feeds them to her chickens
– health: I end up eating healthy meals with pre-measured ingredients for proper portion control and caloric allocation, which stabilizes my blood sugar and gives me sustained energy
If you are interested in meal prepping, here are a few things to consider, based on the most common questions I have received:
1. You must have the discipline to set aside weekly time to grocery shop and meal prep. There is just no way around that. I go grocery shopping right after Sunday morning yoga (the schedule for our community yoga space is here) and then meal prep after. It is sacred time that I take to ensure a great week ahead. It means turning down invitations and things that randomly come up during that time on Sunday. But the sacrifice is worth it since this means that the rest of my week goes smoothly, and I have the time to do all the things I have planned.
2. You must be okay with eating the same breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for 5 days of the week. Some people make a face at a mere mention of leftovers. Some folks throw away food that has sat in the fridge for more than 3 days. I am here to tell you that it is perfectly edible 5 days later and you can use various sauces to create variety. When you are on a caloric restriction you get so hungry by mealtime that you scarf down just about anything. If you turn your nose up to leftovers, you’re just not hungry enough 😊
3. You will need to make some initial investment into quality containers. I recommend glass, and my favorite are these ELLO containers. I love that you can match lids by color and that the silicone sleeve protects the glass. I have two sets of these plus another set of 5 glass containers.
There are many approaches to meal prepping and many programs you can follow. Mine developed over time based on my quest to balance my hormones (more on this here). I was mind blown by the concept of cycle syncing foods developed by Alisa Vitti after years of research on women’s hormones and outlines in her book Woman Code. Alisa shares the full lists of foods that satisfy women’s nutritional needs during each phase of their cycle.
While the length of each phase varies, I simplify by treating each of them as a weeklong process. At the beginning, when I was just trying this out, I would buy as many ingredients from the weekly list of foods as I could and see what I could cook with those. After several months of doing this I have come up with staple dishes that I make each month, and I now make them so well the whole meal prep plus cleanup takes me 3 hours at most. Each week I incorporate as many of the foods from the list as I can. Having a 4-week rotation helps with getting enough variety, and my cycle has certainly become much more regular as I “coax” it into regularity with these cycle-synced meals. I stick to the meal prep Monday-Friday and finish off anything that is left over on the weekend, as well as treat myself to a few extra snacks and a meal out if I am hanging out with friends or having something social going on. Here is the weekly breakdown of what I make:
Breakfast: hardboiled egg, 1 link of Amish chicken sausage, half an avocado
Lunch: chicken breast, green lentils, roasted broccoli
Dinner: salad with chicken, lettuce, carrots, avocado, olives, parsley, pumpkin seeds, and olive oil/vinegar/lemon juice dressing
Breakfast: Egg and smoked salmon sandwich with sprouted bread and plant-based cream cheese (I like Tofutti) and cheese (Daiya provolone works well)
Lunch: red bell peppers stuffed with quinoa and lamb. I usually add any parsley and limes that are left over from week 1
Dinner: salad with spinach, tomato, chives, scallions, sunflower seeds, and either shrimp or tuna. Sometimes I add leftover kalamata olives and same dressing as week 1
Breakfast: hardboiled or fried egg with 1 link of turkey sausage and 1/3 cup roasted sweet potato
Lunch: beef and veggies with steamed collard greens and cauliflower mash or brown rice
Dinner: turkey pumpkin chili from Emily Dionne’s Paleo Slow Cooked cookbook, celery/cucmber and hummus for snacks
Breakfast: hardboiled or fried egg with 2 slices of bacon
Lunch: pork tenderloin with wild rice or buckwheat and mushrooms
Dinner: arugula and roasted beet salad with water chestnuts, pumpkin seeds, and feta, dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, and liquid aminos
And then I can play with which fruit and snacks I want to incorporate each week. This has been a game changer in my life, and I hope it inspires you to try too. Happy prepping!