One of the most overlooked parts of meal prep for the week is how you actually sit down and execute your plan. People ignore this when they set their intentions for the week because they feel confused and overwhelmed about how it can fit into their lives.
That’s why I am taking all the confusion out of how you take action! It’s much simpler than you might think.
Step 1: Have a plan.
Start with a meal planner. I have one of these stuck to my fridge that I bought from Wilko but here’s a simple one you can download. It’s not fancy – download this and print it off.
Step 2: Plan when you aren’t going to cook that week.
I find starting with known meals out, birthdays, or other celebrations is a good one. So if you know you have your anniversary meal on Tuesday night and you’ll be working late on Thursday, and will be ordering a takeaway to your office – put those things in first.
This can help you to keep these things in mind so that you don’t over eat that day, and can help you to look forward to those special events.
Step 3: Protein inventory.
Go into your kitchen, and figure out what you’ve already got by way of proteins.
Proteins usually come from animals and animal products but for vegetarians and vegans you’re looking at things like Quorn, tempeh and legumes.
Start with things in your fridge because they’re going to have a shorter date than the stuff in your freezer. The use by date is a massive stressor in my cooking life, and we’ll have to make sure these items are eaten first so we don’t waste food.
I had an awesome tip yesterday from my in person client, Clare: when you’re putting your shopping away, write the day it needs to be eaten by on the product in a sharpie. I think this is simple and so useful. Far easier to connect with than a date.
Step 4: What proteins do you need to buy?
Here’s a downloadable cheat sheet to help you figure out what else you like. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but one of the problems I have when I sit down to do this task is that I get a total mind blank on what foods I’ve ever eaten in my whole life and enjoyed.
Have a look at that – go through it with a highlighter, or a sharpie, and highlight the stuff you enjoy, or would be curious to try – or cross out anything that you know you don’t like, or are allergic to.
Step 5: The smart move! Reusing proteins.
Where can you cook raw ingredients and use them more than once? So if you know you’re cooking up 1kg of mince beef for pasta bolognese, after it’s cooked, take half of it and add kidney beans and spices to turn that into chilli for the next day. I am definitely a lazier cook than you so any time I can cook once and eat twice, I am up for that!
This take a little bit of thought and if it’s too challenging for where you’re at with your cooking right now, don’t worry about it. An easier alternative is just to cook loads of one thing, and portion it into Tupperware to freeze.
Step 6: Adding carbs and veg.
The cheat sheet from before includes carb and vegetable sources, but all we’re doing really is adding these in quantities which support our diet goals. And the great news is that you can’t get this wrong! Just pick whatever you enjoy eating.
Looking to lose weight – add more veg than carbs to keep calories lower.
Looking to gain weight – be a bit more generous with your carbs to increase your calories overall.
Carbs are things like potatoes, rice, pasta, cous cous (sounds pretentious but really it’s ridiculously easy to make so it’s good with me), quinoa, oats, noodles, wraps…
Vegetables – there’s no difference between fresh and frozen really so the choice is one of budget and convenience.
I particularly like frozen fruit – things like pineapple, mango and berries which can be really expensive bought fresh, prone to going off before you can use them, and often only in season for a short while. These are awesome in a smoothie.
Like re-using our ingredients in different meals (beef becomes bolognese and also chilli), think about repeating one meal a day or even cycling between 2 meals.
So for example, breakfast A could be eggs, and breakfast B could be a protein smoothie. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday could be A, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday could be B.
This can sometimes be prepared ahead of time but even if it isn’t, it takes away a lot of the thinking needed – which I find is the part of the process which gets tiring.
If you used the resources, I’d love to know about it! Please leave a comment to tell me if you found this useful.
Getting organised with food is probably the biggest barrier for most people, and there’s no one way to get this exactly right.
It’s a continuous process, and we’re all just doing out best not to eat like knobheads all of the time.