Meal Prep 101

It’s too stressful to try and figure out what to make for a week.

It takes way too much time to prep.

I need variety.

Where do I even start?

Do these thoughts sound familiar? Even I, now a seasoned meal prepper had these thoughts at one point. There was a period when I was learning the tricks of the trade that I just hated meal prep. It was bland, boring, and I felt like I cooked all day! However, I didn’t have a choice if I was going to be successful in my health endeavors. Luckily, with time and consistency, I figured out how to make it work for me, and I want to share with all of you how you can make it work for you too.

Let’s face it, prepping three meals for seven days of the week prepacked in color-coded containers may not be your thing and it doesn’t have to be. Everyone is different in the amount of prep they need to do in order to be prepared and succeed. Find your unique approach! A little plan and prep will go a long way in helping you better reach your goals, no matter who you are. Let’s discuss the three different Meal Prepping Personalities to help you find your most effective prep method. Once you find the category you fit into or would like to fit into, follow the tips I give to help you be greater prepared. Take a deep breath, and let’s get started!

The Minimalist
This Prepper has a plan for what they will make for their meals during the week. They have a running grocery list and make time to go to the store two or three times a week. They have more time at home that gives them time to make different meals every day of the week if they choose. They don’t have to pre-prep their meals in advance, but if they needed to they could. They have picked out their menu for the week, shopped, and are ready to execute their plan each day. They plan the day ahead to prep and marinate meats if needed. Their fridge, freezer and pantry are stocked with protein-packed quick foods like nuts and seeds, Complete protein powder, frozen vegetables and meats for quick uses just in case something does not go as planned. They are ready, so nothing can throw them off their healthy eating plan. They have a few S.O.S. stashes around their car, and in their bag or purse. This stash includes extra Balance, Matcha, Complete powder in individual serving baggies, protein bars, etc. They take time to research new recipes and ideas so they always have variety and new flavors. This prep personality usually enjoys cooking and being in the kitchen. They use their measuring cups and occasionally their food scale to help them eyeball how much they are eating.

The Fundamentalist
This Prepper has a plan and a menu for what meals they will be having through the week. There may be fewer options, but typically they will make a few different meals throughout the week. This personality has planned to have time available a couple days and evenings through the week that they can be at home to spend time cooking. The Fundamentalist doesn’t necessarily have a lot of time to spend, so they will take time ahead a few days in advance to pre-chop vegetables, pre-mix salad greens, and marinate meats. They have their basic “go to” foods pre-prepped and ready to utilize into meals. These foods include a large batch of cooked rice or quinoa, several grilled chicken breasts, hard boiled eggs and other pre-prepped meats. Their fridge, freezer and pantry are stocked with protein-packed quick foods like nuts and seeds, Complete protein powder, frozen vegetables and meats for quick uses just in case something does not go as planned. They are ready, so nothing can throw them off their healthy eating plan. They too have a few S.O.S. stashes around their car, and in their bag or purse. They pick two or three days a week that they can bulk cook their foods, saving them a lot of time. It is common for the Fundamentalist to pre-pack a few meals in advance in case they have to be out of their homes at meals. If they work, they will have pre-prepped lunches to take with them. The fundamentalist may or may not enjoy cooking, but they understand the time they spend helps them avoid other stress later with wondering what to eat. They are sure to use measuring cups and the food scale consistently to help them with their portions.

The Strategist
This Prepper has been in the game for a while. They once started out as the minimalist, moved through the actions of a fundamentalist, and — with time and consistency — have become a strategist. This works best for their lifestyle and goals. They have each meal mapped out for the week. They don’t have much variety and will cycle through one or two meal options for each meal since they are bulk cooking most everything at once on a scheduled “prep day.” They don’t mind the lack of variety. Their meals are good to them, and they eat what they enjoy, occasionally switching up the menu depending on their taste buds. They measure out and weigh all their foods. Most of the meals for the week are packed into containers ready to be popped into the microwave or eaten on the go at any moment. They are always prepared, keeping an insulated cold bag and a meal with them in case they get stuck out and about. They too are prepared with a backup plan B and maybe even C. They too have their fridge, freezer and pantry stocked with protein-packed quick foods like nuts and seeds, Complete protein powder, frozen vegetables and meats for quick uses. They also have a few S.O.S. stashes at the office, in their car, and in their bag or purse.

