5 Steps to meal prep like a pro by Coach Randi Levendusky
You’ve heard about this thing called meal prep. It will save you time and money AND help you reach your health and fitness goals.
It seems like a win-win, but the thought of going to the grocery store, filling your cart to the top with food for the week, then hauling all that food from your car to your house AND cooking it seems a bit daunting.
It’s alright, we’ve been there, and that’s how we figured out the five key steps to meal prepping like a pro in order to save time and money.
Step 1: Plan
Alright, this step is fun, it’s time to let your creative juices flow and decide what you would like to eat this week. Ideally, we are eating 3-4 meals per day with minimal snacks, but some of us need to eat a LOT of food to meet our goals, or we have crazy schedules and snacks help us stay on track.
When it comes to building meals, following the rule of three can be helpful:
Choose 3 proteins (chicken, bison, pork, egg whites, protein powder, greek yogurt)
Choose 3 quality whole food side dishes, these are higher carb foods (rice, potatoes, oatmeal)
Choose 3 vegetable choices (salad, frozen peas, roasted veggies)
Choose 3 snacks for post workout or to meet goals (cereal, veggie crisps, rice cakes, jerky), like I said before, snacks are not needed, but in some cases snacks help us hit our goals.
Take out a pen and paper and write down your meal plans.
Here is an example:
Breakfast: Oatmeal and a protein shake
Lunch: Chicken nuggets, pineapple, sweet potato and BBQ sauce
Dinner: Pork sirloin tip, jasmine rice with goat cheese gouda, baby spring mix, and balsamic vinegar dressing
Snacks: Chickpea veggie crisps, english muffin with honey & butter, apple cider, and liquid IV
Step 2: Track
Now it’s time to open up your food tracking app and fill in one days worth of food.
First, look at the meals you have planned for the week, and plug each one into your tracking app – don’t worry about macro targets just yet.
Once you have all your food items listed under the appropriate meals, go back and adjust the portion sizes in order to meet your macro targets. This is when following the rule of three comes in handy.
Are you over your carbs? That’s okay, just take away some of your rice or remove a snack to meet your carb goal.
Under protein? Add another ounce of chicken to your lunch.
BAM! Your day is set, and you’re on track to meet your goals for that day.
Cool, but what about the other 6 days of the week, do you have to re-enter every meal?
Most tracking apps have a feature that allows you to copy an entire day! So, if you don’t mind eating the same things, you’re able to copy your previous day and have your meals set and prepped for the entire week!
Even if you tracked everything ahead of time, it’s okay to make some tweaks and switch food around to avoid eating the same thing all the time. Maybe you decide to swap beef for bison. Simple remove you planned bison portion for one day and add in the appropriate amount of beef to meet your protein goal.
Step 3: Math
Time to do a little math to save time and money at the store.
You’ve decided what you are going to eat and how much you are going to eat for the next seven days, now it’s time to determine how much you have to buy.
how many times have you bought way too much produce and had to throw out an entire garden? This step is designed to prevent this.
Example, you plan on eating 4 ounces of ground beef everyday for the next 7 days. Math: 4 ounces of beef x 7 days = 28 ounces. This means you will need 1.75 pounds of ground beef to get through the week. Wait, I can’t buy exactly 1.75 pounds of beef! That’s fine, freeze the leftovers and thaw it next time you need to cook up ground beef.
Once you know how much you need MAKE A GROCERY LIST- we wouldn’t want to got to the store, get home, start cooking and realize we forget to buy our rice.
By doing the math ahead of time we can save time by eliminating trips back to the grocery store because we didn’t buy enough, and we save money by only buying the things we need without over buying.
Step 4: Shop
Time to spend money – wisely!
When it comes to grocery shopping there are three different methods: you can shop at multiple stores, one store, or online.
Multiple stores: Maybe you like to grocery shop at multiple stores. Let’s say you have a few favorite stores, you check to see which store has sales and you buy accordingly. Or you are a Costco lover and buy what you can in bulk, and then stop at a smaller grocery store to get the items Costco did not have. This method has the potential to save you money at the cost of some time.
One Store: This option is for the dedicated Sendik’s shoppers or the ‘one and dones’. You don’t care about which store has sales on what. You simply have your favorite grocery store, you know balsamic vinegar is in aisle five ,on the third shelf, three feet from the ground. One store, one mission: get the food and get out. In this case, you can save time, but not necessarily money.
Online Shop: This option is for those of us who don’t have the time to go to the grocery store, or just flat out hate going to the store. A quick Google search will give you an extensive list of online grocery shopping options. Online store: avoid the people, save time, and get what you need. This method can save you a LOT of time.
Step 5: Cook
Throw on an apron and channel your inner Martha Stewart, it’s time to cook up all the food you’ve bought for the week.
How you decide to cook everything is up to you. I recommend getting the easy things going first, throw your meat in the oven or instapot (big time saver), toss your steamable veggies in the microwave, and then start cutting up your fresh produce.
Once all the food is prepped, you have two options.
Fancy meal prep: Bust out your meal prep Tupperware containers and food scale. You are now going to open up your tracking app, and portion out all of your meals for the next seven days. This method is the most likely to keep you on track. All of your meals are pre-tracked, cooked, and packaged, all you need to do is grab them and eat ‘em.
Not so fancy meal prep: Once all your food is cooked, you are going to put each food into its own single bulk container. This means you will have to portion it out the food later when you eat it. In this case, everything is pre-tracked and cooked, just not portioned out. This allows for some flexibility, such as swapping out a protein source for a different protein. Just be careful you don’t get too flexible!
Hopefully these 5 steps to meal prep give you the confidence and tools you need to start meal prepping. While meal prepping can seem overwhelming at first, the benefits of saving time, money, and staying on track towards your goals are worth it!
If you have any questions on meal prepping or you have some more helpful tips, we would love to hear them!