Too Busy? Meal Prep Broken Down into These 4 Simple Steps

We've all heard the saying "Failing to plan is planning to fail" - it holds a lot of truth. We live in a society that's busier than ever. Convenient food options are readily available, most of which hold little to no nutritional value.. then we wonder why we're all so cranky and chronically fatigued. A wild guess - our body is in desperate need of substance, REAL food! As a Nutrition Counselor, I've seen and heard it all.

“I'm too busy.”

“Now isn't the right time.”

“I don't have the energy.”

“Parenthood/work is too overwhelming to take on another task.”

“I'm too stressed.”

I get it, a little too personally. I empathize with you and am coming from a completely judgement free place. I'm a wife, mom of a busy two year old, business owner times two and homeowner to name a few hats I wear. At any given time, there's about fifteen different things begging to occupy my time. Why dedicate my fractional amount of free time to preparing my food for the week?

Here's just a couple of reasons:

Eating well and enough promotes higher energy levels. All of a sudden that daunting to do list doesn't seem so bad.

Taking the time to prep 1-2x per week ultimately saves you time AND money not having to cook every single meal or stopping in the line at Chick-fil-A.

A harsh truth - we have time for what we make time for. In order to show up as the best version of you, you have to fill your cup. You wouldn’t get in your car to go on a road trip without fueling up and checking your oil, right? Think about your body in a similar way! 

We need food to function, lots more than people usually think! Diet culture has told women to eat 1,200 calories a day. I’d like to pluck whoever came up with that right on the nose. We forget the caloric needs of our body to complete very basic functions like regulating body temperature and maintaining healthy organ function. Add daily movement life beings about AND exercise or activities - we need and deserve more. We aren’t here to be hangry, we’re meant to eat delish food and crush workouts (or whatever else your day brings about, like keeping up with kids).

Why does it matter how much you’re taking in? You want your daily intake to align with your goals! Whether you’re trying to lose or gain some pounds, or put on some muscle, your intake has to reflect that for you to get to your goals. 

So, let’s get into it! I’ve broken down meal planning into 4 simple steps. We never look for perfection, but instead just doing better. Maybe you start with planning and prepping 1 meal per day, sweet. Going zero to a hundred can be very intimidating. Go at your own pace, or better yet, work with a professional that can guide you and help you decide what method and plan is right for you. 

Step 1: Find out your daily intake goal

How? You can use a variety of online calculators that will use different equations to tell you an idea of what you should aim for based on metrics like height, age, weight, goals and activity level. Since there is no such thing as ‘one size fits all’ in nutrition, there may be some trial and error involved - that is okay. This is another reason to explore the option of working with a professional. There are two main ways of tracking intake I use with clients. One is counting your macros. This method is more detailed and centered around numbers. Great for athletes and people who enjoy numbers. The alternate method I use with most clients is the hand portion guide. This is much less specific and not focused on numbers, making it a wonderful option for those who have had a rocky relationship with food or diet culture. You can learn more about these options in my free Nutrition Simplified e-book here.


Step 2: Plan Your Menu

Once you know your daily targets, it’s time to make a menu! This can go alllllllll sorts of ways depending on your goals and what kind of food you like. We don’t restrict around here, that just leads to negative thoughts and feelings around food. We use the 80/20 rule, just meaning 80% of the time you’ll enjoy yummy and nutrient rich options, with the other 20% reserved for planned treats. Yes, that’s right - you can still eat pizza and cake and reach your goals 🤯 Need meal inspo? Check out my Pinterest boards here.


Step 3: Grocery Shop

This one can get tough, especially in this economy. So, here’s some of my grocery shopping hacks that save me time and money. First, make a list beforehand so you don’t forget anything! Then, use free grocery pick up services. This prevents you from getting hooked by the attractive end caps of the aisle that are packed with strategic marketing to make you spend more. Plus, you don’t accidentally buy extra if you’re hungry. Next, shop at discount grocery spots like Aldi or Lidl, of course depending on where you are geographically. Local farmers markets can have great funds too if you have access. Last hack, plan meals throughout the week that use the same ingredients so you aren’t buying 7 different kinds of veggies in one week. This helps your chances of eating that bag of spinach before it goes bad, too! 


Step 4: 

Cook! I’ll be honest, I’m not the kind of person who can prep for seven days in advance. By day three or four that food is tasting pretty stale, and bottom line just not enjoyable. I recommend breaking it up until at least two days throughout the week. For lots of people, Sundays and Wednesdays work. If your weeknights are normally busy, no worries! For your midweek meal prep, come up with a menu that’s much more simple than the one you do on the weekend. Meaning something that can be thrown in the rice cooker, pressure cooker, crockpot, steamer, or air fryer, and you just come back to pack your meals. If you enjoy more elaborate recipes, you can still make those on your weekend prep. If this is your first time, approaching preparing meals for days in advance, my biggest piece of advice is to keep it simple. One of my quick go to choices is preparing a protein, veggie and carbs source (ground beef, frozen broccoli and basmati rice for example) and adding a different sauce combo over the 3-4 days I’m eating it. Boom, tastes different each time. 

If these simple steps don’t seem so simple, that is okay! The realm of eating and nutrition has been so tainted by diet culture and there’s WAY too much misinformation if you try to use good ole Google to figure it out. I cannot recommend the investment of working with a coach enough. Investing in yourself will help you skip the headaches of trying to figure it out on your own, give you knowledge to eat for a long enjoyable life for yourself and all your loved ones around you! 

To reach out and book a complimentary exploration call about Nutrition Counseling, click here. Let me know if you found this info helpful!