Meal prep – the elusive key to living a healthy, happy life. For some, meal prepping can be the most daunting task in the world. For others, it’s a no-brainer. As for me, I think I’m somewhere in the middle.
Prior to the pandemic, when I was actually going into the office every day, I was pretty good about prepping meals for the week on Sunday so I didn’t have to cook much during the week. My schedule during the week was always jam-packed so I didn’t have much time to spend in the kitchen.
A lot of nights, especially this time of year, I would work late and wind up ordering take-out to the office. So if I didn’t at least prep lunches for the week I would eat out at least 2 meals per day. Sure, I love take-out, but after a while it takes a toll on the body.
During these busy times meal prep became essential for me to make sure I was well-fueled and feeling my best. When you’re working long hours, the last thing you want is to feel sluggish because of what you’ve been eating. And trying to balance out a lousy diet with more caffeine is never the answer, trust me, I’ve tried.
Fast forward to today – I’ve been working from home for almost a year now and meal prepping has become less essential for my daily routine but nevertheless helpful. I’m currently on the East Coast while most of my team is out west, so it’s not unusual for me to have a call during my lunch or dinner hours. It’s nice to have something prepped when a call runs long or if I need to eat while finishing up some work. Having meals ready to go gives me more flexibility in my day and reduces a lot of unneeded stress and anxiety. It’s amazing what a little meal prep can do!
Whether you want to start eating healthier, incorporate more plant-based meals into your diet, make time in your day for a new workout regiment, or just get into a better routine, meal prep can make a huge difference!
Here are a few of my tips to get started prepping healthy, plant-based meals.
5 Tips for Healthy / Plant-Based Meal prep
- Keep it Simple
For vegan/plant-based meal prep in particular, simplicity is KEY. I think that a lot of people get overwhelmed when they think about going vegan, but it can be really simple if you want it to be. And meal prep in particular should be simple, especially if you’re a lazy cook like me.
My favorite things to meal prep only require 5-10 minutes of active work. My favorite thing only takes 15 minutes total. Yes, just *15 minutes*. The beauty of plants is that they cook pretty quickly.
Most of my go-to recipes include a carb, a protein, and LOTS of veggies. A few examples:
- Brown Rice, Tempeh, and Broccoli/Cauliflower
- Whole Wheat Pasta, Chickpeas, Kale/Mushrooms
- Sweet Potato, Black Beans, Corn/Peppers/Tomatoes/Salsa
*be on the lookout for recipes in future posts*
- Don’t try to do too much at once
I think the most common reason people fail or give up on meal prepping is they try to do too much at once. If you try to make every single meal for the week on Sunday night, yeah, odds are you’re going to ver overwhelmed and not want to do it. Additionally, if you’re not used to eating the same thing multiple days in a row, you’re going to get bored of whatever it is that you prepped and wind up getting takeout because you’re in desperate need for variety (trust me, I’ve been there).
Point is, don’t try to do it all at once. If you’re new to meal prepping try just once meal at a time. Just make breakfasts for the week, or lunches. This way you ease yourself into the new routine and you can still incorporate variety in your other meals.
- Do it the night before
Currently, my favorite meal prep “method” is leftovers. Since I’m working from home, I usually have a little more time to make dinner at night. So instead of prepping all of my meals at the beginning of the week, I make multiple servings out of whatever it is I’m making for dinner that night so I have lunches for the next few days. It’s a good balance because it means I’m being efficient in the kitchen by making multiple meals at once, but I’m also only prepping two or three days in advance so I still have some variety in my diet.
- Tupperware is your friend
If you’re going to get serious about meal prepping I highly recommend investing in some nice food storage containers. Good containers will keep your food fresher, which is important if you’re prepping a lot at the beginning of the week. I find that Glass tends to be better than plastic since it’s non absorbent. Having the right size containers can also be a game-changer. I have specific containers I like to use for my overnight oats that are small and space-efficient, but also big enough to eat out of when I top my oats with berries and almond slivers. For lunches I use a bigger container that still fits nicely in a lunch bag when I’m bringing meals with me to work. I generally find it easiest for me to keep things in single-serving containers, but if you like prepping big crock-pot meals you might want to invest in some larger containers including ones that are freezer safe so you can extend the life of your meals.
Here are a few good ones:
- Nummyware Glass and Bamboo Set – the “best” sustainable set on Amazon
- Glasslock Container Set – keeps food fresh longer
- Anchor & Hook Mini Bowls – my favorite for overnight oats
- Pyrex Simply Store Set – a classic complete set
- Don’t be married to the prep
All this being said, variety is still the spice of life. Don’t get too wrapped up in trying to prep perfectly or eat a health home-cooked meal every day of the week. Throughout the pandemic especially, take out has been a necessary indulgence. Whether I want to change things up, or I’m too lazy to cook that night, I’ll turn to takeout one or two days a week…at least. Bonus points if I have leftovers that I can have for multiple meals….it’s just like I meal-prepped then, right?!
Any questions? Or other meal-prep tips? Let me know in the comments! Or connect with me on instagram @carolinemarzo.