Meal Prep 101
I started Loveleaf with the mission of eating one salad a day. You know, like one veggie-full power bowl per day. Because we all feel better when we eat lots of veggies. And I quickly realized that this simple intention became a whole lot easier when I planned for it (#adulting). Enter: meal-prep, Loveleaf style. ✌🏼
Meal-Prep, the Loveleaf Way
The words "meal-prep" might stir up some Instagram visuals: black plastic containers, the chicken + broccoli + quinoa combo, macros, fitness accounts, bananas laid out perfectly with each meal. While that's all fine and good, it's not really the Loveleaf style. I don't think "meal prep" should be synonymous with "boring." But I realized one of the biggest downfalls of meal prep (aka why we used to routinely #fail at it) is overwhelm; trying to make too many recipes each week led us to spend too much money on groceries and spend way too much time in the kitchen. So I did what I love to do most; simplify the process.
Our style of meal prep is clean, simple, and flexible. To make the whole one-salad-a-day thing actually happen, we prep one (really good) salad or bowl recipe per week. And then we switch up the recipe every.single.week by trying out new, inspiring ingredients and combos. This last part is key. Because eating the same thing week after week will lead you straight to the vending machine or pizza place (trust us, we've been there). By prepping five servings of one new, exciting bowl recipe each week, we give ourselves a solid framework of ready-to-go meals and the flexibility to cook other things. Or go out for tacos and margs (and chips). #balance.
For us, the whole quality-over-quantity approach is more realistic when it comes to meal prep recipes. And when things are realistic, we actually do them. Prepping less each week allows us to make room for better. And by better we mean: have more time to do everything else while discovering new recipes and exciting ingredients every week. Because variety is the spice of life.
Why Meal Prep?
How we eat influences our daily happiness, relationships, energy, mood, and health. And healthy food is actually pretty simple. It just takes a little thought. Meal planning and prep encourages you to do the "hard" work up front, so you can be your best self during the work week. Meal prepping allows you to:
Eat healthier than you ever have.
Hello, veggies. Meal prepping guarantees you eat healthy, nutrient dense meals on the reg. (Because your prep-ahead self is smarter than your weeknight-after-work self).
Break out of your recipe rut.
Because "eggs for dinner again?" gets old. Meal planning and prep forces you to be thoughtful and intentional about your meals so you don't default to making the same old, same old in the moment. Need recipe ideas? We got you.
Shop with purpose.
Say goodbye to hours at the grocery store and to produce going bad in the fridge. By planning ahead of time (and using a super organized weekly shopping list), each ingredient will have a use.
Have more freedom and flexibility.
A little planning and prepping is the antidote to weeknight stress. This five-serving framework frees you up to focus on the stuff that really matters. And gives you the flexibility to grab sushi and drinks with friends (without anything going to waste).
Do it all in less time.
So you can pay attention to everything else in your life. Like actually eating the food. While relaxing. With a glass of rosé (just an idea).
How to Meal Prep (the Play-By-Play)
Make a plan.
Before the week begins, craft a simple menu and organized shopping list. Keep it simple but spice it up with something #fancy. Use this trusted build-a-bowl formula to make your favorite combinations or get a weekly prep-ahead recipe and ingredient delivered weekly. Deciding on what to eat before grocery shopping can save you hundreds (and hundreds) of dollars a year.
Keep a well-stocked pantry.
Always keep the essentials on hand to spend less time at the grocery store. Be sure to cross off what you already have before grocery shopping to avoid buying duplicate items. Here's how to stock a healthy pantry.
Go grocery shopping.
And bring your shopping list! Make grocery shopping fit seamlessly into your life (read: do it on your way home from work instead of using half of Sunday). A delivery service like Instacart can help. And so can this list of places to grocery shop. Looking to save some money? Check out these tips here.
Get the containers and tools you need.
A little up front investment will go a long way. To prep-ahead five servings, you'll need five meal prep containers. I'm kind of obsessed with these Glasslock meal prep containers, but if you don't want your bowl components to touch, you could try these. My favorite (over-Pinterested) budget option is pairing these mason jars with these leakproof Tulid lids. For keeping sauces and toppings separate (and storing snacks), I like this variety pack of Glasslock storage containers. For making the prep itself a breeze, check out my essential kitchen tools here.
Choose your prep day (and time).
And no, you don't need an entire prep day. This simplified approach means an hour (or less!) of prep. I like Sunday or Monday nights, right before dinner (in a clean, clutter-free kitchen with music and a glass of wine). Instead of packing five servings, I often pack four and eat the fifth right after prepping.
How Long Does Food Last?
The sweet spot is about four days. So if you prep five servings on Monday night, you can eat one Monday night, and have one meal prepped per day for the rest of the work week. Check out our guide to avoiding soggy salads (keep the dressing separate!). And keep your toppings crunchy by storing them in separate containers or Ziploc bags until right before eating.
But Will I Get Bored?
I don't think so and here's how to avoid it:
- Be adamant about trying new recipes and discovering new ingredients.
- Don't eat five servings in a row. By mixing in breakfasts, other lunches or dinners, and snacks, you can get a good variety of flavors each week.
- The pros of keeping meal prep simple (far) outweigh the cons.
But if you're not the type of person who can eat the same dish five times in one week, this simple style of meal prep might not be for you (and that's totally cool too). Though I encourage you to give it a try. It just might change your life.