By Tash Weddle
What if I told you that there is one thing you can do each week that would save you about $50 and give you at least three more hours of free time all while decreasing stress and improving your — would you do it? Well you should! The one thing I’m referring to is starting a food preparation ritual. In fact, prepping your food ahead of time is a critical step when trying to stick to a healthy eating plan long-term.
I know you’re busy. You have a job, commitments, and responsibilities and the last thing you want to do with what little time you have left at the end of the day is cook. But of all the daily commitments you make each day, perhaps the most important is the one you make to yourself — the commitment to stay healthy by exercising and eating right.
Here are some strategies that can help minimize time spend cooking each week and help you have the right foods ready when you need them:
Step 1: Only shop once
Sit down and plan all of your meals for the week. This is a simple, but necessary step that will save time and money at the grocery store because you won’t be wandering down the middle isles, where all the processed junk foods are, but rather heading straight for the foods on your list.
Next, schedule a day or two to cook. I suggest Sunday afternoon and Wednesday evening. You could also do it in the morning, but it’s important to keep the days and time consistent otherwise you may just skip it and wind up eating most of your meals out, which is never a good thing.
Step 2: Pre-Cook your Protein
If you’re familiar with the eating habits we teach, then you know you should be eating one palm-sized portion of protein with each meal. You should have figured out how many palms of protein you’ll need for the week when you planned your meals. Set out your proteins, season them and get to work. I suggest using an indoor grill for cooking beef, turkey and salmon patties as well as chicken sausages and the oven for baking chicken, salmon, egg muffins, etc. You can use the crock pot to make large batches of chili and soup, a wok for making a large stir-fry and you also have the option of using Greek yogurt and whey protein for some of your meals.
Step 3: Chop Veggies and Fruit
While your protein is cooking, chop your vegetables. You should be eating 1-2 fist-sized portions of veggies with each meal. That’s a lot of veggies! Only chop half of your vegetables and either cook them (roast, steam or stir-fry) or put them in Ziploc baggies to eat raw. You can also try out the salad in a jar method here. You’ll chop up the second half in three or four days once you’ve eaten the first batch. Be sure to include some fruits as well, but try to eat four veggies for every one piece of fruit.
Step 4: Cook any Starchy Carbs You’ll Need
Any starchy carbs you’re eating should be unprocessed. Things like sweet potatoes, oats, quinoa and rice can take a while to cook so throw them in the oven or on the stove while your protein is cooking. Just remember the rule with carbs; they need to earn their rent. If you’re not exercising, then you haven’t earned them.
Step 5: Put everything in Pyrex® Containers
Simply put a palm-sized portion of protein, a fist-sized portion or two of veggies and a palm-sized portion of starchy carbs (if you’ve earned them) in each container and you’re good to go. I suggest sticking to glass containers if you plan on reheating them.
That’s all there is to it. It’s not complicated, but it does require some commitment. Starting a food prep routine is such a simple step that can totally change your life. This entire process only takes me an hour on Sunday and about 30 minutes on Wednesday. It saves me time, money, stress and definitely inches on my waistline.