Weekly Food Prep Ideas: Be Prepared!
During one of the more memorable scenes in the Lion King, Scar (the angsty-looking lion to the right) gave some of the most valuable fitness advice you could ever hope to encounter — BE PREPARED. While Scar was perhaps speaking from a more devious, even evil, place at the time (Spoiler alert: He kills his own brother and single-handedly sucks the life out of the Pride Lands of Africa…), the advice rings true along your fitness journey as well, particularly with your nutrition. These weekly food prep ideas can help you be prepared and get your week started on the right foot!
Weekly Food Prep Ideas – Meal Prep Sunday
One of the major factors in achieving fitness success is nutrition. It’s also one of the most difficult factors to stay on top of, because it requires a great deal of planning and prep work, especially if you have a busy work/family schedule — which is true for most people. You’ve probably heard of the famous “Meal Prep Sunday,” which is the day that most of us have time to set aside to shop, cook and pack meals for the week. If you do a Google Image search for Meal Prep Sunday, you’ll get a good idea of what this looks like for most people. More Tupperware than you ever thought possible, filled with a number of different healthy meals that you can keep in your fridge, take to work, and have ready whenever hunger arises.
Like most things in fitness, you really need to play around with your meal prep routine. Don’t be afraid to take your own approach depending on the foods you like, how you like them prepared, how much time you have in your schedule or what day you have available (you won’t be shunned for meal prepping on Wednesday, to my knowledge). Just to give you an idea of where to start, I’m going to give you an inside look at what a typical week of meal prep looks like for me….so here we go!
The Grocery Haul
I typically do my shopping on Saturday night or early Sunday morning – or anytime I feel like there will be WAY fewer people around. There are few things worse than waiting for someone to select the perfect green pepper, dodging kids throughout the store, and waiting in the longest lines known to man in order to check out. I make a lot of the same meals with the same ingredients every week, and make spin-offs with different flavors to change them up. The main ingredients, however, remain the same, so shopping is fairly easy.
My eating preferences lie mainly in the Paleo camp, with a few exceptions, so when I head to the store, I’m looking to buy proteins (chicken, beef, fish, etc.), carbs (bananas & sweet potatoes), healthy fats (coconut oil, nuts, avocados, etc.), and LOTS of fresh veggies. I deviate from my typical list for different recipes, at times, but you can see in the picture of this particular grocery haul, most of the food consists of those four types of foods.
Breaking It Down
Ok, let’s break down the grocery haul here, and I’ll give you some of those weekly food prep ideas and what I do to prepare and use all these different sources of goodness. We won’t get too big into recipes in this post, but some will definitely be coming down the line soon — so get ready for those!
Starting with the good stuff! Proteins are absolutely my favorite thing to eat, which makes hitting my 150g/day goal fairly easy. In this haul I picked up some chicken breast tenderloins, ground sirloin (90/10), thin cut stir fry beef, lean Italian seasoned ground turkey, eggs and bacon.
I prefer getting chicken tenderloins because I can season and bake them quickly, which gives me delicious, clean “chicken strips.” They’re easy to take on the go because they’re small, and it doesn’t look weird to eat them with your fingers, like it probably would if you had a whole chicken breast on your hands. Once these are ready to go, I put a couple strips in each plastic bag, and I have them ready to throw in with any meal, or just eat as a snack.
With ground beef and stir fry beef, I brown and season all of it at the beginning of the week, and put them in Tupperware to use for whatever I decide to put together. Taking the browning step out for the rest of the week is a huge time saver, and gives you flexibility with how you use it — this is great if you have commitment issues I typically do this when I buy regular ground turkey as well, but I went with the Italian seasoning this time around to make some really delicious meatballs. Another easy thing to eat, and flexible with how it’s used.
The way I use eggs really varies. Often times, I just use them as I need them to throw on top of stir-fry, to have with breakfast or anytime I need a boost in my proteins or fats throughout the day. Sometimes I hard boil them to take for on-the-go, or throw together some deviled eggs when I get a craving for something delicious.
I don’t always buy bacon, but when I do, I usually cook it all at once and then use it as crumbles to throw in a salad or on top of anything else I make. Bacon was made to enhance the deliciousness of all food, so I try to use it accordingly — I recommend you do the same!
My go-to fats include coconut oil, nuts, nut butter, and avocados (which I didn’t pick up on this particular trip). I use coconut oil mostly for cooking anything on the stove. I also use it in some recipes, and blend it up with my coffee, which is absolutely delicious, and really satiating right away in the morning.
I typically use almond butter in shakes or on protein pancakes, maybe just a straight up spoonful here and there to get those extra fats in — just delicious. I almost always have a little bag of mixed nuts in my car, my lunch bag, and ready to go in the cupboard. As far as prep goes, I measure out serving sizes and put them in bags for the week – it’s easy to overeat these, and it can really put a dent in your calorie intake if you get carried away.
