See that picture above?
The perfectly lined up containers with uniform meals. A nice variety of meals, each one a more aesthetically pleasing than the last?
That’s what you see when you look up ‘meal prep’ on the internet, and it can be intimidating if you’re not much of a cook. That’s because these people have serious skills, and their meal preps are pretty to look at (and I can only assume are delicious as well).
That’s not what my meal preps look like.
Mine are less pretty. They’re also less varied. But they’re just as effective.
If you have cooking skills, and you love to cook, you have a huge advantage when it comes to meal prepping.
If you’re like me, rudimentary skills at best, don’t love to cook that much, and don’t have a lot of time for it, then this is for you.
Why Meal Prep
Meal prepping is always crucial, but it’s especially crucial when looking to burn fat (lose weight). .
There are a few reasons why prepping your meals can make or break your fat loss progress.
Time- You’re busy. I know this because everyone is. The thought that you’re going to cook a healthy meal for each of your meals is noble.
But you won’t. Because you don’t have time.
Batching tasks is a great way to be more productive and save time (seriously, try it with other things, like email and social media).
Batching your cooking into 1–2 batches each week saves you tons of time. This means it’s a lot more realistic for you to actually cook all your meals, stick to your plan, and get that lean body you’re after.
Convenience- When you’re hungry, tired and stressed, you’re going to opt for the easiest option.
That usually ends up being something like half a box of cereal (my personal food demon), the ice cream in the freezer (OK, that’s my personal food demon too), or that box of cookies you bought, telling yourself that you’ll only have 2 at a time (me again).
It’s not your fault, it’s the way we’re wired. When it comes down to it, we’re going to opt for the path of least resistance.
If you have a healthy tasty meal in the fridge ready to go, that becomes the path of least resistance.
Having meals ready to go allows you to set up your environment to win, and that’s the point most people miss. It all starts with your environment.
Money- You like money right? Meal prepping is cheaper than eating out in pretty much every case, saving you a ton of money. Now you can take that brand new, lean and strong body on a beach vacation, or buy that Pokemon Go Body Pillow you’ve been eyeing up.
So how do you do it?
Here’s a short video of me working my way through a meal prep.
Let’s walk through the steps.
- Shopping- It all starts at the store. If you don’t shop differently, you won’t eat differently.
One trick to make sure you’re buying the right food is to do as Eminem said about a decade ago.
"Go ‘round the outside, ‘round the outside."
The whole, quality food is found on the outside of the store, while the boxed and processed stuff is found down the isles.
We don’t spend much time in the isles, except to get hot sauce of course.
2. Keep it simple- Listen, if you’re like me and lack culinary skills, don’t attempt to be Gordon Ramsey right away.
Here are a few simple meal prep tricks that I default to on a weekly basis.
Crock Pot Chicken: throw 5–6 chicken breasts in the crock pot, add some beef or chicken broth, spice however you like, and cook for 6–10 hours (both settings work fine). Once it’s done, just shred it up with a couple forks and you now have lean protein you can add to any rice or veggie side.
Bonus: throw in some Franks Wing Sauce if you’re into awesome tasting chicken.
Oven Baked Chicken Breast: this is the same concept as the crock pot chicken only faster, and not shredded.
Just spice it up, throw it in the oven at 450 for 20 minutes and you’ve got juicy and lean chicken for days.
Pan Grilled Pork Chops: Place oil in large cast iron skillet (or heavy stainless steel skillet) and heat until medium hot. Place chops in the pan, placing them so they don’t touch each other.Cook each side slowly (lower heat if necessary) until nice and golden brown on each side. This will take about 4 minutes per side.
These ideas apply to anything you decide to cook for your meal prep. Whether you’re cooking meat, rice, potatoes or veggies. Keep it simple, and if you’re going to cook something, cook a lot of it.
If you aren’t sure how to cook rice, potatoes or veggies, a quick Google will solve that for you in just a few seconds. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve Googled how to cook almost everything I’ve ever cooked.
3. Storage- You could separate all your meals into individual containers like the photo above. I’ve done this, and still do it now and then, but more often than not I just keep my meat, rice, potatoes, veggies, etc in their own container and just build my meals as I need them.
This is a personal decision, and really doesn’t make a difference in the effectiveness of the food prep or the convenience later on.
4. Frequency- I’ve found a weekly food prep is tough to maintain throughout the entire week. The food goes bad after a few days, and you’re just plain sick of the meals you made by Thursday.
Instead, I’ve found one big meal prep on Sunday, and one mini prep on Thursday to be really effective. A mini prep could be simply throwing a big chunk of meat and veggies in the crock pot and walking away, or it could include getting a couple meals ready to go on the stove top.
Meal prep is an art, not a science, and you’ll need to experiment to find which meals, cooking methods and frequency works best for you. But like anything, the best way to learn is to try it and see what works and what doesn’t.
If you do decide to get a little fancy, Pinterest is a gold mine for healthy meal ideas.
Do you have a favorite go-to meal you like to prep each week? Comment below, I would love to hear about it.
Written by Mitch Heaslip