Intro to Meal Preparation

As one season ends and another arrives, it’s a great time to evaluate what your meals look like and how you’d like them to improve. Whether it’s your seasonal job(s) coming to an end, a new school year ahead of you or someone you live with, or you feel pleasant or unpleasant about the weather changing, it’s a great time to practice heathy habits, like home-cooking.

Planning ahead for meals helps save time, money, and stress while nourishing your body and fueling even the busiest days.

Meal preparation isn’t as complicated as it may seem. Focus on balanced meals and overall enjoyment. It’s as simple as:

Choosing what you want to eat.

Figuring out how much you want to make.

Finding a simple easy recipe (unless you want to wing it).

Grocery shopping (unless you have plenty of ingredients and you want to see what you can create without).

Enjoying the process of putting it all together, with the future in mind.

Choosing what you want to eat
Try to think of meals that have a balance of what you love and what your body needs. If you don’t enjoy the food you are making, home-cooking can start to lose its appeal, and if it’s not nourishing your body, it’s a huge missed opportunity to feel good and prevent lifestyle-based illnesses.

Think of what you really want to eat and let that be the first and main focus. I can be quite indecisive at times, but if I can choose what to cook myself on a regular basis, I’m confident you can, too.

What are some of your favorite foods? Pasta, pizza, burgers, burritos, stir-fry, BBQ, casseroles? Lately, I have been making pizza and burritos semi-regularly. It’s so easy to customize them to keep it interesting and fun. I love to pick a classic favorite and either make a more whole-food side-dish, or upgrading a couple ingredients to more nutritious options.

Adding toppings on a pizza like spinach, onions, bell peppers, or cashews.

Making a loaded mac-n-cheeze with cashews or squash in the sauce instead of dairy cheese, and mixing in roasted veggies or chili.

Figuring out how much you want to make
Cooking EVERY TIME you need to eat is exhausting, and frankly unnecessary. If you’re happy eating the same thing for a few meals or days, great, that gives you even less to worry about. You can shoot to prepare 2x-5x the amount you might cook for just one meal to be able to eat it for another meal, or to eat for lunch or dinner for the week.

If you’re in the other camp and don’t like to eat the same thing every day, you don’t need to make a giant pot of the same soup or two pans of the same casserole and get sick and tired of it before it’s gone to meal prep “properly.” You will want to prepare 2x-5x each of your ingredients separately to allow for quick cooking and the ability to change the flavor profile as needed.

For example:
Chopping 1 onion instead of 1/3, making 2 cups of rice instead of 1, chopping all your veggies at once vs needing to cut them every time you cook. You’ll have your ingredients ready for you instead of feeling like you need to start from square one every time you’re in the kitchen.

This is a great time to prepare your food containers. Air-tight containers that fit your preferred portions of food, and for how many meals you’d like to end up with. This will cut out the extra step of needing to portion out food when you’re in a hurry or don’t feel like it.

Finding a simple easy recipe (unless you want to wing it)
Don’t worry about making everything from scratch when you’re starting out. Sometimes I’ll make my own crust for pizza, but a good crust requires prep the day or two before, so other times, I’ll buy pizza dough either fresh or frozen from the store. This can apply to many ingredients, like rice, beans(canned), fruits, veggies, proteins, sauces, spreads, etc.

Many recipes out there are very simple and require little guess work. Whether you prefer classic cookbooks like Betty Crocker or modern recipes pages and Vloggers like PlantYou, there are so many options tailored to you and how you want to cook.

I’ll generally type in the dish I want to cook, followed by words that might get me where I want to go like, “easy,” “quick,” “healthy,” “vegan,” “whole-food,” etc, and then look for one with the best customer rating. I look for a recipes with a reasonable amount of ingredients that I am comfortable using, as well as instructions that make sense and are straightforward.

Grocery shopping (or pantry exploring)
Once you know what you want, how much to make, and how you’re going to make it, it’s time to collect all your ingredients onto a list with amounts on it to be sure you have everything you need to cook your meal(s). I like to go to more affordable stores first like Grocery Outlet. They have great deals, are operated locally, and you never know what great things you’ll find. If I can’t find everything I need there, I will either find another ingredient there to substitute, or go to the next cheapest place and so on until I have what I need. When you start practicing more and find recipes you love, it’ll be easier to know how much of each ingredient you want to have on hand for meal prep.

If you’ve got all or most of the ingredients at home, great! Substitute or get creative where you need to.

Enjoying the process of putting it all together, with the future in mind.
Of course, nutrition and having a connection with the food we eat and the way it’s prepared is so important for good health. Good health is also accompanied by gratitude and often a deep enjoyment, even through challenge. Cooking for ourselves and those we love is a rewarding routine. It gets us out of our comfort zone, exercises our minds and motor skills, builds confidence, and of course bears the delicious and nutritious results of our hard work. Why not enjoy as much of the process as possible?

Light a candle, put on some of your favorite music, or invite a family member or friend to cook with you!

Chopping fruits, veggies, and herbs into my favorite sizes and shapes is therapeutic. I love measuring ingredients like grains, legumes, and spices into the bowl or pot. Hearing the sizzles of cool ingredients going into a hot pan, smelling the fragrant steam as everything cooks together… there is nothing like it!

Thinking about my future self helps keep me going. I am so grateful when I have something to look forward to at lunch, dinner, and even for snacks. During busy days, there is nothing like having food I love ready to go instead of allowing hunger and stress dictate choices through low blood sugar cravings.

Cooking is as simple or complicated as you choose to make it, so take it easy and think simple!

Let me know:
What is your favorite meal to prep?

Do you prefer to prep the same meal for the week or switch it up day-by-day?

What is your favorite part of preparing food?

Stay tuned for more Meal Preparation basics in future posts!

Please share with any friends you think would enjoy or appreciate it.

Have a beautiful and heart-centered day!

– Laura

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Read posts from the past here, and let me know what you think!

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