Meal Prep? Meh! It’s Not For Me!
Now you’ll find plenty of people who will swear by meal prep… I am not one of them.
Even the obsessive-compulsive, type-A side of me dies a little inside when I see a post online of 14 matching Tupperware boxes all neatly lined up with identical contents.
Now that’s not to say that this approach to a healthier eating regime doesn’t work, and if you can tolerate spending 50% of your weekend food shopping and cooking for the coming week, and eating the same meal for 7 days straight, congratulations! I’m certain this method will help you make tracks towards your goals. I’ve toyed with it in the past on numerous occasions and never made it work for me for longer than a week or two at a time. Which led me to believe that its not for me and I sought a more fitting alternative.
First let’s consider some of the supposed pros and cons of meal prepping (and my biased opinion and experiences) … Which will hopefully help you decide whether it’s for you. Because, well that’s the key to a healthy lifestyle, right? You’ve got to find something that works for YOU.
I’ll try and be somewhat diplomatic as possible about what I think the pros and cons of meal prep are but I’m biased against meal prep as it doesn’t work well for me. I want people to understand that like me it’s not going to be right for everybody and you need to find an alternative for your lifestyle.
Reasons to Love Meal Prep (MY OPINIONS IN CAPITALS UNDERNEATH)
1. You get the majority of the week’s cooking done and dusted in a few hours on one day. It’s apparently more efficient and you get more time over the other 6 days of the week.
-YEAH BUT DO I REALLY WANT TO SPEND A BIG CHUNK OF THE WEEKEND (WHICH IS THE ONLY TIME I COULD MEAL PREP) SHOPPING AND COOKING TO GET A SPARE 30MINS ON TUESDAY!? NOPE!!
2. It can really help with emotional eating. There’s no need to constantly think “What should I eat?” or reach for that 3pm chocolate bar because you already have a nourishing lunch and snacks ready to go.
-I’M AN ADULT! AND A HUMAN! I LIKE TO MAKE MY OWN CHOICES! SO I MAY WANT TO DEVIATE FROM THE PLOT FROM TIME TO TIME AND PICK UP THE SLACK ELSEWHERE IN THE WEEK. MY WEEK IS NEVER PLAIN SAILING, SHIT HAPPENS, SO I WANT MY DIET TO REFLECT THAT. THERE’S A HUGE POSSIBILITY OF WASTED FOOD AND EFFORT FOR THIS REASON ON MY PART.
3. It’s more time and cost effective, you only need to do 1 food shop a week and cooked food lasts longer in your fridge, so less wastage at the end of the week.
-REALLY? SO GUESSING AT THE QUANTITY AND EXACTLY WHAT YOU WILL WANT TO EAT OVER THE COURSE OF THE NEXT 7 DAYS IS MORE ACCURATE THAN MULTIPLE SHOPPING TRIPS A WEEK WHERE YOU ONLY BUY 1-2 DAYS IN ADVANCE? I DEFINITELY WASTE MORE FOOD WHEN I STOCKPILE FOOD, COOKED OR UNCOOKED AND THE STUFF I HAVE LEFT ON THE FRI/SAT USUALLY ENDS UP IN THE BIN AS IT’S FAR FROM APPETISING.
4. You will find it easier to stick to your nutrition goals or meal plan when it’s all prepared ahead of schedule and It’s much easier to stay on track with portion control too.
-AGREED, I’LL GIVE YOU MOST OF THIS AS FACT BUT WE’RE IGNORING THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM. MEAL PLANS IN MY OPINION ARE NOT A PERMANENT SOLUTION, USUALLY THEY ARE NOT VERY FLEXIBLE NOR EXCITING AND THUS DIFFICULT TO ADHERE TO ON AN ONGOING BASIS. EVER DONE A “12 WEEK TRANSFORMATION PLAN” ….? HOW DID YOU FEEL ABOUT THE PRESCRIBED DIET AS A CONTINUED NUTRITION GUIDE AFTERWARDS? I SAY IF YOU’RE GOING TO ACHIEVE LIFELONG SUCCESS WITH MAINTAINING YOUR HEALTHY LIFESTYLE AND WEIGHT YOU NEED TO EDUCATE YOURSELF ABOUT THE ABSOLUTE BASICS OF NUTRITION. WITH MEAL PREPPING IT’S HARD TO INTRODUCE MUCH VARIETY, OR ALTERNATIVES BECAUSE BY NATURE YOU’RE LOOKING FOR THE SIMPLEST AND CHEAPEST METHOD TO FUEL YOURSELF AT SCALE.
5. No more gazing into the fridge wondering what to have for dinner, giving up and ordering an unhealthy takeaway option!
-LIES!! MANY A TIME I’VE LOOKED INTO THE FRIDGE SEEN A CONTAINER FULL OF 3 DAY OLD CHICKEN AND RICE LOOKING BACK AND THOUGHT… YEAH, NOT TODAY… WHERE’S THAT DOMINOES MENU? HENCE MORE FOOD GOES TO WASTE!
Reasons to Hate Meal Prep (May have touched on a few of these with my opinions above)
1. You have to spend hours of your precious weekend slaving away in the kitchen and mooching around the supermarket, that’s what Monday - Friday are for!!
2. It gets boring as your meal prep is generally going to have the same meals or similar meals over a week, if not month. None of us are Jamie Oliver and we’re going to end up spending more time looking at recipes online anyway just to cope with the sheer boredom of chicken and rice or chilli. So, this time efficient solution soon starts to become less so.
3. If you want to eat something other than your prepped meal or don’t have time to eat for some reason, you can end up with food wastage. The whole point is too save money and not waste food and yet never have I eaten all the meals I’ve prepped in advance! So, if somebody as anal and motivated as I am, is still experiencing waste, chances are most people will do as well to some degree.
