Listen, you and I both know that while there’s a lot of joy to be found in cooking, there are also times when it feels like an absolute chore. And if you’re going through a cooking slump (or even if you’re not) there’s no denying that meal prep can feel even more daunting than a standard single-meal cooking session. I think this has a bit to do with meal prep’s *branding*—we’ve all scrolled through our social feeds and seen photos of perfectly portioned, colorful, impossibly elaborate-looking meal preps…I may be guilty of creating a few of those photos myself…
But looking beyond the stylized presentation meal prep’s gotten in the last decade-or-so, there’s also no denying that meal prep is more demanding than most other approaches to cooking. It requires more multitasking, more planning, and in most cases, a longer period of sustained focus in the kitchen.
Because of this, there’s absolutely no shame in kinda…dreading…meal prep.
If, on Friday, you had a little “meal prep habit starts this week!” moment, only to, on Sunday, find yourself in more of a “meal prep habit starts…next Sunday!” mood, you’re absolutely not alone. I’ve been there so many times. But I’ve found a few key strategies to find that illusive meal prep motivation. So, without further ado…
Here are my top three ways to make meal prep feel more doable:
Allow yourself to take shortcuts. For me, a massive meal prep session is not the time to get ambitious. The meal prep itself is the feat, so when I’m meal prepping, I give myself permission to take a few kitchen shortcuts. Here are a couple of my favorite ways to cut corners that won’t lead to sub-par results:
Lean on store bought sauces, broths, and condiments. I’m a noted store bought sauce fanatic.
Skip the grocery store. If ordering groceries (and tipping your delivery person well!) is in your budget, cutting the grocery trip out of the equation is a huge time-saver. For this reason, I use FreshDirect for all my client cooking sessions.
Let someone else do the menu planning for you. There are tons of resources out there for meal prep menu planning! I just released a meal prep YouTube video and along with it, I rounded up all the recipes, the game plan, and some meal prep tips/tricks for you. I’m also a fan of the Downshiftology meal prep videos and accompanying PDF menu guides. You can also upgrade to a paid version of this newsletter for a weekly recipe roundup, or check out The Beginner’s Guide to Meal Prep for two fully planned meal prep menus, grocery lists, and game plans.
Find a way to create accountability for yourself. I’ll be straight with you: a lot of the time, the only reason I’m meal prepping is because my job requires it of me! Whether I’m teaching a meal prep class, prepping for a client, or creating a meal prep video, it’s likely that if I weren’t getting paid, I’d probably find some excuse not to do it. Professional Meal Preppers: They’re Just like Us, am I right? But I know you’re probably not cooking for work, so here are a couple other ways to build structure to encourage yourself to meal prep:
You’ve heard of a gym accountability partner, right? When we make a commitment to another person, we’re more likely to follow through with that commitment. So find a friend who’s also interested in forming a meal prep habit and agree on a day and time you’ll be prepping. Check in with one another. Encourage each other. Celebrate with them when you get your meal preps done. You get it.
Sign up for a meal prep class. Continuing with the exercise metaphor, if I’ve spent my hard earned coin on a spinning class, I’m so much less likely to skip it than if I had just planned to hit the gym on a given evening. Gotta get my money’s worth! Same idea with a meal prep class, and not to toot my own horn,—there are many positive reviews to back me up here—they’re also quite fun!
This is my favorite one, and it’s also the simplest and completely free: is there a podcast, mindless TV show, or audiobook that you absolutely love? Well, tell yourself you can only listen to/watch that media of choice while meal prepping or planning for meal prepping. I save all my favorite podcasts for client meal prep sessions and now I’m always looking forward to those sessions!
When all else fails, lighten your load. There are going to be times when fitting in a full meal prep session won’t be possible, whether that’s because you’re extremely busy, or don’t have the mental capacity for it. And that’s more than okay. But even a little meal prep is better than no meal prep at all. So if you can find it in yourself to set aside 30 minutes to do one of these things, you can rest easy knowing you’re setting your future self up for a well-fed week ahead:
Wash and process (aka cut into bite-sized pieces) a couple different veggies so you can easily toss them into stir fries, chopped salad, fried rices, soups, and stews over the course of the week.
Make one big batch of a dish you’d be excited to eat a couple times over the course of the next week or one that you can easily remix into other dishes. I really love Abigail’s jazzed up refried beans or a big batch of chili.
But also, if you simply *can’t even* on a given week, letting yourself off the meal prep hook completely is valid and actually pretty important. If it’s not happening for whatever reason, don’t force it or you’ll dread it even more in future weeks!
How are we feeling? A little less overwhelmed by the idea of meal prepping at some point this week? Hopefully! If not, I’d love to hear what’s still got you feeling fatigued; you can shoot me a note by replying directly to this email, DM me over on Instagram, and as always, if you take a picture of yourself making use of one of these tips, I’d love to see! You can tag me @fresh.erica.
Alright, I think that’s about it from me, I hope you have a well-fed, kitchen-confident week ahead, pal!
With love and a tip of my chef’s hat,