If you ask anyone who has been successful in achieving their fitness goals, they’ll tell you that nutrition is the number one factor in their success.
The old adage “you can’t out train a bad diet” is most certainly true.
But how can you make sure you have the right food in the right amounts on hand at all times to meet your goals?
Meal prep is the answer!
Here we outline several strategies for meal prepping to fit everyone’s budget and lifestyle.
For the person on the go
If you are working long days, constantly on the road, and can’t carve out several hours a week to prep your meals, the easiest solution for you is ordering from a meal prep company.
Gone are the days of the bland, sodium laden “healthy choices” meals. There are many options out there for ordering meals on a weekly or monthly basis. Be sure to research where the company sources their food from to ensure you are consuming quality nutrition. Look for grass-fed beef, antibiotic free and free range poultry, and wild caught seafood.
Most companies also have nutritionists that can help you determine what meal choices will be right for your goals. Keep in mind that you can always order in bulk and freeze meals if you travel a lot and can’t get weekly deliveries. Stocking up during sales is also a great idea and can save you a big chunk of change in the long run.
For the person with more time
If you do have a few hours each week to prep food you can either prep all your food in one day or you can prep a couple of times during the week. This all depends on what your schedule allows, but most people prefer to prep all in one day.
You can also prep for several weeks at a time and freeze meals. The key to success with this strategy is to have a plan. Set the oven, prep all of your protein and veggies on baking sheets, drizzle with olive and oil and seasoning, and then put them all in and let ‘em cook. Or fire up the grill and save yourself the hassle of cleaning up dirty dishes afterward!
Meanwhile, prepare any stovetop items, like boiled eggs or rice. Another easy way to cut time is to use microwaveable steam bags for your veggies and potatoes. Remember it doesn’t have to be complex, sometimes the simpler the preparation, the better the food tastes!
Buy takeout containers from the internet and, using a food scale, portion all of your food out in each container. Stock the fridge and then grabbing your meals each day as you head out the door is as easy as 1-2-3!
For the person on a budget
As a former full time undergraduate and then graduate student, I can certainly tell you a thing or two about staying on budget! First of all, meat can be very costly. It’s always a good idea to stock up and freeze meats when they go on sale.
Additionally, consider other cuts of meat to save dollars; chicken thighs and flank steak are always less than their fancier counterparts, pack just as much nutrition, and are usually tastier! Buying produce at a local farmer’s market can also help you cut costs, and using cash to make your purchases ensures that stay within your budget.
Know what items you really should buy organic and what you can get away with buying non-organic. Fruits and vegetables with thin or no skin like potatoes, berries, and stone fruits should undoubtedly be organic. Those with thick skins such as bananas and oranges you don’t need to worry about as much.
Cutting coupons can be tedious, but when you rack up those savings at the cash register you’ll be happy you took the time to do it! Remember that oats, rice, and eggs are always low cost and should be a nutritional staple in your pantry. And don’t be afraid to try store or generic brand, the quality is usually the same and sometimes even better if it’s local!
For the person who preps for the family
Meal prep can be challenging when you’re cooking just for one, but what happens when you have to cook for two, three, or even four? It may seem overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be a stress-inducing task each week.
Using the same principles as the person with more time, prepping for the family can be accomplished by keeping it simple and planning ahead. Instead of buying small containers and packaging meals in single portions, pack large portions in larger containers so that your loved ones can grab and go as they need during the week.
This is helpful when you have finicky eaters in the house, giving them multiple options allows them feel a sense of empowerment to choose their own food, all the while they are always making clean, healthy food choices. Dinner is always a snap when it’s been prepared in advance.
Prepping all of your meals means that dinner simply needs to be heated and your family will have a nutritious meal in front of them in a matter of minutes!
Other meal prep tips
In addition to prepping full meals, always make sure you have snacks and meal replacements on hand that you can keep in your bag for those times you don’t have access to a refrigerator or the means to carry meals with you. Packages of oats, almonds, dried fruits, protein powder, and protein bars are all portable options.
These also come in handy when you’re traveling. Be cautious and read labels, some “protein bars” are nothing more than candy bars with protein added. Be sure to look for a line of protein bars and ready to drink proteins that pack large amounts of whey protein without the added sugars and carbs.
No matter what your goals or what your lifestyle is, you can certainly find a food prep plan that works for you.
Don’t let the unexpected catch you off guard, use these methods to make sure you are always prepped to stay on track!
Image credit: Preet Mandavia