4. Your kitchen will be slowly taken over by plastic containers until you end up finding them in random places throughout your life, your car, at work, under your bed etc… Plus the lids always seem to vanish!? You’re not even meal prepping right now and this is already an issue!? Isn’t it!? That cupboard that currently houses all your tubs right now… Just won’t suffice, as we all know new meal plan, new meal prep phase… means new tubs!!!! And where are they all going to live!!?? As records show there has never been a reported case of somebody throwing away old Tupperware when they purchase new.
5. You can lose your creative cooking vibe in the kitchen because you get way too focused on being an efficient meal prepper… Nobody ever impressed their friends with how well they grilled a chicken breast and microwaved some rice!
6. If you are not a fan of cooking, or instead like me have a short attention span then spending hours in the kitchen all at once will feel like torture.
7. Buying all or the majority of your groceries for the week can be hard to judge the right quantities sometimes. WASTAGE WARNING!
8. Lots of meal just don’t taste as good re-heated, so you’ll find yourself sticking to lots of meals that freeze well. So again, less variety! More boredom! And increased chances you’re going to swerve your prepped meals sooner rather than later!
9. You miss out on life! Nobody has a positive word to say about that guy who always comes across holier than though when asked if they want to grab a bite by saying “Sorry, I already have my lunch from home…”
10. You have to be organised, know what you’re prepping, plan the meals and recipes and make sure you get all the right foods and quantities. Now I’m an organised methodical guy and I can handle this on a 1-2 day by day basis… But trying to decide all this for a week in advance… I’m going to mess it up and need to go to the shop again or deviate from the meal plan and once again we’re moving towards not away from problems meal prepping is supposed to solve.
Now whether you love or hate it, I think it’s clear to see I’m not a fan per se, but there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to meal prep. This post is a light-hearted poke at the idea of meal prepping as you see it executed way too often on Instagram. And I’m not disputing that on a whole it works. But often it may need modifying for your own personal requirements. Maybe you just prep breakfast or lunch or dinner, maybe just doing that will aid you enough. Maybe you only prep 1-2 days in advance like me.
My own method isn’t meal prep or a meal plan, it’s more a case of I plan my meals and prep accordingly. Now that might sound exactly the same but I definitely don’t see it that way. Just as I plan when I will workout in the week, I plan when I will shop and when I will cook and more importantly when I will eat… And for me following this approach I’m way more present, productive and proactive about my nutrition than simply cooking up 21 tubs of chicken and rice and hoping for the best.
I’m currently on a phase of stricter calorie consumption and honestly following this method that I feel works for me, it’s not that bad. I chop and change my foods from day to day as my tastes require, on particular days I’m struggling for one reason or another I up my calories and then claw them back elsewhere in the week. It’s a much more flexible and therefore sustainable approach to my nutrition and one that I actually quite enjoy following.
Now you might need the ridiculously strict approach of a specific type of food prep or meal plan. But if the idea of a looser fit interests you and you think you can make adjustments to the meal prep idea to better suit your lifestyle, I have a few tips that help me with my ad hoc meal planning and prepping.
Up your food shop game.
Just because you’re not going to be prepping all of your food each Sunday doesn’t mean you don’t have to do a little advance work. At least once a week, stock your fridge with a selection of groceries that work in a variety of combinations. Grab a couple of your favorite grains, meat or non-meat protein, fruit and vegetables that will keep in your fridge for a week or so. Build up your selection of sauces, spices and dressings, too. They can make the simplest of foods taste amazing and often with very little calorie addition.
Grains like quinoa or brown rice make an awesome base for a whole array of lunches that will sort out the 3 p.m. slump. They also work great cold or hot. I like to keep a few packets of grains going in my cupboard at all times, just waiting to become a salad base or add a protein punch to a meal.
I’ve met very few foods that don’t benefit from the addition of an egg. Burgers? Hit me. Salad? All day, every day! And then the options you have with them alone! With a dozen eggs in the fridge, you can toss together a quick egg salad or top your grain bowl with a hard-boiled egg. With the humble egg the options are endless! Nutritious, cheap, simple and easy, what’s there not to love?
Keeping a variety of beans on hand means with a few additions you can create a variety of meals at a moment’s notice. All manner of salads and grain bowls, chili and fajitas are possible. Pick up a few cans of your favourites to stock your cupboard.
When it comes to protein. You could Keep a rotisserie chicken in the fridge, cook off a load of sausages, bacon, halloumi, tofu etc and keep it in the fridge ready to be thrown together with other ingredients for a quick plate of nutritious stuff to suit your mood or simply to use up whatever you have in. This is where leftovers are your friend. Last night’s roast chicken makes tomorrow’s fajita, chicken salad or protein source with a cup of rice. Yesterday’s spare sausages are a quick on the go breakfast for the morning. If steak survives more than one meal in your house, that’s a solid salad ingredient for lunch tommorow.
Keep it simple.
The most important thing to remember is this has to work for you and nobody else, so read all the tips and meal plans and meal prep guides you want. But the best diet and nutrition plan out there for you is the one you actually stick to. So, don’t make it too hard to follow, allow for some flexibility. As you can see with just these few tips there are quite a few options always at hand depending on your mood and all you’ll need to do is a quick pit stop on the way back home for a few bits to be able to prepare a great evening meal and maybe even breakfast and lunch for the following day.
Like I said earlier we shouldn’t be looking for a meal plan, a diet or a temporary fix, yes, these things can help us get going and reach goals in the short term. But ultimately, we want to be able to acquire the knowledge and experience when it comes to feeding ourselves and understanding our own nutrition to be able to create our own guide lines, our own plan that isn’t just for a 12-week period before Ibiza but is a more long term solution for life instead.