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How To Meal Prep (Complete Guide)

nutrition Sep 01, 2018

I have been asked so many times about how I get and stay lean most of the year. The truth of the matter is, if you follow some basic steps, you have more than a 90% chance of success. And all this rests on the ability to meal prep.

Meal Prep Basics

I believe that if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail. The biggest issue people have when they are trying to meal prep is that they don't come into it with a plan. If you are heading into Sunday night or even Monday morning trying to throw together some meals for the week, you will likely fail.

But if you do several things before you face the nuclear disaster of trying to meal prep at the last minute, then you will not only have a higher chance of success, you will also find yourself stress free and happy going into the week.

Step 1: Start With The Basics

Everyone likes to jump to getting their meals ready to go, but if you start with this, you are missing an integral part of getting ready for the week. What is your goal? You first need to have a reason for meal prepping.

Are you trying to maintain your health? Maybe you're trying to lose weight? Or maybe you're trying to gain muscle?

All of these questions need to be answered before you move on to step two. Many don't begin with a reasonable plan or program to follow and they wing it. But the basics of meal prep means you should have a reason behind you doing it.

Once you have chosen your actual goal, then you should begin to start working on your plan for what you will be putting in your meal plan. [For help and a free meal plan template, check out my 21 Day Challenge]. There are a few different ways to go about about figuring out your actual needs for meal prep.

Step 2: What are your specific needs?

Everyone has their own schedule, so each one of us has to look at their schedule and decide what works best. I have put together several situations, and you can decide which one would be best for you to choose, depending on your lifestyle. The truth is, not everyone has the time to eat six meals a day. So I have broken down "meal schedules" in four different sections:

Crazy Busy Professional

Four Meals:

-Meal 1: Shake (Wake up Meal) 

-Meal 2: Prepped Meal (Noon Meal)

-Meal 3: Prepped Meal (Pre-Workout Meal)

-Meal 4: Shake (Post-Workout Meal)

For the crazy busy professional, the goal is more to conserve time than to enjoy food. If this is you, time is of the essence, and even 10-15 extra minutes making breakfast isn't really in the cards. For you, it's important to stick to the program and keep things moving. You'll also only need to prep 10 meals per week, and make your shake on Sunday for the week to make it easy to grab it and go.

If this is you, your necessary items for meal prepping are here. This list includes 10 meal prep containers, a Ninja Blender that can make your shakes for the week, along with a scale to measure your food. Bonus: For those looking for mid day quick snacks, check out the Bar Shack for clean protein bars on the go. You can also subscribe to healthy snacks delivered to your door each week with Clean.Fit Box.

I've Got A Family Plan

Five Meals:

-Meal 1: Breakfast (AM Meal)

-Meal 2: Prepped Meal (Noon Meal)

-Meal 3: Prepped Meal (Pre-Workout Meal)

-Meal 4: Shake (Post-Workout Meal)

-Meal 5: Family Dinner (Recipes Here)

This is for those of you who have kids and a family and need to make sure you follow a schedule but have flexibility with your kiddos and your spouse. The hardest thing to do is to make your significant other follow your meal plan, or to make them feel like they have to. But one thing you can do is make healthy eating fun. This is important to do, because if you do make it fun, then it's easy for them to join with you.

With this schedule, you will eat breakfast with everyone, then you will make family dinner and get the proper macros at those times, and then you only need to prep two meals a day with a shake after your workout (this can be moved to the morning if you workout then).

If this is you, your necessary items for meal prepping are here. I also added a complete list for you to look at for tools to make your time easier at home when cooking for yourself and several others. The Instant Pot is a life-saver, along with a few other tools to make meal prep and cooking a lot faster and efficient.

9-5 I've Got Time Plan

Six Meals:

-Meal 1: Breakfast (AM Meal)

-Meal 2: Snack

-Meal 3: Prepped Meal (Noon Meal)

-Meal 4: Prepped Meal (Pre-Workout Meal)

-Meal 5: Prepped Meal (Post-Workout Meal)

-Meal 6: High Protein/No Carb Meal

This is the normal plan that many follow when trying to get shredded or lose weight. Six meals, spread out throughout the day can actually help you stay on track and make sure you are on schedule. The worst times you should worry about are the gaps in the day when you are tempted to eat that muffin or cookie at the office. This way you will be able to eat meals every few hours, without the temptation of feeling like you need that delicious carb.

If this is you, your necessary items for meal prepping are here. As you can see, you will need a good amount of supplies to properly meal prep. But if you get the complete list, you will be in a much better spot to succeed.