Now that we have determined the three Meal Prepper Personalities, let’s discuss more how to begin moving into one of these ways of living. If you are used to doing no prep at all, you will want to start with the minimalist thinking and habits. If you are already doing the minimalist habits and are experimenting with the fundamentalist habits, let’s make sure you are being completely effective in those areas before progressing into the strategist way of living. You can be very successful in your health and weight loss goals practicing any of these prepper habits — it’s up to you to find which style will make you personally most successful long term. Typically, doing “less” won’t be the answer either. If you want different results, you have to learn to do things differently.

So where to start? You start with meal planning to organize yourself before you cook a meal. It is the step you take before you shop. I like to start this process by whipping out my nutrition guide and picking out foods that look good to me that week. I make notes of those foods and then begin looking through cooking blogs, websites, and Pinterest. I personally enjoy pictures, as they spark more ideas of what I would like to make. If you don’t enjoy cooking, try to look for ways that inspire you.

Tip: Most of us are not cooking for one. The clients I work with run into the obstacle every day of getting their kids and other family members on board with their new healthy eating plans. This is a definite challenge, and an obstacle that can take time to work through. When you’re starting, don’t forget to get the other family members involved in the process. Have you asked your partner what they like to eat? Try printing out a few extra copies of the nutrition guide and allow each family member to circle the foods they really like, then get them involved in picking out the menus for the week. Look for inspiration together, whether on Pinterest, recipe books, or magazines.

Tip: Looking to save some cash? Healthy food comes with a price tag. Consider checking your local markets for sales on expensive items like meats and fresh fruit and vegetables. When you plan your meals for the week, see if you can incorporate some reduced price items into your week. Or stash reduced meat items in your freezer for later use. You will be greater prepared and save money in the long run.

Let’s go shopping! One of the biggest challenges my clients run into is that they don’t always get to the store when they should, and consequently run out of the foods they should be eating, resulting in poorer nutrition choices. Before you can be successful you have to shop. Make sure to have a designated shopping day and time each week.

Now, there is nothing wrong with eating out as long as you are making a good choice, but it’s generally healthier to eat the bulk of your meals homemade. Restaurant food often has added ingredients that you may be unaware of. When you cook at home you know exactly what you’re eating every time.

Even if you stay at home, think of what items you may have on hand if you haven’t shopped. Most pantries that haven’t been stocked with food lately contain things that are processed with a long shelf life — usually not at the top of the list for your weight loss efforts. You have to be prepared and have your plan B. I mentioned that each prepping personality has a running list of their staple foods. Their fridge, freezer, pantries and cupboards have great high protein back up foods. A lot of these items have a pretty good shelf life so you don’t have to worry about waste. With a backup list like this you could whip up many different types of meals at any time. Just replenish these items as needed.

Tip: Taking children to the store can be overwhelming and challenging. Again, try to get them involved. Use the trip as a learning experience and have your children take turns each week picking out a new vegetable or fruit. The more we can involve kids in the process of making the meal, the more likely they will be to try what they picked out. In the long run it may pay off in their personal eating habits as they grow up.

Tip 2: Have you ever considered curbside grocery pick up? If a store near you offers it, all you have to do is go online and place your order of the items you would like to purchase for the week, and then an employee will shop, bag, and load your car for you once you pull up.

It’s time to prep and cook! If you’re a Minimalist you may pick and choose what you will do next as you have already covered your bases and are prepared for each meal you will make. My advice for you is to plan for left overs to help lighten the load and frequency of your cooking. If you can enjoy leftovers try to make enough dinner to save for lunch the next day. If you make too much and don’t want to eat it for days, try freezing it and use it later on. You can save time and money with this method. If you want to be more of a Fundamentalist and Strategist these next steps are for you.

Fundamentalists: Chose when you will prep and make sure you commit to those times. A fridge full of the right things will only get you so far. You may have a few designated times set aside, but you have to commit to the time. I suggest you do some “pre-prepping” as soon as you return from the store, like chopping vegetables, prepping salad greens, and marinating meats. When you do prep your meals, try cooking enough for three or four days. If you cook more than you will eat in that span, freeze foods to keep them fresher; just pull them out to thaw in the fridge the day before you plan to eat it. This works great for cooked meat like chicken. Try cooking a large serving of rice or quinoa and put it in an airtight container, and just throw a serving of those into other dishes when needed. Pick a protein and cook it in bulk. I like to bake or grill a few chicken breasts and chop them up into 4-5 ounce servings and store them in containers or zip lock baggies in the fridge and freezer. You can do this with any meat. Try bulk-roasting some of your favorite vegetables. I prefer to roast my vegetables so they hold up better for a few days. like to chop up Brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and fresh green beans and roast them with a small amount of olive oil or coconut oil. I sprinkle my vegetables with salt and pepper and other spices to switch it up based on my taste buds. I just store them in a gallon zip lock bag and they are great!

