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My Relationship With Food
Food has always been a source of anxiety for me.
As someone with a significant food allergy to an incredibly common ingredient (gluten), my relationship with food has been rocky for many years. When I moved out of my parents house and into my college dorm it got a lot worse.
My school’s cafeteria was not accommodating at all, and quite often the chefs would say things like “well can’t you just have it anyway?” when I requested alternatives to the bread or pasta or pizza they were serving.
I was required by my school to have a meal plan and did not have a kitchen in my dorm, so I lived off of microwavable gluten-free meals like oatmeal and mac and cheese, while paying for a meal plan I couldn’t use. Definitely not the healthiest situation.
My second year in college was a little bit better, my mother and I were able to fight to get me into a dorm with a kitchen so I was able to drop my meal plan and cook my own food. Thus became the struggle with… well… let’s be honest, I was a terrible cook.
I would get back to my dorm after a long day of classes and meetings and work and realize, oh no, I forgot to go to the grocery store. I’d panic, my blood sugar would be low, I would be desperate to eat anything so I’d order nachos at a local mexican restaurant for the 4th time that week just in order to eat something.
Finally, my 3rd year in college, something clicked and I started meal prepping.
Since then, my relationship with food has been growing and getting under control. I have not only been able to feel less anxiety over where my next meal is coming from but I have been able to have the time to focus on nutrition, meal sizes, eating vegetables, trying new recipes, learning how to cook, and so much more.
Additionally, meal prepping each week has been a fantastic way to stick to my weekly food budget and save a boat load of money.
While my boyfriend is still the chef in our relationship (thank goodness) I definitely feel a bit more confident than I previously did with grocery shopping, cooking, and taking care of my health through meal prepping.
Pros and Cons
- Great way to save money (I spend about $1-4 on each portion/meal that I prep, depending on the recipe)
- Makes it easier to eat healthy
- Less stress than not knowing for sure what your next meal is
- Less time consuming when you only go to the grocery store once a week
- Planning ahead
- Requires a bit of organization
- Requires decision making – which is sometimes daunting
To start meal prepping, you only need four things:
2) A recipe.
3) A kitchen
4) Some sort of container to put the food in.
Here are the meal prep supplies that I recommend, to make your life a little easier!
Meal Prep Containers:
These meal prep containers are some of the highest rated ones that I’ve found, and I have to agree they’re really useful! The different compartments are great for separating any sides from entrees, the lids are secure and water-tight, they hold a good serving size of food, and they stack together easily for storage.
Big Mixing Bowls:
When you’re cooking multiple servings of a meal, you have to have bowls, pots, and pans big enough to hold it all!
Trust me, you never realize what a difference having a quality/sharp knife makes in meal prepping… until you use a dull one for a while and then get the chance to use a sharp one again – it makes everything so much easier! A good and inexpensive knife sharpening steel definitely helps as well.
Olive Oil Bottle:
Also great for salad dressing and other liquids you use frequently, an oil bottle helps to speed up the cooking process so you don’t have to open up the cabinet and take the top off a bottle every time you need to use it.
Fresh ground pepper >>> the store bought ground pepper
A Quality & Large Cutting Board:
To be honest, when I started meal prepping in my dorm room I forgot to get a cutting board… they’re so important! If you can, get the largest size to fit your counter top. Having as much space as possible to chop, cut, and prep is majorly useful.
The Process: Meal Prepping
Step 1: Choosing a Meal Prep Recipe
I meal prep my breakfasts and lunches each week, so I choose 1 recipe for breakfast and 1 recipe for lunch that I then make 5-7 servings of to get me through the week.
If you are worried about getting tired of the flavor or the recipe each week, find little ways to change it up. For example if you choose a basic simple recipe like chicken and rice, choose a different marinade for each serving of chicken or a different seasoning for each serving of rice for each day. This will help to prevent you from getting tired of the repeating recipe.
One of my favorite ways to do this is to make simple and fun salads for lunch where each week I choose a new tasty dressing to try out, and that makes it so that I don’t get tired of the flavor week after week.
Another easy go-to is sheet pan recipes. Sheet pan recipes are a super easy and delicious way to get in a lot of veggies and some healthy protein in one meal.
Pinterest is a great source for finding meal prep recipes. I highly suggest looking on Pinterest to find a recipe you like!
It is important to keep in mind the way to store the food. If you will be in a place with a kitchen/microwave when you eat the meal each then you can make a meal that requires being heated up such as a pasta or a casserole.
If you will be travelling a lot all day and won’t have access to a refrigerator then you might not be able to make something that needs to be kept in the fridge/kept cold right before eating. Pay attention to your daily pattern in the upcoming week to make sure that the food you prepare can be eaten in whatever scenario you will be in.
When in doubt, do you have a favorite recipe that you love making, or a favorite meal that you could eat every day? Make 5 servings of that (or a healthier version of that) and pack it for the week. Done!
Step 2: Grocery Shopping
Before you leave to go to the store, make a plan. Write a list of everything you need to get for the week and have it pulled up on your phone while you’re shopping. Doing this will help to ensure that you don’t miss anything you’ll need for the meals, and also that you won’t buy any extra items not on your list.
Step 3: Cooking
Follow the recipe, make sure to make enough servings to get you through the week.
If you’re making more than one meal a day try to multitask by doing things like chopping vegetables for lunch while breakfast is in the oven.
If you get overwhelmed, play your favorite TV show on your laptop or tablet nearby (Gilmore Girls, anyone?) and take your time. This process may take a little while, but think about all the time and stress you’ll save by not having to worry about what your next meal is going to be.
Step 4: Portion and Pack
Lay out your tupperwares, containers, baggies, whatever you may be using to store your meal preps in for the week. Portion out your meals for the week in each container, stick it in the fridge, and call it a day.
Step 5: Eat and Repeat
After all of your meals have been eaten, set aside another few hours to do the process all over again. Bask in your easy healthy meal routine and the fact that you’re saving yourself so much money by not eating out.
10 thoughts on “Meal Prepping 101: How & Why to Start”
Great tips! I’m usually good about meal prepping for the first part of the week but haven’t mastered the full week yet. Definitely need to work on it!
Meal planning is SO helpful. A friend has both celiac and type 1 diabetes, luckily his school has a lot of options (it was something he looked for when choosing colleges). It’s been a few years now since he’s been in school, but I hope more colleges are considering this for there students.
Thanks for this post! I have got to start meal prepping more-this is super helpful!
Fantastic post! Meal prep is a life saver. By the way, I have celiac and know exactly where you’re coming from regarding dietary challenges 🙂
Great tips! I love meal prepping – it helps me get my food spending under control so I don’t keep ordering out for lunch!
Love it! Meal prep is an amazing way to feel organized + keep health a priority without having to think about it!
I know I need to meal prep and plan ahead, but I’m always so bad at it. Then every day at lunch, I’m starving and looking for food! Thanks for the motivation!!
I cannot click on the links that you posted with the recipes and the things you recommended.
I mean that the links do not work.
Thank you so much for letting me know, Emily! I just fixed the links – they should all be working now 🙂