I love the feeling of having meals prepped for the week. It feels like I finally have my shit together. But what I don’t love is the effort it takes to actually do the prepping. It’s not hard, per se, but I have a hard time convincing myself to do both the weekly shopping and the cooking on the same day.
It’s pure laziness. 😉
Use What You Have
Sometimes stupid things can keep us from being productive, like not having the pretty matching organizing containers in the pictures on Pinterest. I was digging around in my Tupperware cabinet the other day (which sadly holds minimal containers these days, as they all seem to magically disappear – I started with at least 14! I’m done to 2!) and I saw all the mason jars I stored at the back of the cabinet, just taking up space and being useless and I realized how dumb I was being for not utilizing them.
I made some green beans and steamed broccoli – not together, ew – and stored them in smaller containers, and then cooked up some ground turkey and stored it in a larger one for dinner that we’re having tonight.
Does my fridge look Pinterest-worthy? Absolutely not. It needs to be cleaned and there are way too many condiments that don’t get used enough, but I’m working with what I’ve got.
What’s More Valuable: Time? Or Money?
I feel like we’re so caught up in the idea that meal prepping has to be fresh and 100% homemade, that we forget all the convenient healthy options available.
The compromise, though, is that those things cost more money. That’s where you have to decide what’s more important upfront and what’s going to make you more successful overall.
For me, buying bags of frozen, par-boiled rice makes more sense and is easier than buying a bag of dry rice and cooking that. I also like getting the heat-in-microwave packets of rice and whole grain mixes and mixing it with the frozen brown rice. I’ve also been known to buy pre-cooked chicken and frozen veggies.
Like I said, it comes down to what’s more valuable to you and what’s going to help you succeed.
Do you have a little more time to cook chicken and rice and veggies (or whatever you’re meal prepping) or do you have a little more money to spend on premade stuff? Are you more likely to eat food you’ve taken time to cook yourself, or are you more likely to actually put your lunch together if everything is already done and you don’t have to think about it.
And if money is your ultimate deciding factor, but you’re lazy like me, consider that it may be worth it to spend a little more upfront (looking at you boxes of frozen, par-boiled brown rice from Sprouts/Trader Joe’s) so you can save money in the long run by not going out to eat for lunch.
Meal Prep Containers Really Help
Despite my best efforts (and money and time spent on Amazon) we managed to be down to only two of the 14 meal prep containers I bought 3 years ago. The fact that they lasted this long is awesome, but I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t because I just wasn’t using them for a while. You can find them here if you want them. They were awesome and worked really well until they started disappearing.
I’m a big fan of the divided, two-compartment ones when I make my usual chicken and rice with veggies, but sometimes I make sheet pan meals and I like the single compartment ones for that. I like to fill them up and stack them in the fridge so they’re easy to just grab and go.
Then, in the morning, you grab a container, grab some fruit or snack bar or whatever else you need, put it in your lunch bag (or take a Target bag from the bag holder in the laundry room/under the sink) and go!
Prep It Family Style
But what happens if you’re down to just one or two containers? How do you manage to meal prep for the whole week on one container? Well, friends, it can be done. It sucks having to wash out the same container every night, but it can be done.
Typically, in meal prepping, you’re making everything in larger batches than you would if you were cooking it for dinner that night, so it’s likely that it’s already all in one container to begin with. Like I mentioned before, use what containers you do have and make it work for you.
When I actually do cook up some rice (or even just microwave a whole bag of the frozen kind), I put it in a big square Tupperware and just scoop it out into the meal-prep container the night before. If I’ve got some cooked chicken, it’s usually being stored in either a Ziploc bag or one of my glass cooking dishes that has a lid (or covered in foil which is safe to use in the fridge) and I started putting veggies in mason jars.
Whatever your needs are, or whatever works for you, do that. We all get so caught up in the ideas that our lives should or could look like someone else’s and forget to consider what works for us. There’s no right way to meal prep or “get your shit together” because it looks different for everyone.
I hope this helps and that now you may go forth and conquer lunchtime. Or dinnertime. Or whatever you’re meal prepping for.