Meal prep. Instagram is full of it, usually in some combination with someone’s abs, it’s a total buzzword in the fitness community, and, if we’re honest with ourselves, we all kind of see the benefit. But isn’t it a major effort? Doesn’t it swallow up your entire Sunday that could otherwise be spent with your family and/or netflix?
It definitely can do that, if you let it. As a working mum, weekends are really precious to me. They’re the only time in the week where all three of us really have time to catch up, hang out and just spend time together. At the same time, though, I really need to spend a little bit of time preparing for the week, otherwise I end up a) spending too much money buying lunch and b) eating a load of crap, which interferes with my energy levels, workout goals and overall wellbeing. So what gives?
I’ve been a member of the Tone It Up nutrition plan for nearly four years, and meal prep has been a staple element of that lifestyle. Before I had Isla, I could commit much more time to the kitchen on Sundays, which was tonnes of fun. But now that I have a family, I can’t spend more than an hour, maybe an hour and a half, on meal prep, nor do I want to. So, over the last two years, I’ve worked out how to meal prep as efficiently as possible without compromising on my food for the week. Today, I’m sharing my top three meal prep tips with you, and talking you through how I plan and prep during Tone It Up challenges.
1. Make a Plan
First things first – if you don’t know what you’re making, you can’t prep it. We tend to sit down on a Saturday night and work out what we’re going to eat the next week. I write down Jake and Isla’s breakfasts and lunches first, as well as planning for their snacks. Then I get to work on my own meals. As most of you will know, Tone It Up release daily meal plans for every single day of their challenges. This is fantastic if you like lots of variety and have extra time to prepare breakfasts and dinners. For me, however, having too many different meals each week just doesn’t work, it’s too much effort. Instead, I go through that week’s plan and pick one breakfast, one lunch, one snack each for mornings and afternoon, and two dinners that I know all three of us will eat. I’ll then have the same daytime meals all week long and we’ll swap between the two dinner choices as a family each night. Super simple!
2. Shop Smart
From there, I look at what ingredients I need to buy. I’m a snacker, so I factor in a few clean(ish) treats – dark chocolate, flavoured sparkling water and some snack bars are a must! At the moment, I’m loving Bounce balls and Meridian bars. They curb my sweet tooth without being TOO bad for me. For us, the best way to shop is an online click & collect order. We do it once a week, can pick it up one the way to or from a weekend activity, it saves time and it means we can’t impulse-buy quite as much – as a consequence, our grocery bill has actually dropped quite significantly. We make sure to order without bags, and I’m trying to get into the habit of asking for produce to be given to us loose as well, rather than bagged in individual plastic baggies. Not sure how well that goes down, but I absolutely hate buying fruits and vegetables that basically grow in biodegradable packaging, only to have them thrown into a shitty plastic bag that can’t even be reused. Gah. Anyway, back to the topic!
3. Coordinate Your Meal Prep
The number one way to reduce the time you spend on meal prep is to make sure your efforts are as coordinated as possible. I usually make a stew or soup for my lunches, which has a lot of down-time while it cooks. So I make sure I get that onto the hob first, and it can just simmer away while I sort the rest of my list out. If I’m making muffins or anything else that needs to go into the oven, that comes next. I preheat first, then make my batter, then shove it into the oven. I use the baking time to finalise anything else I need to. First on my list is usually some homemade almond milk. I’ve very recently started making it myself in a bid to reduce the amount of waste we reduce, as we go through non-dairy milk like nobody’s business. I had no idea what I was missing, the flavour of homemade almond milk in your morning coffee is amazing! Next up are overnight oats, trail mix or any other snacks that need to be prepared. Last of all, I fill everything into glass containers, chuck all my dishes into the dishwasher, turn it on, and forget about meal prep for the rest of the week.
Do you meal prep regularly? If so, I’d love to hear if you have any more useful ideas!