How to Meal Prep Effectively

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Hi, y’all! Welcome back. 🙂 I hope you had a wonderful Valentine’s Day filled with lots of love! And chocolate.♄ Now chocolate is true love, right?! Last week, we talked about how to meal plan effectively and today, we’re taking the next step! What do you do once you have all of that food?? Well, you meal prep, of course! Preparing your food a few days in advance may seem like a huge chore, but once you get the hang of how to meal prep, it will become second nature.

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How to Meal Prep Effectively

If you are new to meal planning and prepping, or have not read last week’s post on How to Meal Plan Effectively, click here to get caught up!

1 // Develop a Plan

Just like your first step of meal planning is to make sure you’re organized, meal prep is much the same. You cannot walk into the kitchen without a plan and expect things to go efficiently and effectively! I used to spend probably four hours every Sunday making one meal at a time. At a certain point, that didn’t work for me anymore. I have less time and more responsibility than I used to, so I had to come up with a different method. Now I can be in and out in 90 minutes and wrap up with breakfast, lunch, and snacks for the week, plus dinner for that night!

Take stock of your meal plan for the week. Go over prep times, cook times, etc. Develop a plan, either written or in your head, so you can maximize your time in the kitchen. Do you have a slow cooker dish? Do you have a dish that requires 30+ minutes in the oven? Work smarter, not harder, by prepping those meals first and using their cook time to prep other meals.

Based on the meals you’ve chosen, sometimes it’s smarter not to prep them in advance. That may seem counterproductive based on our topic, but hear me out. Is your breakfast pre-packaged oatmeal? Are your lunches microwavable freezer meals? Don’t waste your time by prepping these in advance when you can use that time for preparing meals that will take more time.

I also choose not to prep my weekly dinners in advance. My husband and I like to cook together during the week, but I still have ways of saving time with those meals, which I discuss here! Another great meal prep tip — if you’re making a meal later in the week that requires shredded chicken, throw that in your slow cooker with water or broth and let it cook over a few hours. Shred when it’s ready and store in the refrigerator. BAM — chicken is prepped and ready to go.

How to Meal Prep Overnight Oats Effectively

A week’s worth of overnight oats prepped and ready to go.

2 // Gather Tools and Ingredients

I find that I save a lot of time by having everything I need in front of me instead of going back and forth to cabinets during my prep. I know my kitchen like the back of my hand, yet if I don’t have my garlic powder right in front of me, I might mistakenly omit it. For that reason, I like to gather everything I need for a particular dish before I start the prep, then I can put it away as I go.

How to Meal Prep Effectively

Another huge component of effective meal prep is having the right tools available. We are blessed in that we got some awesome kitchen gadgets when we got married last year, and I’ve loved using them for meal prep. Some of my FAVORITE kitchen tools are our KitchenAid Mixer, Nutri Ninja Auto-IQ Blender System (awesome blender/food processor AIO), and the One Second Slicer. I HATE chopping onions, and this thing makes it SO EASY!


I’m also super lucky that my husband is a knife connoisseur. He studies up on the best types of steel for any project he might undergo and we have knives hidden in every drawer. Ha! #manstuff He ordered me this SPYDERCO kitchen knife a few months ago and I use it all the time.


Having all of these tools readily available will make your prep go much smoother!

3 // Eliminate Distractions

With kiddos running around and various things going on, this can be easier said than done. However, I urge you to try and eliminate as many distractions as you can! Most women, myself included, are masters of multitasking. When it comes to meal prepping though, I try to focus on only that. Close the door if that’s an option, put on some music and get in the zone, or better yet, utilize nap time for the kiddos or a time when your spouse may be out running errands. If you can stay focused, you’ll appreciate the time saved.

How to Meal Prep Effectively

Real-life prep after my Sunday workout.

4 // Finish

My success comes when everything is prepped down to the container it’s stored in! I always finish my meal prep by packing my lunch bag for the following day and ensuring that every other serving for the rest of the week is ready to be thrown in my bag. As soon as a meal has cooled enough to store, I will divide it into containers and transfer them to the refrigerator. If one of my snacks for the week includes grapes, I pull out five plastic bags and divvy up the servings. I’ve learned if I tell myself, “I’ll do it in the morning,” I, in fact, won’t do it in the morning. 😉 Having my food ready in grab-and-go bags or containers is the most important step I take.

