If I had to choose one area that’s the most important thing you can do for your health and wellbeing, it’d be learning to cook and meal prep for the week.
I know it may not sound like much fun. Maybe you’re thinking “errr, I don’t like to cook.”…
But here’s the thing, this is so much more than something you like to do or not (as if it were optional), an interest or a hobby (#firstworldproblems).
Cooking is a survival skill.
For me, meal prep for the week is that important and essential.
Over the years as I’ve coached so many different people who’ve wanted to take charge of their health for one reason or another, no matter their “what” or “why,” with every single one we end up in the kitchen learning these basic skills.
It’s why now I always say - the path to health is through the kitchen. There’s no way around it.
And it’s why I’ve created an entire stand alone digital program to teach people the easiest, most efficient way possible to cook and meal prep for the week. It’s called Dinner in 10 - you can check it here to learn more and even give it a test run with this FREE 3-Day Meal Plan.
The kind of cooking I’m talking about here may not be what you’re thinking of so hear me out a little more on this….
The way I cook is there’s no complicated Pinterest recipes. Just real food. Lots of veggies. And leftovers. Always leftovers.
Sounding a little better already, right?
You see, I believe that somewhere between The Food Network and #instafood we got tricked into thinking this whole plan-shop-prep-cook thing is a lot more complicated than it needs to be. And it’s made those three little words - “What’s for Dinner?” cringeworthy.
Then you combine that with every diet trend or headline you’ve ever heard about, and “healthy” feels like Mount Everest.
Can you relate?
Today I want to try to break it down for you a bit and give you some practical tips to make the whole meal prep for the week process a little less daunting and more manageable.
And I encourage you to try my FREE 3-Day Sample Meal Plan that will give you everything you need to get you started, including a shopping list, step-by-step instructions and recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner for three whole days (easy to make Paleo and Whole30 compliant too!).
If you like that, then definitely check out Dinner in 10, which I say is like getting into the habit of meal prepping every week with training wheels. It takes out all the thought and planning and gives you everything, telling you exactly what to buy, do, cook for four weeks of good, healthy eating.
For now, let’s get you started with those practical tips for shopping, prepping and cooking so you can start meal prepping for the week like a boss. I hope these inspire you to get in the kitchen this week and that they make it easier for you too.
Plan before you go.
Think about your week and what nights you’ll be home versus out. Check the weather - is it soup weather? Pick out a few simple (5-8 ingredients max) recipes, then make your list. And try to make it as inclusive as possible to minimize trips back to the store.
Visualize the store and organize your list.
As you make your list, put items in order as you’d come across them going through the store. If broccoli and spinach are right by the entrance, they should be at top, then whatever you’d come to next, and after that. You’ll save yourself time and frustration not having to dart around looking for everything.
Consider shelf life.
If you’re not sure what the week will bring, buy more items that have a longer shelf life or that either come or can easily be frozen (like bagged frozen veggies). Canned beans are good staple to keep on hand too. Then if necessary you have the makings of a quick easy meal - like a sweet potato (longer shelf life), black beans (from a can) and broccoli (frozen).
Shop then chop.
As soon as you get home from shopping, chop your veggies right away and store them in containers or plastic bags. With that part out of the way, the hard part is done and you can save so much time pre-dinner each night. Use your chopped veggies in salads, stir fries or whatever else you have planned to make for the week.
Prep for the week.
Set aside 30 minutes to an hour to make a few things that will get you ahead for the week. Maybe make a soup you’ll have for lunch a few days, or a whole grain, bean or a big salad. You’ll feel on top of the week and it’ll make it easier to make healthier choices too because the cooking’s done.
Take short cuts.
And buy some things already prepped. Yes, it can be more expensive but sometimes, especially those particularly crazy weeks the extra couple of bucks is worth it. Grab the pre-cut broccoli and pre-washed spinach if you know you won’t have time to do it yourself. And don’t forget the salad bar - that’s a great spot to load up on salad toppings you can easily throw on top of some greens for a quick, nutritious lunch.
Cook once, eat twice.
Or three times. Get through the week with half the work in the kitchen by always cooking more than you can eat. Double a recipe so you’ll have leftovers or just throwing a few extra sweet potatoes in the oven to bake. That small extra step can save you hours later in the week.
Look for meals you can cook in a single pan or pot. Use parchment paper to line baking sheets when you roast vegetables and pans of breads and brownies. Use pre-cut veggies or do the “shop, then chop” thing. And take advantage of leftovers so you’re not cleaning up after a whole dinner every night. Anything you can do to cut down on cleaning time will make the whole cooking process feel like less of a chore and something you’ll want to keep doing.
While you’re getting dinner ready is good time to prep anything else you may need to get done. You could wash and cut up fruit to have ready to go for snacks or make the next day’s lunch while you’re waiting for water to boil… so much better than checking Instagram. Put on some music, too.
Above all, the biggest tip I can give you is to remember why you’re doing all of this.
When you buy, prepare and cook your own food you’re doing the best thing possible for your health because you’re able to feed yourself, your family, the people you love the best foods for you and for them. It’s the most powerful thing you can do. And it’s worth every second and bit of work. Don’t ever forget it.
I know getting over that initial hump and just getting started is the hardest part. So make it easy on yourself and download my FREE 3-Day Meal Plan.
I hope these tips and 3-Day Meal Plan help get you off to a solid start this week. You can do this! Remember too, start small and add as you go. Before you know it you’re gonna be meal preppin’ like a boss!
P.S. If you haven't already, be sure to grab my FREE 3-Day Meal Plan - it gives you everything you need to get you started with meal prep for the week, including a shopping list, step-by-step instructions and recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner for three whole days (easy to make Paleo and Whole30 compliant too!).
Megan Adams Brown, CHC, helps people take charge of their health and to start listening to themselves over the latest diet trend to optimize their own wellness, happiness and potential. Her family-friendly meal plans help parents take charge in the kitchen, too. This leads to more vegetables, less junk, and happier, healthier kids and parents. Megan shares kid-approved, allergy-friendly recipes on her blog. To learn more click here.