Meal prep is kind of the buzz word of the fitness industry right now. Granted, not for no reason. Having nutritious food on hand is the number one key to reaching your health and fitness goals. There’s a reason that nutrition is the base of the CrossFit pyramid. However, it always sounds so great in theory, but how well does it work in practice?
If you’re anything like most people, you don’t want to be eating the exact same thing every day, but you also don’t want to spend a million hours in the kitchen cooking up 21 meals ahead of time (saying 3 per day…work with me here) while trying to find containers for all of it, and doing all the stupid dishes that pile up. Good news: you don’t have to. Think about what meals you always have time to eat at home and cross those off. For me, I always have dinner at the house, so there’s seven meals I don’t need to prep. On the weekends, I always have time to make all my food, so there’s six more. So generally speaking, I only need to make about eight meals for the entire week. That may sound like a lot, but watch how easy my meal prep is.
Step 1: Buy some containers
No one wants to use some half-warped, half-melted thin piece of plastic to carry food. Think about it. By the time you get to your job/work/destination any sort of liquid is spilled out, and you have a huge mess on your hands.
If you can, buy glass. Not only is glass less likely to get messed up in the dishwasher (read: it won’t) but it cleans better, and you can pop them straight into the microwave without melting your container. Plus, while more expensive, glass will last way longer and give you piece of mind. Make the one time investment. It’s still only roughly $50 one time.
Side note, Mason jars make amazing containers for everything from soup, to oatmeal, to almonds. I always have five on hand ready to be filled with almost anything I can imagine. Total lifesavers. Plus I look really hipster with them.
Step 2: Buy some protein powder
Trying to plan out every single breakfast and lunch (or dinner) on Sunday can seem like a lot. But it all get’s easier if you’ve got a good protein powder on hand. Forgot to make that day’s breakfast? No problem. Grab some protein powder in your shaker bottle and fill it with water whenever you want. Carry a banana, too, and you’ve got a healthy dose of clean protein and complex carbs. Left your lunch in the fridge? Same idea. Mix up protein and finish it off with some fruit and a handful of mixed nuts. Not the perfect, well rounded meal, but definitely will save you in a pinch.
I use protein powder whenever I’m in a rush, particularly after a morning workout. My current favorite is Natural Whey from Driven Nutrition which filters out all lactose, almost all fat, and uses only stevia as its sweetener. I also enjoy their Driven Whey which comes in some awesome flavors, like Caramel Latte.
Step 3: Plan your menu + go shopping
This step can feel a little intimidating. How are you supposed to know on Sunday what you’ll want to eat on Friday? Honestly, you can’t, so get over the need to always have “exciting food.” Here’s the formula: healthy carbohydrate base + lean protein + vegetables + spices.
This can be personalized and rearranged to make a ton of different meals. I typically like to roast or grill chicken breasts with a standard spice rub of pepper, salt, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. Gives each of them just a little heat, and then standard flavors that play with anything. Top with hot sauce, salsa, and some sliced avocado, and you’ve got a burrito bowl. Throw in soy sauce and sesame seeds, and it starts to be stir fry. The ideas are pretty much limitless. Just have fun with it.
Step 4: Cook and store all the food
I have gotten to the point where two hours on Sunday morning is all I need to get prepped for the week. Below I’ll share my sample week with you, but this step doesn’t need much explaining. Season and prep all your food. Cook it in whatever way you want. Put it into your containers, let it chill to room temp, and put it in the fridge. Devour throughout the week. Repeat.
- Shopping List:
- 2.5 pounds (40 ounces) humanely raised chicken breast
- Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower, Carrots, or some combination thereof
- 3.5 pounds sweet/white potatoes
- Freshly ground peanut/almond butter (Fresh Thyme is the GOAT here. Cheapest and freshest around)
- Fair Life Milk – 2% (if you don’t know what this is, read about it here)
- Mixed Nuts – Almonds, Cashews, Pecans, Macadamias, etc.
- Overnight Oats
- Combine 2/3 cup Oatmeal and 2/3 cup Fair Life with a dash of salt and cinnamon (both optional) + top with berries or bananas
- Protein Shake
- Carry your protein powder everywhere. Rounds out the world’s easiest breakfast.
- Overnight Oats
- 8 ounces of roasted/grilled chicken breast
- 10 ounces of roasted/baked sweet potato or white potato
- 2 servings of vegetables of choice
- 1 piece of fruit
- Different ways to amp this up:
- Sprinkle Old Bay on the potatoes and chicken to make an ode to the Mid Atlantic
- Put hot sauce on errythang and it’s almost Chipotle…
- A dash of soy sauce with fresh sliced chili peppers = fast stir fry
- Put soy sauce and peanut butter together for a Thai peanut sauce
- Different ways to amp this up:
I am admittedly good at just eating mostly the same stuff day in and day out. Even I get bored though, and it’s good to keep a few good recipes on hand. Mix it up. Make your co-workers jealous of what you eat and save yourself a boatload of time and money in the process.