Prepping and Planning Your Meals Leads to Success.
I have never been much of a prepper. To be frank and honest, I am a procrastinator. I loathe being prepared. I am an adrenaline junky that likes to fly by the seat of his pants. I prepare, but as I get closer to the deadline, I do my best work under pressure. Unfortunately, this is not good for weight loss because stress increases cortisol which induces poor decision making and fat storage.
About six months ago, I made a decision to change my life, and I became a prepper. Just to clarify, I do not have a bomb shelter in back lawn with a six month of food supplies and an armory to help fight off the zombies or solicitors knocking on my front door. My prepping is just to automate my meal preparation and the planning of meals ahead of time. Preparing your meals ahead of time should reduce the chances of making an unhealthy last-minute food choice.
Benefits of Prepping:
- Planning ahead reduced cheating. I have found that I am less likely to splurge and eat too much when I prep. I usually plan my meals for the week on Saturday and cook them on Saturday and Wednesday. After the meals have cooled, I refrigerate them in single serving size containers. Every meal is ready to be reheated when I get to the refrigerator after work. No decision required. I only purchase food I plan to use that week. I only eat the food in my house so if the junk is not there, I am not eating it.
- Prepping reduces food waste. I hate to throw away food. Since I plan my meals ahead of time, I make very little extra, so I tend to waste less from spoilage. I cook twice a week because I want the food to be fresher. I am worried about letting meat go 4-5 days in the fridge.
- You will have control of your nutrition. You control the content of your meals, so you will know what you are eating. You choose the recipes and ingredients and the preparation of your meals, so you know what you are consuming.
- Prepping saves time. Instead of making meals every night, now you have them ready for the whole week at once. You just have to grab a pack and either eat or head out the door. This plan will save you more time to read my blog or god forbid, exercise. I work a 10-12 hour work day and need the extra time to decompress. I now have it.
Prepped meals reduce the variability of portion sizes. Because you pre-measure portions, you will control portion size. I recommend portion control containers if you have difficulty estimating portion sizes.
- Prepped meals save you money. This method may not be true for everyone, but it is for me. It does so in two ways. One is it reduces the wasting of leftovers. Second is it has reduced my fast food purchases before and after work. I used to not feel like cooking after work. Now, I don’t have to do so. I have meals ready to reheat in the refrigerator. It reduces the temptation to stop on the way home.
- Planned meals can increase variety. When I first started trying to lose weight, my diet was a rotation on 3-4 healthy microwave meals. I quickly became bored of the choices. I choose recipes I can freeze and often have 1-2 extra per week that I insert on following weeks to increase the spice of life (variety).
Must have equipment for prepping:
- Food Scale. You need one of these to weigh meat, cheese, starches, etc. I weigh everything. I tare the scale with the container on it and then add the food.
- Sharp knives. You must buy produce and cut it up yourself. Just be careful and don’t cut yourself.
- A cutting board. The first time you decide not to use one, you will quickly figure out why these are a necessity.
- Measuring spoons and cups. This tool is a must to get the right amounts of ingredients. Professional chefs might not use them, but you should.
- Portion containers. You can scoop from a larger container and weigh at each meal if you prefer. I like these little darlings because they estimate portion size so well and you just pull them out and eat.
Slow Cooker. You need a slow cooker because this will allow you to cook foods in larger quantities and save time. If you have never used one, you will thank me for this suggestion. It makes meat that is tender, and I think it is nearly impossible to burn food.
- Lunch or meal bags to carry food. If you work or leave home, this suggestion is a must. I take my lunch every day, and I use a bag that I place in the freezer.
- Seasonings and oils. I personally only use olive, peanut, and canola oils. You can choose your oils. Buy spices and seasoning as you need them for recipes. You will build an excellent collection.
Steps for Meal Prep Success:
- Make a Menu. You have to decide what you are going to eat for the week and then make a shopping list. Plan 4-5 days at a time or 12-15 meals, so that is 4-10 snacks and 4-5 breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. I cook every four days because I want to reduce spoilage.
- Make sure you have containers to store the food. The containers are a one-time purchase, but you want to be sure to have ample containers before you cook the food. I use single serving containers to limit my portions, but you could easily store it in larger containers and measure when time to reheat.
- Make a shopping list. You have created the menu, and now it is time to make a list so that you can buy the food. Write down all the ingredients you need with total quantities for an entire week.
Go Shopping. You must shop for food. Only buy the items on your list and make a list before you go into the store. There is nothing more dangerous than wandering the store looking for options to make for the week. You will violate your diet because you will find deals you cannot resist.
- Cook your food. Most people cook everything on Sunday, but I divide my week and cook half on Saturday and half on Wednesday. I usually cook about five servings each time and freeze 1-2 servings for what I call a busy day that prevents me from cooking. The number of meals is up to you so you could cook for the whole week on one day.
- Package the food into containers and label them. Labeling them with what and when is important. I also add weight for easier food journaling. Remember to either pick containers that will not stain or avoid red foods which will stain them. Chili and spaghetti tend to stain plastic containers, so I use glass for these foods. I chose to use single serving container because large pots or bowls never work for portion control for me.
- Store your food. I either refrigerate or freeze my prepared foods. I choose to refrigerate 3-4 days of food and freeze the rest. I thaw my frozen food in the refrigerator before cooking it. I usually sit it out the night before and reheat in the microwave when I get home.
- Heat your meals. I remove the lid and place them in the microwave for about 2 minutes on high heat.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be difficult because prepping is very easy as long as you fit it into your routine. The hardest part is the decision to start followed by learning how. Once the decision is made, all you have to do is plan and prep weekly. Good luck with your preparations.