Prepping my food ahead of time has been the #1 one strategy I use to make certain I eat healthy meals and snacks throughout the week. I have said many times it is much easier to eat nutritious foods and control portions when you take the time to prepare food in advance.
Many of my blog posts have centered on freezer cooking. Freezer cooking is when you prepare foods ahead of time – most of the time in large quantities – to freeze for future meals. This cooking strategy is a life savor and game changer for busy people, including myself. I often say that my family would never eat a healthy meal if I did not make it ahead of time and freeze.
If you are interested in freezer cooking check out these posts:
Another way to make sure my family eats healthy is to take one afternoon on the weekend (usually Sunday) and prepare our food and snacks for the week. I like to call this my weekly food prep day. This is different from freezer cooking because the goal is not to stock my freezer but to make sure my meals and snacks for the week are ready to eat or be cooked.
Having a food prep day is essential to keeping healthy eating habits a priority, losing weight, and maintaining a healthy weight. When healthy foods are ready and available we are much more likely to eat those foods instead of ordering out or stopping at the store for a “quick snack”. It also reduces the stress and anxiety of trying to figure out EVERY SINGLE DAY what to eat. Just take a moment and think about how you feel when you are hungry and you don’t know what to eat. Those feelings can cause straight panic for some people. I know it did for me. When I am hungry I can’t focus on anything else until I eat. Having food prepped ahead of time ensures I won’t eat something I will regret 5 minutes after I inhale it. Also, everything is done in one day so you don’t need to think about it the rest of the week. I am telling ya, having nutritious wholesome foods ready to eat in your kitchen might just be the weight loss solution you have been looking for. It worked for me.
I started prepping my meals and snacks about 3 years ago. My strategy has evolved somewhat over the years, as I learned what works and what doesn’t for my situation, but this is what my Sunday meal prep day looks like now. Of course, you can prep any day of the week but Sunday has always worked best for me.
Step 1: Plan
No matter what the project or goal I always start with a plan. If not, you will find me walking in circles not having a clue where to start or what to do. Having a plan gives me a roadmap to follow and this keeps me moving forward.
The first thing I do for my food prep day is put together a weekly meal plan and grocery list. My meal plan includes all three meals and snacks. This way there is no confusion about the food I should be eating throughout the day. I eat 5 times a day so I find planning for snacks or smaller meals much more important than just worrying about what I will eat for dinner. I highly recommend checking out Plan to Eat. I use Plan to Eat to organize all of my recipes, plan my weekly menus, and create grocery lists. It’s my favorite must have meal planning tool. They offer a 30-day free trial so you can use it for a month and see if it’s a website that would be useful to you. If you join then make sure to friend me over there (username organizeyourselfskinny) so you can have access to all my weight loss menus.
Here is a link to all of my weekly meal plans for ideas and inspiration.
Now, unless you want to spend all day prepping food, I recommend keeping your meal plan simple. Don’t go overboard with new recipes. I also like to keep breakfast, snacks, and lunches the same all week. This might be boring to some but I don’t mind and it makes my prep day much easier. Here’s a post I put together on keeping meal prep simple. If I do get bored I switch it up with something from the freezer or fridge. Dinners are typically different each night but I do find that we usually have leftovers. If that is the case I might move a dinner to the next week or freeze leftovers. It depends on the meal.
Once my meal plan is done then I need to put together a grocery list. Again, this is super easy to do using Plan to Eat. It is so important to have a complete accurate grocery list. The last thing I want to do is get home from shopping to find I am missing key ingredients. Been there done that.
If you can, and I highly recommend it, try to grocery shop the day before your food prep day. Shopping and food prep on the same day can make for a very long exhausting day. Again, been there done that.
Next I write out my plan for food prep day. Nothing fancy, I just scribble a quick plan on a sheet of paper. Then I look at each meal and figure what ingredients can be prepped ahead of time. Sometimes the whole meal can be prepped in advance (ex. mason jar salads) other times only part of recipe can be prepped (ex. taco meat). I talked more about my food prep schedule in step 2.
The options are endless when it comes to prepping food ahead of time. Don’t feel like you need do it all. Do what you can and what your time allows. Even the smallest amount of food prep will be beneficial. If you get overwhelmed start to think about what meal or snack is going to have the greatest impact on your week and start with that. For example, if you struggle making breakfast in the morning then you might want to make sure breakfast is the first thing you prepare for the week. You can make a big batch of oatmeal, breakfast burritos, or some overnight oats.
Check out the OYS Facebook group for lots of meal prep ideas, recipes, and support from other Organize Yourself Skinny readers. Also, don’t forget to join my free email newsletter for weekly inspiration and tons of meal prep recipes.
Last, I make sure I have all the containers I need and my refrigerator is organized. Weekly food prep requires extra space in the fridge for all the containers, mason jars, and other items you might use. My refrigerator is on the smaller size and with a little organization I am able to fit everything in. Plus, it forces me to clean out my fridge once a week.
Step 2: Prepare
My food prep day, depending on the meals, usually takes me about 2-3 hours to complete. The key is planning your day ahead of time. This way you can get right into it without thinking about where to start.
This is what a typically food prep day looks like for me.
If I am making shredded chicken to use in recipes that week I will get it started right away in the slow cooker. Once the slow cooker is going I don’t need to think about it for 4-6 hours.
My favorite slow cooker shredded chicken recipes are:
Here’s a quick video to show how easy it is to put together slow cooker buffalo chicken.
Next I prepare mason jar salads. My week runs smooth when lunches are made in advance. Therefore, my mason jar salads are one of the first recipes to get made so I can guarantee they get done.
Here’s a video tutorial on how to make a mason jar salad.
Then I prepare breakfast for the week. I love my green smoothies, which I make the morning I drink them. But my kids like steel cut oats or breakfast burritos. The oats take about 45 minutes to make so I usually have those going while I prepare the mason jar salads or snacks. I also make steel cut oats in the slow cooker. If I’m doing that I will start that slow cooker recipe along with any others. Yes I have 2 slow cookers. I have a Hamilton Beach and Cuisinart. Everyone should have 2 slow cookers. Just saying.
Here’s a quick video for my favorite slow cooker steel cut oat recipe.
I don’t make breakfast burritos every week because they do take some time and effort so I save those for my freezer cooking sessions. Here is a post I did on my freezer cooking breakfast stock up.
Next I move onto snacks. My snacks usually include hardboiled eggs, almonds, cheese and crackers, and vegetables and hummus.
I usually have the eggs cooking while I make the salads. Cheese and veggies get cut after that. I put the vegetables into containers to create portable veggie snack packs. These are great and make eating vegetables everyday easy. I also wash and prep fruits at this time.
Almonds I prep every 2-3 weeks. I purchase a 3lb bag from my local warehouse store and portion it out into ¼ cup servings. I use the small snack bags for this.
Here’s a post I did on putting together a healthy refrigerator snack bin.
Once breakfast, lunch, and snacks are done I move to dinners. I love slow cooker dinners so I try to make a couple each week. After the chicken is done cooking in the slow cooker I will prep ingredients for a slow cooker meal to be made the next day.
Then I prep the rest of the meat, if I can
Trim and cut up chicken to be recipe ready
Portion up shredded meat
Place meat in marinades
So that is how I run my food prep day. Some weeks, depending on the recipes, it might look a little different but that is the general idea. I swear by food prep and truly believe if you are trying to change your eating habits you should give it a shot.
What are some questions you have about prepping food for the week in one day? Do you have any tips to share?
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