This year I decided to ditch the school lunches and enter the big scary world of meal prep. Having school lunches simply wasn’t working for me with all my stomach issues, and I was struggling to get all the food I needed in at school. The task of meal prep can look very scary, like most people I’ve seen the great display of meals being posted on Instagram and thought how the hell am I meant to do that, how am I meant to make that much food, or have the time to, or the energy! These are all perfectly logical questions, which in fact have perfectly logical answers.
- Why is there such a vast quantity of food – realistically you probably don’t need to prep as much food as the people in those pictures do, so of these people are bodybuilders eating 8 meals a day. As a 5’6” girl who doesn’t train multiple times a day, or at all some days, I really don’t need 8 meals. At lot of food can be batch cooked, like grains, one pot and 25 minutes and you can have so many servings. The same goes for meat, whatever cooking method you use – don’t worry I’m coming onto the that!
- What about the time – actually when you get used to it and have had a couple of goes it doesn’t really take that long. My meal prep (the actually cooking part) takes between an hour and two hours depending on how much I’m making and if my mum is trying to cook at the same time, this also includes any time I have spent washing up! I enjoy cooking which makes meal prep a lot easier, finding a way to make any task enjoyable will make it seem more appealing and you will be more likely to stick with it. I find giving myself a reward to look forward to when I’ve finished is a good motivator, even if its something small like snacking on a freshly baked cookie (my recipe can be found here).
- Where will I find the energy – you wake up on a Sunday morning exhausted, you’ve had a long week, you’ve trained the day before and Sunday is your rest day. I get it, the last thing you want to do is get up, go food shopping and cook. But thinking realistically, if you do this now and get it done, you will have meals prepped for the next few days, which will make school and work life so much less stressful. Preparation is key, so invest time and energy in your meal prep and your future self will thank you.
Now what the hell are you going to make and how the hell are you going to cook it – brain – please enter planning mode!
I decided to treat myself to a snazzy George Foreman grill with removable plates to cook my food, this also acted as good motivation to meal prep as it was a little on the pricy side! Alternatively you can fry food or bake it in the oven, but I find the George Foreman much quicker and cleaner.
Baking is very good when you want to cook large amounts of food, for example chicken breasts or vegetables. I still live at home so benefit from all the cooking equipment my parents own, so I definitely recommend some decent baking trays and dishes, even Sainsbury’s own brand are pretty good. However when it comes to frying pans I am a complete Tefal convert, so easy to clean and so effective at cooking food. However you decide to cook your food PLAN IT, work out what needs cooking the longest and how long it needs to cool, food with the longest cooking and cooling time needs to be cooked first! Something that took me a while to realise.
So what about the actual meals? Put effort into flavourings and having things YOU enjoy, this makes it easy to stick to your planned food and not be tempted by the vending machine chocolate. My favourite quick and easy meal preps are:
Wait, how I am I meant to keep all of this fresh?
Key key key point, before putting food in the fridge wait for it to cool! Meat can turn slightly slimy when put in the fridge warm – not pleasant at all.
I use Prepped and Packed boxes which nicely stack up in my fridge, I also use their bags with built-in cool compartments when I’m going to school or travelling around. This way my meals stay cool and fresh. This also means I’m not carrying round more bags than I need as I can fit all my school folders, gym kit and food in one bag.
I’d recommend prepping for 3 days maximum if you want fresh meals, and anything above that should really be frozen then defrosted. I generally do my prep on a Sunday and a Wednesday as this is what works for me, but find as many days as you need that work for you, having a real clear-cut routine will help you stick to your plan.
Who can live without snacks, I certainly know I cant! I thinks it’s just as important to make sure you have healthy snacks to keep you going throughout the day. I know how tempting it is to say ‘oh I don’t have time to eat something’ or ‘oh i’ll just grab some chocolate’ which is completely okay once in a while but not a healthy habit, plus not the cheapest! I try to make sure most of my snacks are from good whole food sources but my addiction to popcorn means I also include it most days, finding a way to not restrict your way of eating means meal prep does not become something you hate or dread.
Anyway my favourite snacks are:
- Pea protein banana bread
- Pumpkin cookies
- Spirulina Energy balls
- And of course any popcorn I can get my hands on!
I would love see your snack prep, please get tagging me and use the hashtag #SnackPrep