How to Meal Prep Effectively

5 // ENJOY!

Enjoy the extra time you have this week that’s NOT being spent prepping meals or running around crazily. Rest a little longer, spend time with your spouse, pat yourself on the back for making a healthy choice!

How to Meal Prep Effectively

Do you meal prep? What does it look like for you?

Linking up again for Wild Workout Wednesday with Nicole, Annmarie, and Jen!

One Pan Taco Bowl (+ a Meal Prep Hack!)

Today, I have a recipe for the easiest, yummiest one pan taco bowl you’ll ever eat. This recipe has been on repeat for the last few months. It’s healthy food that doesn’t feel like healthy food — if that makes any sense at all.

One Pan Taco Bowl

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When I entered this meal into MyFitnessPal, it came out to 277 calories with 30 grams of protein, 17 grams of carbs, and 11 grams of fat. This is a balanced meal all by itself! But, I have been known to top it with some cheese and a dollop of greek yogurt. 😉 Another great thing about this meal is that you can completely mix it around to fit your tastes. I’ve made it with kale instead of spinach, and I plan to make it for my husband with ground pork soon.

Ingredients:

1 lb. of ground turkey (or chicken or beef)
1 10oz. can of refried beans (I used a black bean version by Old El Paso)
1 can of jalapeños (or green chiles)
1 bag of spinach
Salt, Pepper, Garlic
Mexican spices such as: chili powder, cumin, powdered oregano, even red pepper flakes if you want to kick it up a notch!
Shredded cheese, Greek yogurt, sour cream, salsa (for garnish)

Directions:

In a pan on medium high, brown turkey
As it’s cooking, add in spices — I always use salt, pepper, garlic, chili powder, and cumin! — and jalapeños.
Add in the spinach a few handfuls at a time. As the leaves cook down, add more.
After spinach leaves have cooked down, mix in your refried beans.
Let everything sit and meld together for a few minutes
Top with Greek yogurt (or sour cream), a sprinkle of cheese, and salsa for serving

One Pan Taco Bowl

Even Pippa wants in on the goodness! :p

Ok, here’s my meal prep hack! I briefly mentioned earlier this week how I eat the same thing for breakfast, lunch, and snacks during the week. I mix my meals up by eating something different every week, but it saves SO MUCH time and effort for me to make one lunch or one breakfast and eat on that all week long.

Eating on track doesn’t have to be as difficult or time consuming as it may seem to be. Instead of making five different lunches or breakfasts each week (especially if you do a weekly meal prep!), just make multiple servings of one meal and divide it up. Yes, it can get boring. Yes, there are some days when I see what my students are having in the cafeteria and I choose to buy lunch instead. But, 99 percent of the time, this routine helps me stay on track when I would otherwise be lost!

Crave variety? There are other ways to mix it up. 1. Prep chicken breast and season it five different ways. BOOM — five different lunches. 2. Make three servings of one meal and two of another and alternate them throughout the week.

One Pan Taco Bowl

Do you have any recipes you’re returning to over and over lately?

If you liked this post, check out How to Meal Plan Effectively or A Ridiculously Easy Snack Idea.

Today, I’m linking up for Foodie Friday with Farrah, Annmarie, Esther, and Jess!

How To Meal Plan Effectively

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Purchasing through them helps support this website.

I’m linking up again for Wild Workout Wednesday, which is quickly becoming my favorite link-up. Be sure to visit Nicole’s blog and click around to get more health and fitness inspiration!

A huge component to a healthy lifestyle is effective planning. When I learned how to meal plan and prep effectively, everything clicked for me! With pre-portioned options waiting for me, I’m much less likely to make poor decisions. It also helps me spend less at the grocery store, because I’m not impulse buying or just throwing things in the cart willy nilly.

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How to Meal Plan Effectively

It took me quite some time to figure out how to meal plan. It started to get easier when I joined the Tone It Up Nutrition Plan. I suddenly had all of these amazing healthy recipes at my finger tips, along with a guide to what I should eat and when. Another fantastic feature of the TIU Plan is that I get lifetime updates for free. It is initially a large chunk of change, but in the long run, a fantastic value. I highly recommend it if you are feeling lost when it comes to your nutrition.

