I feel like I have talked endlessly on this blog, on social media, in videos and with clients about the power of food prep.
According to the internet, food prep is boring and all things chicken and broccoli (snore). Or that it's scary and requires hours upon hours of your time.
So yes it can be these things. But it doesn't need to be.
This post will share with you the ins and outs of how you can food prep. How to give it a go. How to make it easier. How to enjoy it.
But let me be clear, you don't need to do this. However I'd encourage you to consider it, even if you've forever sworn off food prepping in the past. I hear you.
When it comes to food prep, it comes down to prevention vs reactivity. Realising the pure joy of coming home after a long day and knowing that dinner is done.
A better option right than coming home ravenous and over it to an empty fridge, lacking inspiration and let's be honest wanting virtually anything that doesn't require effort.
So imagine then knowing that a healthy and satisfying dinner is ready. That you literally need to do little else than unwind and enjoy. Dinner doesn't trouble you? Then imagine waking up and having a healthy, delicious breakfast ready to go? Or experiencing weekday lunches that are prepared ahead of time and having a satisfying 3pm sweet treat to grab!
This is possible. It can be enjoyable. And I urge you to give it a go.
You can be an intuitive eater and food prep. They are not mutually exclusive terms though remaining flexible is key.
Recently, I visited my GP and she asked me if it was hard eating as I do. My answer was no. Though I also shared with her that such ease didn’t come about in one week.
My food and nutrition philosophy is very much centred around how you want to feel. As I shared recently on social media, for me that means I want to feel three things - energized, satisfied and unstressed. Which means prepping food that I love and that serves me well. So although sometimes my life does look like takeaway sandwiches, limp AF salads and Uber Eats delivery (yes I am human) and that's inevitable for us all, food prep can future-proof your busy life.
It's a really positive cycle that continues to make everything in your life better.
You're more energised from eating well > you feel better > you actually turn up to your gym session > you enjoy the food you're eating > you're motivated to continue doing so > it becomes easier and so on and so forth.
So in short, it can be great. Now let's simplify.
FOOD PREP GUIDE
1. Consider what your upcoming week looks like
Do you have late nights that require more of a dinner prep focus? Or early mornings that render on-the-spot brekkie-prep impossible? Perhaps you're pre-menstrual and want more sweet things? Training more/less? Going out to eat? Perhaps the seasons are changing and you're done with smoothies? Do you need more snacks?
Getting real about what you need most is where food prep starts.
2. Get breakfast sorted
To make it as easy as possible for yourself, try to only choose a maximum of two breakfasts to eat throughout the week. This could be overnight oats/bircher muesli, easily switched up with different nut and seed combos or simply by adding different fruit. You could have toast with avocado and eggs or peanut butter and banana.
The mornings are the first opportunity to nourish yourself for the day and also the first opportunity to benefit from food prep.
3. Decide which meals you'd like to eat for the week
Using step 1, jot down which meals, other than brekkie, you plan to eat for the week. Starting big and working backwards is what speeds the next steps up so if you decide on spaghetti bolognaise or burrito bowls for midweek dinners, you can count on these recipes last 3+ days in the fridge. Or longer if you divide and freeze. This now means a) less prepping and b) a shorter shopping list. If you decide you want roast vegetables to easily add to salads and other meals that are made-to-serve, roast an entire tray and store in airtight containers in the fridge. Snacks are no different.
So whilst some food prep could be whole recipes and meals including snacks, others are elements like roast vegetables or hard boiled eggs which you can easily add fresh components to.
This salad that actually satisfies is the perfect example of this idea in action. Follow along at home.
And you can find a whole heap of recipes suited to batch cooking/food prep here.
4. Write the shopping list
Key to success is actually writing the shopping list. You could use notes on your phone or Excel (for those spreadsheet lovers among us). And making it even easier (and less wasteful!) starts by assessing what you already have vs what you need to stock up on. Take your meal list and write down which ingredients you don't already have at home. If you food shop in a variety of stores, break up the shopping list accordingly. Produce, butcher and deli lists for instance. You can also group ingredients together for ease - all the fruit and vegetables grouped together, dairy foods, meats etc.
5-10 minutes of list making = stress-free shopping and not forgetting what I need!
And even faster is online grocery shopping and delivery so that's an option too!
Shop when your are fed and not hungry. Honour your hunger and don't torture yourself shopping in that state. Nobody needs to be doing that.
If you're in a position to do so, include bulk shopping where you can for instance nuts and seeds in bulk that go straight into jars or bags you bring from home. Less waste, potentially fresher food and easier to unpack straight into the pantry at home.
6. Initial Prep
Arriving home with shopping means getting sorted. To make things as quick and easy as possible during the week, you could wash and store fruit and vegetables straight away. For instance, peel and freeze bananas for smoothies, wash and dry bunches of herbs and baby spinach leaves to store in airtight containers (they don't wilt or get wasted this way!) and cut broccoli into florets to store easily in one container in the fridge. Put things in their home such as pantry items (already in jars) away in the pantry. Store fridge items according to category to keep them fresher and more nutritious for longer, for instance meat and dairy higher in the fridge and fruits and vegetables lower down in the crisper. This also means the shelves in the middle are then free for the food you're going to prep.
This initial prep means you'll have an organised kitchen and already have a lot done before you've even cooked. This is motivating and supports less waste so it's a win-win!
There's no best order to food prep in. The way that works for you is the best way. However grouping jobs together and doing longer jobs first, makes the best use of time. So if you're doing a batch of roast vegetables, turn the oven on ASAP to preheat whilst you chop. If there's anything else that needs the oven factor that in like this banana bread for a midweek snack or baked chicken to add to easy lunches. This same theory goes for the food processor and any jobs its needed for. If you make raw cacao protein balls you could follow it up with hummus and make enough quantity that those foods are prepped for at least a week if not two!
8. Final notes
Cognitive flexibility is encouraged and cultivated within the Intuitive Eating framework. So keep that in mind with food prep.
Overall, do your best and take the wins where you can. If that's muesli bars for the week and that's it - it's a win. Flex the prep muscles and build them over time. There's no prize for stressing yourself out and making it miserable. Remember you're aiming to make your life easier with food prep, not harder. Do what's achievable and learn something about yourself from the experience.
One final note, have your laptop or phone handy. You can catch up on documentaries, podcasts, dance around to fave songs or simply watch "terrible" TV whilst prepping food.
Enjoy this post? I’d love you to share it!
And if you want more support to implement this in your own life, check out my 1:1 coaching.