5 steps to meal prepping for beginners

Meal prep and GO! That’s all it takes.

OK, in reality, it takes a bit more than that. I know from experience. However, like anything, you have to reach a point where you are willing to dive in, head first, and start. If you don’t, you will keep telling yourself you either might not have time, don’t have money for healthy foods or you are doing OK at selecting healthy foods or resisting temptations on your own.

It has been nearly one year since I began focusing on meal preparations and dieting, specifically for my body building shows. Whether you are training for a contest or not, I still think meal prep has aided tremendously in how much time I save. It has helped me better budget grocery expenses on a weekly and monthly basis. It has heightened my awareness about nutrition, serving sizes and food labels. All of these takeaways and more have maintained my interest and investment into the meal prep ideology.

Forewarning: it might feel weird or unnatural when you start making adjustments for meal preparations. However, do not let that set you back or scare you. I have had many friends reach out to me about my health and how to begin. I’d now like to share five steps to meal prepping for beginners.
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Caroline's Cues | 5 steps to meal prepping for beginners

Step 1: Research and reach out

The Internet is a glorious thing. When I began meal prepping, I immediately typed in www.Pinterest.com and began searching keywords like “beginner meal prep”, “meal prep tips”, “meal prep dinners” and more. There are so many resources available, it is hard to know where to start! Here are a few I found helpful. All of them include other tips on traveling or organizing food for preparation.

1. I Struggle With Meal Preps and Healthy Recipes
2. Tips on How to Meal Prep
3. How to Food Prep
4. Tips for Traveling With Food
5. Video on Traveling With Food
6. Printable Meal Prep 101 Poster
7. Video below on Meal Prep with Bite Sized Fitness

Step 2: Create a plan

Now that you have scoured the Internet or bugged your healthy nut friend for recipes and tips, it is time to take steps towards your meal prep endeavors. Like any goal, creating a plan is a step to empower you.

If you hired a meal planner, nutrition coach or dietician, this is the part that they can take ownership. However, if you want to manage and try food selections on your own, you have to make a plan.

Start with a list of meals for one week. Write them down, whether it’s on a calendar or spreadsheet. Then, go from there! It might be easier to go one week at a time. Depending on if you will be cooking for one (like I do) or a family, that can adjust how many meal options you want and need and what ingredient options you have. As mentioned in probably all of the links I shared, you need to know what you want to make before you purchase ingredients, storage containers or cooking utensils and necessities.

Step 3: Purchase and organize equipment

Caroline's Cues | Overnight Oats
Just some overnight oats. Recipe in post from Oct. 2015.

Yes, I called it “equipment”. Let’s be real, it can be daunting going into Target or William Sonoma (love that store) to purchase kitchen supplies. If you devised your plan in step 2, you will know approximately what foods you like, will be cooking and how they might need stored.

For example, if you will be making overnight oats every day of the week, it might make sense to get round, glass containers with lids to stack in the refrigerator. If you will be doing more salads or vegetable and meat combinations, stackable plastic Rubbermaid or Tupperware is a great option. I’ve also seen people use Ball glass canning jars for storing salads to keep lettuce and greens fresh all week and to store all ingredients per salad in one container. Once again, so many ideas are out there… what did we ever do without Pinterest? 😀

The one mistake I made starting out was not buying enough tupperware. Also, get a lot of smaller storage containers. If you want to separate nuts, oils, dressings, or other small food items, it is helpful to get small options too. Who wants to waste plastic baggies all the time?

Step 4: Grab your lists, coupons and shop

One of the best advantages I’ve found from meal prepping is how much less time I spend wandering the grocery store. I do not spend money carelessly for ingredients or foods I spontaneously want. I stick to my list and get in and out of the store efficiently.

If you work with a conservative budget, this is where your plan comes in. If you clip coupons and scout local advertisements for sales on food, you can focus your meals on what is on sale and available in stores. Maybe you were thinking asparagus but see the brussels sprouts will be on sale. Swap them out! I also make the same route in the store, starting with produce and working my way through meats and dairy/eggs and back to the cash register.
Consistency is key.

Step 5: Cook, prepare and store

Cooking and preparing your meals is the fun part, at least for me! You do not have to cook all the meals at once. You can simple organize and prepare ingredients in the same container. Then, when you go to maybe cook dinner for the family, you just grab the containers with those ingredients and bam! No more indecision about “ho hum, what can I cook the family for dinner tonight?” You are ready to go!

Most times, you will need more storage in the fridge after separating out meals. However, if you cook enough in bulk, you can also freeze foods for later. This space is totally worth it when you can save time, money, focus on health goals and provide yourself and/or family yummy, healthy food options.

What other advise would you like to see around meal prepping and healthy eating?
Would love to hear your feedback and thoughts!