All right, let’s get to the fun part. This is a method I have tweaked throughout the years to fit our lifestyle. We are currently in a supremely busy and stressful season of life. Because of that, meal planning is basic and simple. However, it’s still very important to me, so I always take the time to do it.

1 // Get Organized

Each week, I sit down with my nutrition and fitness notebook (I’m using this one from Erin Condren right now), a list pad (I think mine is from Michaels), and my Tone It Up Nutrition Plan (and other resources). My nutrition and fitness notebook is literally just a spiral in which I write down my meals and workouts for the week. I break it down by listing M (which stands for MEAL) and the number or code out next to it. I eat three meals and two snacks a day, so I write M1, M2, M3, M4, and M5. It is so much easier for me to eat the same breakfast, lunch, and snacks every day, so I do! I cook dinner for my husband and myself about three times a week, so I list M5 three times.

How to Meal Plan Effectively

I like to divide my list based on the sections of my store. I highly recommend doing this based on your store! This saves me time by keeping from running back and forth across the store because I wrote things down out of order, or scanning up and down my list when I’m on aisle and then forgetting something because I overlooked it. I haven’t found a printable grocery list that fits my needs, so I make my own by dividing my sections up into 1. Produce, 2. Meat/Dairy (this includes eggs), 3. Canned/Aisle (basically anything not on an outside aisle), and 4. Other (slow cooker liners, foil, paper plates, etc.).

How to Meal Plan Effectively

2 // Plan It Out

Many of the Tone It Up editions include 6-8 week meal plans in which every meal is laid out for you. I loosely follow these guidelines for Meals 1-4. My sweet husband, as much as I love him, is not on the lean, clean, and green bandwagon most of the time. 🙂 He eats dairy, and lots of it, and likes 85/15 beef. I like 93/7, so we compromise by buying 90/10. :p He does not eat unhealthy, I just think his dietary requirements are different than mine. That said, my M5 selections are planned with him in mind. I eat dairy, pork, beef, and yes, sometimes starch at dinner!

I select our meals for the week based on a few things. 1. What we already have in our freezer/pantry, 2. What’s on sale at my store, and 3. What sounds good at the moment! As I’m deciding on meals, I write down every necessary ingredient in its category on my grocery list. When I’m finished, I’ll take stock of any staples we may be running low on and add those to the list as well.

How To Meal Plan Effectively

BONUS HACK: I already told you I cook dinner about three times a week. Each of those nights has a “theme” to it to help make my life easier based on the week ahead. Mondays always suck and Wednesdays are my long days, so whatever is planned for those days will always be coded M5 Easy (a sheet pan or one pan dinner) or M5 CP (something I can quickly throw in the crock pot on my way out in the morning). The worst feeling in the world is coming home from a long day and having to stand in front of the stove for an hour, or resorting to ordering pizza because you just don’t want to!

I also like to plan for at least one super quick, no prep snack! For example, I might add larabars (our fave) to the list, or elect to have a hard boiled egg with a piece of fruit. And yes, I will buy pre-boiled eggs.

3 // Shop

I plan on Wednesdays and usually head to the store on Thursday or Friday and try my darnedest to stick to my list! Substitutions are made when necessary and I throw in new products I think we might like, but for the most part I only buy what’s on my list. Sometimes this drives my husband crazy because he thinks we don’t have any snacks in the house. 😉

How to Meal Plan Effectively

That’s it. That’s how I meal plan! It’s simple, it’s mundane, but it gets the job done. Taking just a few minutes each week to put in the effort up front makes a huge difference in how my following week will go. At this point you may be asking yourself, “Ok, now what do you do with all that food?!” Well, come back next week for part two: How to Meal Prep Effectively, and I will gladly tell you how I get from plan to prep each week.

Other resources I use when meal planning include Lauren Gleisberg’s Eat Your Way Lean Plan, Tone It Up: 28 Days to Fit, Fierce, and Fabulous, Fixate, Mix-and-Match Meal Planner, Mix and Match Mama’s website, anything by Pioneer Woman, and of course, Pinterest!