How to Meal Prep and Why
If there was something you could spend 2 hours a week doing and it would improve 5 days of your life, would you do it? Well, there is, and that thing is Meal Prep.
Meal prep is preparing your meals for the week all at once so that for the next 5 – 7 days you can just grab your food and go. No staring into the abyss of your fridge wondering what to eat, no caving in and eating the vending machine snacks in the breakroom, no scrimping and aggravating your symptoms by hitting the dollar menu, no breaking the bank and wasting a good nap opportunity heading “out” to lunch to get food you “should” be eating, just reach into your work bag (or fridge if you’re at home) and eating, good food, affordable, made by you with love for you. Even if you are on disability, you should do meal prep.
It takes an average of 15 – 30 minutes time to put a lunch together at home or to obtain one from outside of work, plus the energy expenditure and potential for increased symptoms – especially if the temps are extreme. So, save the time, energy and money 5 days a week with a few hours commitment on one day.
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Figure out what you’re eating
I’m not going to be preachy about the food you eat. I lived off coffee and cookies for 41 years but, out of desperation from meds not working and inspired by a Ted talk, I ended up on Autoimmune Paleo (AIP) and I dropped 15 symptoms from my then 7 disorders. Many of those symptoms have stayed gone but staying on AiP has its challenges. I’ve been able to modify mine and incorporate things like grass-fed dairy and quinoa back in but you get to feeling better, and then you get cocky lol. You eat something you shouldn’t or stop eating enough fruits and veggies and it doesn’t take long for your slip to turn into an avalanche of symptoms and you’ve got to pull your cart back onto the track.
If you haven’t ever changed your diet to try and help with your symptoms, what are you waiting for? It’s only a one month commitment to give any particular elimination diet a try and many of them are recommended for specific illnesses. Whether you’re trying Leaky Gut, Keto, Keto modified for narcolepsy (click to learn more about that), Autoimmune Paleo, Wahl’s protocol (ideal for MS), you may need some encouragement to make it through and keep going if it helps, click here to read 11 Tips for Staying on an Elimination type diet.
Even if you’re not doing a particular meal plan you still have to eat. Unless you’re intermittent fasting, you should be eating a few times a day. So I’m going to talk about prepping breakfast and dinner. Those are my two go-to meals. Breakfast around 10-11 am and dinner around 6-7 pm. If you’re doing it different, take that into account lol.
This particular meal prep post is about eating the same thing for breakfast all week with a “base” for family meals for 5 days that can also be used as lunch if you want.
So, for this upcoming week I did a breakfast base of fruit for breakfast and a salad base for lunch or dinner.
Pineapple, watermelon, strawberry, blueberry, nectarine, apricot, and kiwi.
I put Saturday’s in a bowl to eat when I was finished and packed Sunday through Friday into my beloved Debbie Meyer Green boxes that will keep it fresh through Friday.
I love and tolerate fruit well. 4 of those days I’ll have the fruit with Siggi’s grass fed cherry yogurt (which I also tolerate well) and the other 3 I’ll have cooked quinoa with probiotic applesauce and maca powder to keep my thyroid and estrogen balanced.
For my dinner salad base:
Red cabbage (1/8 head), cucumber (1), celery (1/2 bunch), multi-colored carrot (5), dinosaur kale (love having dinosaur for dinner lol) (5 pieces) and romaine (1-2 hearts).
I make my own salad dressing because I can’t have citric acid or xantham gum:
Siggi’s raspberry yogurt (1), Siggi’s plain yogurt (2), organic lemon juice (splash), balsamic vinegar (1/4 cup), fresh basil (whole container) and Mediterranean sea salt (couple turns on the grater). It’s delish.
This is a fine salad all by itself or I use it as a base while I’m making dinner for the people in the house that are not on a meal plan and do not want to eat like a rabbit lol. Whether we’re having chicken, steak, lamb or burgers I can just add my protein source and boom, done. If we’re having pasta, I typically skip that and if I need a protein source I add Hemp Seeds (tolerated on reintroduction). You still have to spend time making their food but yours is easy and you’re less likely to eat something that might tank you.
Another great thing to do with dinners is to double up. If you’re making burgers for two nights instead of one, you can freeze one and eat the other that day. That way some time down the road all you have to do is thaw and cook. Which, when dealing with chronic illness sometimes feels like a gift you give yourself for the future.
Figure out what you’re keeping your food in
You want to have something that’s portable and good for longevity. For fresh ingredients you need something that will keep them fresh and again, that’s why I love my Debbie Meyer Green boxes. If you’re making something that can be frozen, you can free that in baggies even if you wanted to. Important thing is that you sort this out before you start lol.
Know what tools you need and set up your kitchen
I have a big plastic bowl that I wash everything in and a cool ‘across the sink’ strainer that holds it all. I have a big cutting board, my fave Cutco Butcher Knife, a paring knife, and a hand-friendly peeler. I use a counter bucket for all the trash, put a couple paper towels to line it and it makes it easier to clean out all the veggie stickers etc.
If you wash everything first you can get it all into the strainer and then dump the bowl in case you need the sink. Line your containers up around your work space. Chop each item and then distribute it amongst the containers, put the most durable things at the bottom and the lighter things on the top.
My life has improved significantly since the discovery of Instacart, click on that link to get $10 off your first order. Every Friday I go to my last order and add it all into my cart lol, then I take off what I don’t want and add on what I do and bam, finished. What’s that worth to you? Lol the last time I shopped it said I had saved 67 hours of shopping by using Instacart. So, no driving, walking to and through the store, dealing with people lol, all not an issue. Many time while my Instacart shopper was shopping for me, I was sleeping. A few times I’ve been at the movies with gal pals and my husband was home to receive them. So so so worth it to me lol.
Recently I placed my first order with Shipt for Target. I have two teenage boys that eat things that aren’t at Sprouts, which I prefer for produce. So thrilled. On the 26th of June someone stole my car from in front of my house, they’ve found it, it’s fine but I didn’t have my car to take my kids to the store. We sat on their bed lol, ordered what they wanted and boom it showed up 2 hours later. Hooked!! If you click on the link for Shipt above, they’ll take $50 off your annual free delivery membership fee! You don’t have to sign up though, you can just pay for each delivery.
If you’re going out and doing your own shopping, I highly recommend a grocery list for the stores you visit and list the items in the order they appear in the store. That will keep you from going back and forth forgetting things.
Grocery list. Note I replaced Vons with Target.
Understanding meal prep quantities and motivation
When I first started meal prep I made WAAAAY too much food. It can take awhile to determine how much you actually need. Maybe err on the side of less in the beginning and if you are short a day you can substitute with something else.
My two hours spent includes breaks. With my pain levels I can’t just stand there the whole time. I have a three hour Super Positive Playlist that gets me through it every time. So much so that when I hear the songs, it makes me want to go do things… Pavlovian bonus lol.
That’s it really. Decide what you’re going to make, have good tools to prepare it, good containers to store it, obtain the food and keep yourself motivated. I also recommend reminding yourself while you’re doing it, think about how tired you are by Wednesday and feel the relief in advance <3.
You can see my meal prep recipes by clicking here.
Want to see anything in particular? Comment below and I’ll do a post about it 😊
Please know, despite having a chronic illness you can still keep going beyond coping into thriving and loving your life. See my Q & A here.