If you’ve spent time on TikTok or Instagram lately, you’ve probably seen a meal prep post or two. Rows of identical, perfectly balanced meals in neatly portioned containers lined up on sleek countertops. At first glance, it looks a little intimidating, “do I have to get all those fancy partitioned glass containers?!” Or for those with goals of 5% body fat, “great, another seven days of chicken, steamed veggies, and plain brown rice.” But beyond doing it for Instagram aesthetics or weight loss, there are a lot of benefits to meal prepping.
What is meal prepping?
Meal prepping is the concept of planning and preparing entire meals ahead of schedule and storing them in individual containers for grab-and-go meals. Many people choose to do their grocery shopping and meal prep on Sunday so they’re prepared for the rest of the week, but it’s all about being flexible and doing what works for you. If it doesn’t work to plan out an entire week’s worth of meals, focus on just the work week or the next three days.
Take some time to figure out what works for your life. Why should you invest the time and energy into meal prepping? Some benefits go along with the habit of preparing your meals ahead of time just beyond avoiding the lunchtime “I’m hungry and don’t have much time.” Just think about what it can do for making kid's lunches and family dinners after work, practice, and school plays.
You’ll eat healthier
According to a 2017 study, adults who took the time to meal prep improved their diets in terms of the variety of foods they ate and the overall quality of food. Plus, those individuals were less likely to be overweight or obese. When you cook at home, you’re in charge of the ingredients.
Research also suggests that more time spent preparing your own food is linked to an increased intake of vegetables, salads, and fruits. And if you aren’t eating fast food or other grab-and-go convenience food as often, it’s very likely you’ll also be consuming less sugar, salt, and fat that is typically abundant in those types of foods.
You’ll save money
Think about what your bill would look like if you ordered fast-food tacos every day at work this week. Now think about what you’d spend if you went to the grocery store and got a couple of pounds of ground beef or chicken, some tortillas, and other fixings and portioned those out over the week.
For breakfasts, it can really add up. By preparing a batch of muffins (or making a few dozen at once and freezing the rest to thaw when you need them), and having one or two on the way to work instead of spending money at the coffee shop every morning for a muffin with your latte, those savings really start to add up.
You’re less likely to get hangry
When you’re hungry, even the smallest decision of what to eat can feel monumentally stressful. Your blood sugar is low, and your body is diverting all your attention to finding food to get things back up and running again. This is not the time to leave yourself with insufficient or too many options. This is when meal prepping comes in really handy. Just imagine walking in from work, and you’re hungry, the kids are starving, and everyone needs to eat, but you know that you’ve got dinner planned, prepped, and ready to go with minimal effort. Can’t you just feel your jaw unclench thinking about it?
You’ll probably waste less food (and less money)
How many times have you come home from the grocery store with a bunch of fresh vegetables with the best of intentions, only to throw them away a couple of weeks later? The problem isn’t that you didn’t want to eat that kale; it’s just maybe you didn’t have a specific plan for how you would eat that kale while it was still fresh. That’s where meal prepping comes in handy. If you make your grocery list based on the meals you’re going to be making for that week, you’ll actually be using those veggies when they’re fresh instead of just letting them slowly wilt in your crisper.
When it comes to meal prepping, the process should work for you. It doesn’t have to be just bland chicken and unseasoned vegetables all week long. Find recipes that you like, ones that are balanced and filling. There are loads of different portioned containers out there in both plastic and glass, and recipes to fit any taste, diet or budget. The key is to just get started. Happy prepping!