MEAL PREP: IT’S A LIFESTYLE

source: Todd Quackenbush // Unsplash

Meal prep is something that a lot of people probably already do, at least to some extent. If you’ve ever chopped a head a lettuce, used half and stuck the rest in the fridge, or made a large pot of soup and had bowls of it throughout the week, then you’ve done meal prep.

Meal prep, or preparing meals or components of meals in advance, could revolutionize not only WHAT you eat, but how you eat it as well. Depending on your individual preferences and lifestyle, there’s a secret combination of time allocation and favorite meals that would make you fall in love with it.

When people hear meal prep, they might think: slaving away in a kitchen for 5 hours on a Sunday afternoon to create 21 complete meals.

Actually, meal prep makes your life EASIER. It has a tendency to lighten your load and simplify your life, but in small ways. One less pan to wash, and I have tomorrow’s breakfast 50% taken care of!

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned this past year is that if you’re lazy about cooking, having prepped ingredients ready to go in the fridge makes it much more likely that you’ll actually end up cooking something.

It can be as simple as just taking the extra few seconds to slice a whole head of cabbage, not just the half you need for that meal. You’ve already got the board and knife out, why not just grab a Tupperware from the cabinet and dump the rest in there? It can be as thoughtless as sautéing off some veggies in the pan you were just using to cook that chicken. It’s likely that there’s extra flavor stuck to the bottom of the pan, and veggies are so great about absorbing flavor…The pan’s already hot, why not dump in a bit more oil and just get the 5-minute job done?

This has significantly reduced the amount of prep I usually reserve for Sunday afternoons (Sunday afternoon is actually a pretty good time to prep meals – but any long-ish, 2-3 hour chunk works). Now, I no longer feel the pressure to create complete meals. They tend to taste weirder the longer you let them sit in the fridge, anyways.

Instead, what I love to do on Sundays is prep ingredients. I just put some dancing music on and challenge myself to get the job done as efficiently as possible. I wash, peel and chop vegetables, stick them in pasta sauce jars I’ve collected, shove a paper towel in to absorb excess moisture and just reach for them throughout the week, when I’m looking to stir-fry some broccoli or roast some cauliflower. That’s what works for me, though.

It’s pretty easy to gravitate towards eating out all of the time. Getting food delivered, or picking it up already cooked? So tempting.

It’s hard to find motivation to cook, as passionate about it as you may feel. But if you think about it, meal prep not only helps you out every week, it helps your body, your wallet and your growing curiosity about cooking.

My point, however, is that if you enjoy cooking but tend to be lazy about it (me), doing some sort of ingredient prep – you decide the extent – can help you overcome the hurdles you normally face when you’re hungry but don’t feel like cooking in that moment. Imagine opening the fridge to already-marinated chicken or pre-chopped cabbage. LIT.

Meal prep is essential in college. I used to think, why would I want to confine all of my interaction with food to just one day of the week? Pass.

But college, as it turns out, can get really busy. My schedule has me eating breakfast really quickly at home most days, lunch at the student center with friends, and dinner super early, either to-go or in a rush before I head out to work or a meeting.

So, meals have fallen to somewhat of a background status in my life. It’s an in-between activity, or a secondary concern when I’m in a social setting. When that happens, it’s really easy to not think carefully about what you’re putting into your body. You tend to go for what’s convenient, which doesn’t always overlap with what’s healthy or what’s cost-efficient.

Meal prep brings cooking and eating back into the foreground of your life, but with ease. It doesn’t detract from your time and efforts. The way I see it, it’s a period of time when I get to distract my mind from everything else that’s worrying me, and just focus on what’s in front of me.

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