Despite being a registered nurse, I haven’t always been the model of health. It wasn’t until I got so fed up with gaining weight month after month for over a year that I finally did something about it.
In came a nutrition overhaul. But this transformation didn’t happen overnight. I’ve spent countless hours learning more about nutrition – not just to be healthier and have a slimmer waistline, but because as someone who deals with autoimmune issues, I needed to understand it to stay as healthy as possible.
Meal prepping is one facet of healthy nutrition and it came to me fairly late in life and it was more out of necessity than anything. When we adopted our 4 boys, essentially doubling our family size overnight, it became really important for us to plan out our meals in advance so that we had a plan of attack when it came time to shop for groceries. We couldn’t afford to do life any other way – from a time perspective as well as from a monetary one.
Then in 2016 when I started training for a bikini competition, with having to eat something every 2-3 hours, meal prep was an absolute must!
You simply don’t take treats away from a self-diagnosed carb-a-holic and then expect her not to eat, on time, every few hours! Not if everyone wants to live a peaceful life! 😉
Now that it’s just the two of us, meal prepping isn’t as necessary, so we DO cut ourselves some slack, but the basics still exist in our household today.
As you can see, over the last decade, I’ve meal prepped for a variety of reasons but what it comes down to most is TIME. Life doesn’t pause for spending hours every night making dinner right?
Now, I’m not going to give you the false impression that meal prepping is quick because it does take time. It will probably take more time at once than you’re used to, but the frequency is the key factor here. Instead of spending your time trying to decide what you’ll make for dinner, running to the store for the ingredients, cooking, and cleaning up after, you could have everything already made for you by prepping it ahead!
Most preppers will take a block of time during their weekend to prepare for their whole week. You can pick a day and dedicate it to weekly shopping and cooking. Prepare as you please, put the meals in the fridge or freezer, and you are all set! By doing this, you gain more time throughout your week AND preserve your energy.
For the first time in history, Americans are spending considerably more money at restaurants than they do on groceries. Let me repeat that – our laziness and go, go, go habits have us spending more on convenience foods because we don’t have the patients or energy to cook for ourselves. Think back to this past week – how many times did you come home from work and think “I really just don’t want to think about what’s for dinner!”
Cooking at home, specifically with meal prepping, saves you a significant amount of MONEY off your food expenses.
What about WEIGHT CONTROL? Listen, I don’t know about you but I am not about to weigh and measure all of my food every time I sit down to eat it. Thankfully, preparing your food ahead of time promotes portion control by having you think about how you’re divvying up the meals you’ve made. Having good food that you want to eat available at home can become a more convenient and viable option. You won’t have to stop somewhere on the way home because you have a better and easier option waiting for you! You’ll naturally begin to eat healthier when you’re not relying on eating out as the easy route. Plus you have full control on what you’re prepping and what goes in and on your food rather than just ordering something when you’re at your hungriest.
What I’ve mentioned so far… not rocket science right? But get this… meal prepping can actually improve your BRAIN POWER! What??? You heard that right! Research shows that the strain of always making decisions depletes our brain power. We are overstimulated with too many choices, and our brains are exhausted trying to keep up. Behavioral psychologists have also focused specifically on the concept of “willpower”, which is explained to work like a muscle – as you use it a lot, it begins to fatigue.
In meal prepping, you are sparing your willpower and decision making muscle from going into overdrive every single morning when you think about breakfast and lunch, and every single night when you’re thinking about dinner. Planning ahead saves your brain from added stress and exhaustion.
Planning your meals can help you prevent food waste and be more ENVIRONMENTALLY CONSCIOUS too. When it comes to what’s on our plate, we tend to think in one of two ways:
- We eat everything that’s on our plate because we were taught that you don’t waste food. OR
- Our eyes thought our stomach was hungrier than it actually was and we put too much on our plate than what we could actually handle.
Meal prepping encourages accurate serving sizes. Plain and simple. Going in with a plan and following through on it is what brings you success. Novel idea right? So how do we put it into practice? Well…. stay tuned for those deets coming up in my next blog post! Until then, remember that there are 3 things you wanna be every time you go grocery shopping:
- Be full – we’ve all heard that it’s never a good idea to shop when you’re hungry… so eat before you go so that you’re less enticed to make that checkout line purchase that you know you really don’t need.
- Be ready – imagine yourself walking into the grocery store. You grab a cart, walk through the doors, and as the air conditioning hits you, you think, “Okay… now what?” So you head to the far side of the store closest to you and you wander up and down the aisles searching for things you “might” need. Before you know it, your grocery cart is full of stuff you really don’t need and your wallet feels like it just got hit by a mack truck. Having your meal plan and grocery list done up ahead saves you all this frustration.
- Be smart – Did you know that stores do marketing research on our habits? How we move through the store. Where impulse purchases should strategically be placed. How items should be grouped together. Marketers do this to make you more likely to spend money you otherwise wouldn’t! Ignore those enticing end caps or what you see in the checkout line. Stick to your grocery list and run away! 😉
When you become the orchestrator of your meal plan, your grocery shopping is more productive, takes less time, and saves you money.