I’m sure you’ve seen it. One of your friends starts posting on Instagram about her new meal prep kick, healthy living, and how she’s “so excited for this journey.” But a week and a half later...this “new meal prep obsession” is never seen or heard from again and your friend is back to posting late-night pizza binges and she’s eating out for every meal. So what happened?
Meal prep is everywhere. We’re attacked by it every day on the ‘gram, and we end up feeling terrible about ourselves because the sub-par eating habits of our busy working lives don’t quite match up to the perfectly portioned containers and ultra-healthy recipes we see online as part of this meal prep craze.
I’m not here to make you feel bad about meal prep, and whatever it is you’re not doing. But, if you’re reading this article it means you’ve joined my Whole30 Thrive Team. (Congrats on that decision, by the way. I see you.) A Whole30 is hard enough on its own. And sometimes, after a day of crabbiness and cravings, skipping lunch because you didn’t have time to make one, and working through a pounding headache, the last thing in the world you want to be doing is sweating it out in the kitchen for an hour and a half making a Whole30 compliant meal for you and your complaining family.
I get it. And that’s why I’m here to help.
Meal prep is a great tool, used correctly. It’s the perfect lifestyle implement to help you hit alllll the #Whole30Goals, but it can also be your demise. I’m going to teach you how to meal prep for you. I call it meal prepping for success, and it’s a little different than any regular old meal prep you may have read about on the internet.
Meal prepping for success WILL save you time, save you money, save you stress, help your day go more smoothly, and keep you Whole30 compliant. Meal prepping for success WILL NOT ask you to prepare 15 different elaborate meals for every day of the week and have you inevitably fail and return to poor eating habits. Because meal prep shouldn’t be that complicated.
To meal prep for success, let’s get a couple of things down.
First - Meal prep is meant to make your life easier, not harder. Big changes and new habits take some time to get used to, so don’t try to become a meal prep wizard all at once. If a high-fat, zero-carb, kickstarter breakfast is what you struggle most with, start by meal prepping a few breakfasts at a time. If you’re okay for breakfast and lunch but you’re a mess of stress by dinnertime, prepping dinner ingredients ahead of time could be the plan for you. Remember, we’re doing what’s easiest for you.
Second - Make sure you’re prepared to prep. If this is your first go at meal prepping, it’s probably time to invest in some kind of container for storing all your meals. We’re looking for reusable, durable, and versatile. Mason jars are great for sauces, salads, and parfaits, and glass tupperware is my personal favorite for lunches on-the-go that stack and store easily in your fridge. You might also check out sectioned-off containers if you’re ready to get really fancy with it. (Hint: you don’t have to be fancy, just find what works for you.)
Third - Scheduling is everything. If you don’t carve out some time to get cookin’, it’s never going to happen. Pick a day of the week that works well for you. Many meal preppers prefer Sundays, but if Thursday night is your jam instead, go for it. Basically, you’ll need time to plan your meals, shop for ingredients (simplify that with my Whole30 Approved Shopping List HERE), actually make the food, and store it for the week.
Before you even think about going to the store, let’s find the type of meal prep that will best fit your personal Whole30 needs.
Plan for full make-ahead meals IF: the only free time you have is on the weekends, you need variety in your meal plan, and/or you’re cooking for a family.
Plan for batch-cooking or freezing IF: you don’t mind eating the same thing 3 or 4 times, you’re okay to cook throughout the week, and/or you can eat leftovers for multiple meals a day.
Plan for prepped meals for one IF: you’re only cooking for yourself, you’re prepping one meal (e.g. breakfast) for the week, and/or you’re really focusing on portion control.
Plan for ingredient prep IF: you’re planning on cooking every night but hoping to save time, your different meals use a lot of the same ingredients, and/or individual portioning scares you.
When you’re storing food for later use, safety and freshness is everything. The standard for storage in the fridge is 3-4 days. You’ll want to be pretty careful eating anything stored for longer than that. If your meal is in the freezer, you’re good for 3-6 months. Watch out for freezer-burn though!
Plus a bonus tip: for maintaining the most nutrients in your Whole30 meal prepped creations, I recommend reheating in the toaster oven or on the stove. Microwaves can be damaging to nutrients and harmful to you.
Whole30 is a mental and physical challenge. There’s a lot more going into it than just the food, so it’s important to have positive reinforcement. Nobody wants to walk a new journey alone. It's much easier to give up when you don’t have someone to cheer you on and keep you accountable. That is where an expert coach comes in. With the meal prep taken care of, you’re one step closer to marking off every single one of your Whole30 goals. You’ve got this!
As always, reach out to me via social media with any questions, comments, successes, or the like! I love to see your progress, and I’m here for you. Let’s get this Whole30!