I think I can speak for literally every fittie when I say: Meal Prep. Saves. Lives. Okay, maybe not literally, but it does save time and money, prevent stress, and sets us up for nutritional success so yeah, I guess I’ll go so far as to say it saves lives.
I’ve given you my tips & tricks on maximizing prep and navigating (dancing 😉 ) your way around the kitchen, but before we can even think about rolling up our sleeves, before we can preheat that oven, before we can lick batter from the bottom of the bowl… we need a plan. And I ain’t talking about an endless cycle of broccoli, rice, and chicken, y’all. There are a million and one ways to whip up a week that is not only nutritious – meeting all your dietary needs & preferences – but also delicious – satisfying your cravings and taste buds!
Every week – some more than others – I go through just about every emotion possible when it comes to meal prep. First, I’m confused. Meal prep is impossible, I’ve eaten all the foods, how will I go on?! Then, I’m overwhelmed. When inspo hits, it hits strong – I now have too many options. Next, I reign it in. I commit to putting one dish down on my tracker and I start letting it flow (white out it needed). Finally, I’m jazzed! I can’t wait to get into the kitchen and taste-test everything I have planned. I can’t promise you won’t feel all these feels and more, but I can try to ease the transition from Confusion to Jazzed with a few words of wisdom 😉
Tips n’ Tricks
Cater to Cravings. When cravings call, don’t be all “New phone, who dis?” Cravings are your body telling you what it wants, and also what it needs. If you aren’t excited about what’s inside your tupperware, chances are they’ll remain stacked up in the fridge. Avoid wasted time, money, and food by allowing your cravings to shape your meals for the week. Start with one dish your vibing on (I’m impacted by everything from my work schedule to the weather), and use overlapping ingredients to maximize your prep. More planning and prep tips, including The Big Picture and Planning in Patterns, here.
One Ingredient. If your fridge and freezer are accumulating a lot of half used ingredients, look for recipes that can make use of what you already have in stock. Starting with just one ingredient can inspire an entire week of eats (plus, it helps keep a budget in check and prevent waste).
Wants and Needs. Take some time to think about what you want (those cravings above) and also, what you need: a quick M4 between meetings? A dish that serves 6? These indicators will help quickly eliminate recipes that aren’t working for you. But don’t forget to save every idea for later!
Recipes Aren’t Rules. Lucky for us, fit foodies are documenting and sharing their recipes all around the world. But it doesn’t mean that you and I can’t be creative-chef-geniuses too! With a few tweaks, additions, or subs, you can make any recipe align with your dietary preferences and needs. Keep scrollin’, we’ll get into it.
Get to Searching
When I’m on the hunt for recipes, I use a few key words to aid my search. I typically stay away from using the word “healthy,” because I’ve found that label to be pretty damn ~flexible~ (not in the yogi variety). Instead, I search with specific dietary profiles that align most closely with my preferences and needs. **But get this** I do not identify with any of the profiles I’m going to list below. They simply serve as a means of narrowing my search to a point where I can easily modify and adapt. Okay, imagine me searching on Pinterest for…
Paleo: The predominant or sole consumption of foods available to or consumed by humans during the paleolithic era. Paleo finds a place in my most-searched key words because of its no-tolerance for processed foods, added sugar, and dairy. If you’re not paleo, consider the following modifications/swaps:
- Almond flour can be subbed with oat flour (or any “non-compliant” flour)
- Coconut milk can be subbed with almond milk (or any “non-compliant” milk)
- Coconut sugar can be subbed with alternative sweeteners like maple syrup, banana, or dates depending on the recipe
- Cashew butter (and other compliant nut butters) can be subbed with peanut butter
- Grains like quinoa can be added
- Dairy products like greek yogurt can be added
- Protein can be swapped (to a lean animal protein or plant-based protein) or omitted
Vegan: Excludes meat, eggs, dairy products and all other animal-derived ingredients. Vegan makes its way into my search-terms because it omits dairy products (I’ve discovered that, although I love cheese with a very special place in my heart and belly, my body performs best with limited consumption of dairy). If you’re not vegan, consider the following modifications/swaps:
- Animal protein can be added
- Flax eggs (or other compliant egg substitutes) can be subbed with egg or egg white
- Dairy products like greek yogurt can be added
Gluten Free: Strictly excludes gluten, a mixture of proteins found in wheat and related grains, including barley, rye, oat, and all their species and hybrids. Oh, GF, what to do with you. Gluten Free free supports my search because compliant recipes *often* (but far from always), align with more nutritional ingredient choices by nature. However, GF recipes – particularly of the baking variety – can pose problematic. When scanning Gluten Free recipes, consider the following modifications/swaps:
- Butter can be subbed with EVOO, coconut oil, or applesauce
- Sugar can be subbed with alternative sweeteners like maple syrup, bananas, and dates depending on the recipe
- Non-compliant whole grains like cous cous, barley, and farro can be added
Keep a look out for a complete modifications blog coming soon! Trust me, that needs a whole post to itself.
But First, Inspo
Someone once said, spread love, knowledge, and inspiration like peanut butter. Okay, I said that 😉 But, hey, since I’m always searching and creating, I started curating a fitlicity Pinterest page that houses all of my (p)inspiration for nutrition, fitness, and wellness (f+w coming soon!). You can count on these sourced to be traced and verified, and for me to list any modifications that I might make to a recipe in the description. Happy prepping!