To the right, we have some more healthy fats, some of which, I got for a specific recipe. I picked up the unsweetened, shredded coconut and Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips to make some fantastic cookie dough bites that are a great source of healthy fat! You can check out how I prepared those right here. A also bought a little guy of almond milk to add to some banana ice cream or use in my coffee when I get a hankering for something a little more creamer-like.
Keeping It Fresh
Based on what I said earlier, you were probably expecting the next section to be carbs. However, the carbs that I eat also fall in line with the fresh produce that I buy, so I’m keeping it fresh, and throwing them all in the same section. What’s life without the edge, anyway?
Alright, as you can see, I picked up some good looking green and red bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, lemons and some bananas. I also picked up a big tub of spring mix to throw together some salads for lunches. Some extras I didn’t reload on for this trip, but always have are red onions and sweet potatoes.
Now, vegetables are where I start to to feel a little ‘meh’ about over preparing them at the beginning of the week and letting them hang out in containers with meat for the rest of the week. Something about it just grosses me out – the texture is more mushy, the flavor is limited, and it’s just not for me. So, in order to limit the nastiness of my carefully prepared meals, I like to do more of a meal prep, prep….if you will. I chop up all of the vegetables I want to have for the week, and put those in Tupperware, so all I have to do for dinner or making lunch for the next day, is throw them in a pan. It’s a thing of beauty (proof below).
You’ve probably deduced that bell peppers and onions are a favorite of mine, and I prepare and use them in large quantities accordingly. In this case, I chopped up a bunch of these with celery as well to go into some chili — a great thing to make that tastes delicious all week long! I also have some chopped up broccoli florets and some cauliflower rice that I simply put through the food processor to have ready to make anytime throughout the week. I honestly prefer cauliflower rice to regular rice, and it’s a 100% free food (calorically, definitely not in price), so you really can’t go wrong here.
Ok, let’s talk fruit for a minute. I use lemons on the daily for my morning lemon water and to help season up food when I’m feeling it. Bananas are another thing that I eat almost every day as a part of my post-workout protein shakes. I don’t typically use bananas like a normal person, so they go right in the freezer when I get them home. Pro tip: make SURE you peel them before you freeze them. It’s not one single ounce of fun to try and peel a frozen banana, so peel them when they’re soft, and put them in bags – trust me. These are a great source of carbs, and are the perfect go-to for that post-workout boost you need when your tank is empty.
Lastly, let’s talk about the missing sweet potatoes that weren’t pictured. Sweet taters are my carb of choice, because they’re delicious, and versatile. I don’t generally prepare them ahead of time, because I have time to bake them during the week when I make fries or chips with them. A great way to have them prepared, however, is to chop them up and steam them, and then fry them up as hash browns with (you guessed it) peppers and onions. Give it a try!
To wrap up this grocery haul, we have some of the extras I like to use to make my food a little more exciting. Starting on the left, we have some Annie’s Lite Honey Mustard dressing. I typically make my own dressings with olive oil and a variety of vinegars, but sometimes it’s nice to mix it up and have something already prepared. The caloric damage isn’t too bad, and it also makes a great marinade for chicken, so it’s nice to have around when you’re in a pinch.
Next, I love pickle relish on so many things. It’s delicious, and this particular kind has no additional sugar. I also use it, along with mustard, to make some delicious, paleo deviled eggs. Banana peppers are another favorite that I like to put in my salads, on top of burgers, or anywhere else that I think it makes sense. Last, and certainly not least, mustard. I put it on so many things, and it makes all of it delicious, without any negative impact on my goals….what more could you ask for?
Why Meal Prep Matters
Like Scar so graciously taught us, it’s important to be prepared. If we take time one day every week and put in the work necessary to be ready for anything throughout the week, we eliminate the need to use excuses. It’s when you eliminate excuses that you begin to see results. If you have food ready to go, it doesn’t matter what time you get home, or how long you’ll be gone during the day, you know you have something ready that will help you achieve your goals.
It’s important to mentally prepare each day throughout the week as well. Each night, try thinking through what you’re going to eat tomorrow. Do you need to pack certain types of foods? Is there anything you didn’t have time to prep on your normal day that needs to be ready for tomorrow? Visualizing what you’re going to have to eat throughout the next day will greatly increase the likelihood that you’ll follow through on the plan.
If you know there’s a time you’re going to be going out to eat — prepare for that, too. Check out the menu online before you head out, and make a decision about what you’re going to order. If you have a plan, whether it’s at home or out and about, you greatly increase your odds of success.
Remember, this is one of the most difficult pieces of living a healthy, fit lifestyle. You’re not going to be perfect all of the time — nobody is — but if you make a commitment to being prepared, you can always make progress. Do you have any tips to make food prep a little more painless? Maybe a particular recipe that is great to have throughout the week? Comment below and let us know! There will be several recipes coming your way to give you even more weekly food prep ideas!
Until Next Time….
Founder: MCP Total Fitness