For The Week: Meal prepping your way to relaxation

Feel overwhelmed after work? Get your week's meal prep started at the weekend.
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Lindsay Guentzel

Welcome back to For The Week! Every week, my goal is to help make your life a little easier by providing you with tips, tricks and recipes to keep the stress out of your kitchen.

For The Week comes out every Sunday and will set you up for success as you get ready to start the week – streamlined, concise and productive. If you missed last week’s edition, I highly recommend going back and reading it. And the one before that!

What’s great about these tips and tricks is that they build off of one another -- meaning every week, you are going to learn something new that you can simply add to what you already know

This week, I’m doing a more extensive look at making meal prep a priority in your life.

Make Meal Prep A Chore

Let’s think about all of the things we have to do in our homes during the week. Laundry, dishes, taking out the garbage. In the winter, we shovel our driveways and in the spring, we start mowing our lawns every week. When we do these tasks regularly, it makes our lives a lot easier. We aren’t constantly playing catch-up, spending an entire day doing housework to get our to-do list done. When we do a little bit at a time, we feel more balanced and in control, less chaotic.

So why don’t we look at food the same way? I mean, we eat every day. Most of us actually eat several times a day and now that our lives have been altered because of COVID, we are eating most of those meals inside our homes. What if we looked at meal prep the same way we looked at mowing the lawn? What might happen then?

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What Is Meal Prepping?

Maybe hearing ‘meal prep’ overwhelms you. So let’s define what that actually means. Your definition of meal prep and my definition of meal prep are going to be two different things and that’s okay. That’s how it should be. It’s like our laundry routines, they are all different. We’ve each figured out what we need to do in order to keep ourselves and our family in clean clothes each week.

Meal prepping should work for you and your lifestyle and should also address the areas where you want to alleviate stress. It might take some time for you to figure out your weekly routine and that weekly routine will likely change depending on what your week looks like. Maybe you travel for work or you share custody of your children. Learning how to adapt to those changes will come as you start to develop your own meal prepping habits.

Prep Smart, Not Hard

Personally, one of the biggest ruts I see people fall into over and over again is buying produce and letting it go bad. I was one of those people. Heck, I am still one of those people when life gets too busy and I don’t make time for meal prepping. You go into the grocery store with the best intentions. You buy all of this fresh, healthy produce that you are going to eat during the week. And then life happens. We’ve all been in the situation where stress has gotten the best of us and instead of eating the produce we purchased when our minds were in a good place, we go for what’s easy.

The biggest hurdle in that situation? None of that wasted produce was cleaned or cut up after being purchased. You got home, unloaded your shopping bags and thought the work was done. The second you open that fridge at meal time and see how much work is ahead of you, there’s no way you are going to choose that route.

It doesn’t matter how my day goes, if I come home and I have meat defrosted on my Refrigerator Plate and there are veggies cleaned and chopped up, I can have dinner done and ready to eat in under 20 minutes. All because I’ve made meal prep a priority in my life and added it to my to-do list like I would any chore that has to get done.

Fit Meal Prepping Into Your Life

Here’s where I remind you, my meal prep and your meal prep are going to look different. Start by simply setting aside one hour to get your vegetables and fruit washed and cut up for the week. The best time to do that? Right when you get home from the grocery store. Add that extra hour to your trip and get everything done in one stretch. Worried that won’t work for you? Well, you won’t know until you try. But if that feels like a little too much right away, set aside an hour for cleaning and chopping when you know you can get it done.

I tend to tackle my meal prep on Sunday afternoons. I set up my computer in the kitchen, turn on my favorite reality TV show that my boyfriend refuses to watch and I get myself set for the week with a healthy dose of personal bribery.

Other ways to make meal prepping work for you? Get one protein prepared during your meal prep to use for meals during the week. In the majority of recipes, the meat is what takes the longest to cook. So if you have staples on hand ready to go, you’re cutting down recipe times significantly. Items like shredded chicken and pulled pork are incredibly versatile and can be used in a wide variety of recipes and cuisines.

The quickest way to give up on this new chore is to take on too much. Sit down, plan out your week and see where you could use a little help. Is it having veggies ready to go for dinner? Is it prepping something to heat up for lunch? Perhaps it’s establishing what nights you are going to make dinner and when you are going to order takeout. Give yourself small, attainable goals for the week with the encouragement that you can always add more.

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How To Stay Consistent with Meal Prepping

  • Start small. Don’t overwhelm yourself by taking on too much. Cleaning and cutting up your produce for the week will help you out extraordinarily when it comes time to cook a meal.
  • Set a time each week that you are going to do this chore. Have a clear idea heading into the week of when you’ll have the time and energy to tackle it.
  • Organize your fridge. Develop a system that works for you so you know what you have on hand. Perhaps it’s a note you hang on the fridge, clear containers so you can see your items or a running list on your phone, knowing what’s available will help you when you find yourself running out of meal ideas.
  • Have a running list of meals you enjoy and reference them before you do any grocery shopping for the week.

A Minnesota Food Blogger To Inspire Your Meal Prepping Journey

Whole Kitchen Sink

Whole Kitchen Sink is a website dedicated to Whole30, paleo and gluten-free recipes and Bailey, the brains and talent behind the site, is an incredibly motivating and relatable human who graciously shares her own healthy lifestyle journey in all her work.

I started following Bailey on Instagram years ago when I did my first Whole30 and have thoroughly enjoyed following her journey. It’s apparent her story and recipes -- combined with her honesty -- have inspired so many people to make similar lifestyle changes (Bailey lost 120 pounds naturally) and she is so thoughtful with her interactions.

The recipes on Whole Kitchen Sink are healthy, delicious and easy to follow and are a great addition to your kitchen rotation, even if you aren’t following a Whole30, paleo or gluten-free diet.

Like Lindsay’s work? Follow her recipes, blogs and videos here on Bring Me The News or on her website https://lindsayguentzel.com/. Or follow her on social media @LindsayGuentzel on Twitter and Facebook.

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