Step 3: Specify Your Meal Plan

This step is important. There are so many that get confused at this point. The big question I get asked is this: how do I create my meal plan so I can get the right amount of macronutrients needed for the day? If you need help, I provide a goal-specific meal plan in my Queen Lifestyle Program here. You can also get my free 21 Day Challenge that will give you an initial meal plan to get you started.

Most nutritionists charge money for you to receive a customized meal plan, but I want to help you as much as possible, so use any of the resources I've provided for you so you can get a proper meal plan in your hands!

Step 4: Finalize your grocery list
So you have figured out your goal, which includes your choice in getting shredded or gaining muscle. You have figured out what you need for meal prep supplies, as well as how many meals a day that you will be. You have also figured out what your macros and plan will be on a daily basis.

Once you have all this, you will know what you need to buy at the grocery store.

But wait!

Make sure that you don't just throw your grocery shopping pants on and head to the grocery store just yet! You have to make sure you're ready to make a complete list. One of the worst feelings in the world is to be meal prepping, then realizing you forgot one important item on the list that you created in your head.

Meal Plan To Grocery List Example

So before you jump in that car, make sure you sit down and put your list together. You can use your phone, or an old fashioned piece of paper. Either way, you will want to start from your meal plan you've put together, then work your way backwards.

This is important to do, because if you do it the other way, you will likely be short on some item on your list.

Let's say your meal plan has you eating 4 oz of chicken five times a week. Then you know you need 20 oz of chicken total, which means you'll need at least two pounds of chicken. You may calculate it and tell me that you got 1 pound and 4 oz, and you would be right. But guess what? Chicken shrinks, just like the other food you'll be cooking. You measure your food after you cook it, not before.

This is important to understand when putting together your list. You need to get to know your numbers for the week and then you can know exactly how much you need to buy.

Rule of thumb: Always overestimate what you'll need, and overbuy just in case

I have provided you an example of a normal meal plan [which you can get for free here] below along with the grocery list I created as an example of what yours should look like.

This is important to understand, so you will be able to create your own list and get what you need at the store.

Step 5: Meal Prep!

Alright! We've finally gotten to the good stuff!

Remember when I said that you need to do a few things before you can just start meal prepping? This is why. You need to be able to understand how to prepare to meal prep before you can just jump right into it. If you just decide to start prepping, then you will fail miserably.

Now that you have your equipment and your food from your list, now you can begin to cook and prep for the week.

I designate Sunday as my day to meal prep, as it's usually the easiest day to get ready for the week. Everyone is different though. You have to pick a day that works best for you. It is important that you set apart two to three hours of your time to actually do the prepping. I will provide you several tips to actually speed up your time to prep, but you still need to give yourself time to get it done!

My Normal Process

If you haven't watched the video of how I meal prep, make sure to check it out here (and subscribe on YouTube!). But this is my normal process of meal prepping when I have what I need:

Get the oven going: This is where I cook my sweet potatoes, asparagus, and any other items that I want to bake. I usually cook all my baked items anywhere from 400-425 degrees in the oven. Sweet potatoes take 1-1.5 hours, and asparagus take only 10-15 minutes. (Total time - 1-1.5 hours)

Throw my rice in my Instant Pot: This is a lifesaver when it comes to making rice quickly and perfectly. I haven't found a better way to do it. You can check out this great instant pot perfect rice guide so you can make yours perfectly.

But the basics of it is to use water to rice 1:1 and set it on medium pressure for 22 minutes, and natural release for 10-14 minutes. Keep in mind--this is for short grain brown rice. (Total time - 30-40 min)

Season and cook my protein: I am old school with meat and usually cook it on the stovetop and add seasonings there. You can cook in a slow cooker, or your Instant Pot, but I usually take care of it quickly on my stovetop. (Total time - 30-40 min)

Measure and add carbs, protein, and fats to my meal prep containers: This is kind of self explanatory, but once you have prepped your food, you add it all once you've measured the food.

I usually start with protein, then add the carbs. Then I top it off with veggies.

Freeze meals you won't eat for more than four days: I usually recommend you to freeze meals if you won't be eating them for a bit, you can easily warm them up later on.

Step 6: Crush The Week!

Congratulations! If you have followed each step of the process I have laid out for you, then you are not only ready to crush your week for meal prep, you have done the leg work necessary to be smart about how you eat, and guess what? Abs are made in the kitchen! Are you ready to achieve your health and fitness goals? Let's do this!


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