It’s Sunday night and I just got home from my weekly Trader Joe’s run. I’ve got a car packed full of groceries. I am all excited putting everything away and thinking about all of the great recipes I am going to prep. I was totally on board with the meal prep trend — like the rest of the world.
Don’t get me wrong — there are a lot of positives associated with meal prepping. You really do end up spending less money when you’re getting everything ready for your week ahead of time. You don’t have a real excuse for ordering takeout pizza or Chinese…. you have everything sitting there, ready for you to enjoy, when you get home from work. It helps create health(ier) eating habits and indulge a little less.
I stopped eating what I wanted to eat and started eating what I thought I had to eat.
For some of you, that may be the point. For the most part I eat fairly healthy and really try to follow the 80/20 rule… eat what you want 20% of the time and try to eat nutritious food the other 80%. This way if I am really craving a piece of dark chocolate, an In-n-Out Double Double with animal fries and a milkshake, or a slice of pizza on Friday night I can have it.
When I started meal prepping, I felt that I had to eat the meals I made in order not to waste. This is all great until I am really craving a piece of salmon and I am sick of eating the ground turkey or chicken I made for the 3rd day in a row. Sometimes, I need variation and I just really want to eat what I am craving. That does not mean that the meal has to be unhealthy, it just means I want to eat something else. I got to the point where I felt bad deviating from my meal prep and felt guilty for eating what my body was telling me I wanted to eat for the day. Food should be about nourishing your body and its meant to be enjoyed!
When I stopped meal prepping and started focusing on pre-preparing ingredients (chopping onion, slicing cucumber, cooking rice, etc) ahead of time, I found that I was preparing meals that I wanted to enjoy that day instead of feeling like I had to eat something just because it was there.
Food should be about nourishing your body and its meant to be enjoyed!
I absolutely love to cook and I didn’t like that I didn’t have the opportunity to do that during the week.
Again, for some of you — you may hate cooking! I have a crazy life just like everyone else, but at the end of the day I genuinely really love coming home and making a home cooked meal with my significant other. There’s something about it that makes both of us really happy and adds something to our night. If you are not one of those people, by all means please continue the meal prep! Cooking for me is a great form of stress relief. I honestly think that I enjoy cooking more than I enjoy eating when it really comes down to it.
I found that if I made raw meals for breakfast and lunch or if I pre-prepared some items like smoking salmon, picking up sweet potatoes I could pop in the microwave at work, or having fresh fruit and veggies on hand, I was happier at the end of the day.
I felt like I was eating leftovers every day.
I am the first to admit that sometimes it’s a Friday night and I am starving, sneak downstairs, and eat that last slice of pizza in the kitchen (usually cold while sitting on the kitchen counter in an oversized tee shirt). Leftovers are a necessary evil — especially when you enjoy barbecuing as often as we do.
While meal prepping, I genuinely started feeling like I was never enjoying a super fresh meal. There’s something about eating re-heated meat or fish that hasn’t just been cooked that irks me. I like eating things after they have just been prepared for the most part.
Of coarse there are some exceptions — leftover lasagna that my mom made, vegetable and beef stew, or homemade enchiladas all re-heat pretty well. I just am not a huge fan of reheating vegetables or meat. They become lack lustre, soggy, and kinda yucky to me even the following day. When I started preparing things from scratch every day I found that I was much happier with my decision.
Here’s what I do instead:
I always prepare dinner at home for that night unless we are going out to eat somewhere. For lunch and breakfast, I try to get things sort of ‘ready’ in a sense, but I don’t put everything all together until the day of.
- Make foods that can be mixed and matched. Prepare quinoa, egg salad, sliced veggies, roasted sweet potatoes, etc. and keep them in separate containers so you can pair them how you like. You can ‘meal prep’ without fully putting the meal together!
- Have stuff around that you enjoy eating — lettuce or spinach, sliced fruit and veggies, lentils, peanut butter, etc. When I have things on hand that don’t really need to have prepared ahead of time that you can grab and go it makes life a lot easier.
- Think about meals that are easy to throw together and keep that stuff on hand. Pre-cook rice for the week, keep some canned salmon at the office, and throw some cucumber and avocado on top and you’ve got a nutritious and delicious meal at work. It’ll only take 5- 10 minutes to toss everything in a bowl and you can even use a plastic fork to cut the veg.
- If you’re making something that you really like, make two meals instead of one. Make dinner and maybe make yourself the same thing for lunch tomorrow. It’s not technically meal prepping if you’re eating last night’s ‘leftovers’.
What about you?
Let us know what you think in the comments. Do you love meal prepping or have you ditched it for a different system?