When you bulk cook you can mix-and-match whatever you want. With a few different protein, carb, and vegetable options prepped, you have a few different combinations of meals to pick from. I mentioned bulk prepping boiled eggs, healthy tuna, and chicken salads. You can eat these with fruits and vegetables. I love sliced apples with chicken salad. These are great to have on hand so you can have more real, nutrient dense foods instead of always reaching for the protein shakes and protein bars. Try to eat as much “real” food as possible when you are home, and save the bars and shakes for emergencies. Remember, supplements are meant to add to our nutrition, not make up the majority of it.

Strategist: Strategy in all things makes this person so successful. This prepper has their shopping and prep days scheduled. They have researched their meals for their week. They have their shopping list prepared. They will go through all the same steps as the Fundamentalist, but take it one step further to measure out each meal in individual containers, allowing them to grab that meal any time. Prepping this far in advanced can look and feel like a job, but the sacrifice is small compared to the amount of stress and worry they save themselves during the week. How would it benefit you if you didn’t have to come home each day and fret about what to make or put together because it’s already there ready to go? No thought involved you just pop your container in the microwave and you’re good to go. How much time and worry would you actually save yourself? Could you be more successful in your health goals? The personality that lives this lifestyle is a person that maintains a fairly low body fat percentage and is very consistent in their nutrition because achieving a physique like that takes effort.

Tip: Curious to know what I do? When I started prepping I went right for the Strategist category mostly because I was competing in body building and had to be a little more extreme in my approach. In the beginning it was a daunting task each week, but with time I got very good at it. Now I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t prep. It’s been almost five years now, and I lived the Strategist way for the majority of it. However, I am no longer competing in bodybuilding, so I made myself a hybrid plan of the Fundamentalist and Strategists methods of meal prepping. I follow Fundamentalist guidelines the majority of the time, but definitely apply the Strategists methods for my meals away from home. I eat breakfast and lunch at work every day, so on Sunday I prep and pack breakfast and lunch for every day of the week. For dinner, I have different options planned out and bulk cooked so I can come home and piece things together, allowing me some flexibility in what I am eating, but it doesn’t require more than 10 minutes of prepping in the evening. During the week I plan for one or two days of being a minimalist and will cook fresh meals to enjoy. I have found what works for me and my goals, and I enjoy it. With time and consistency, you will find a successful plan for you.

S.O.S.
I want to dive more into what an S.O.S. stash means. It is designed to keep you from missing meals and eating things you couldn’t avoid because you weren’t prepared. This is your plan B and C. How many times have you found yourself out and about running errands and going through the drive through? If you want to be successful you have to be prepared all the time no matter where you find yourself.

Here are some ideas of a few things you can have in your S.O.S stashes:
Complete powder in a single serving baggie (or you can buy our single serving sachets, so convenient!)
• Many sachets of Balance and Matcha
• Pieces of fruit
• Single servings of nuts and seeds
• Healthy protein bars
• Tuna Packets
• Jerky
• Fundamentalists and Strategists: an insulated cold bag or ice pack bag with an extra prep packed meal, chopped veggies, fruits, salads, boiled eggs, etc.

Meal Prep 101 | Unicity BlogKeep inventory
You will only be prepared if you remember to restock the things you are using. Nothing is worse than going to your S.O.S. stash and finding nothing because you forgot to replenish it. Make sure to keep on top of these details! Keep a list of the things that are in your fridge and freezer so you know what is there to use and when they expire. Don’t overstuff the refrigerator and freezer. Keep it organized and have that list of foods handy so you don’t forget about last night’s leftovers that would have made a nice lunch today.

If you think prepping is still too stressful, look for another approach or adjust your mindset. Focus on how much stress you will be able to alleviate from your week. A little prep and plan will go far. You don’t need to be a perfect meal prepper; you just need to do be striving to do a little better each week. Set some realistic goals for yourself that you feel you can stick to, and then slowly add to it over a period of time. Don’t totally overwhelm yourself and never try again. All your efforts will pay off for you in the form of fat loss and better health.

This article was written by Coach Morgan.
Unicity Coach Morgan Smith

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