The lines between work and home life are more blurred than ever, and when life’s demands pile up we might find ourselves spending more time working and less time feeding ourselves good food, or getting out and moving our bodies. It’s not a great position to be in but sometimes it’s not avoidable, all we can do is adapt to our surroundings and make the best of it, but how do we do that?
How do we eat healthy foods when we’re always on the move? If we grab the healthy option at the supermarket, it costs three times as much as grabbing some junk food and getting back to work.
While grabbing something from the shop certainly works in a pinch, if you’re on a budget or don’t have healthy options available you’ll soon find yourself eating high-calorie foods that don’t provide you with the other key nutrients that your body needs, so what are you to do?
Learn To Meal Prep
Meal preparation is easy once you’ve got the hang of it, it doesn’t take long and you’ll know exactly whats gone into the food you’re fueling your body with. Like most beneficial habits, it does take some upfront time investment but if you can find an hour each week, you’ll be able to create nutritious meals for a fraction of the price of a shop-bought alternative. Another benefit of preparing your own meals is that you’ll be able to choose your portion size and allow for any allergies or personal preferences.
What is Meal Prep?
Meal prep is another term for what we all know as packed lunches. You cook up your meals in advance when you have time so you can enjoy healthy meals when you don’t.
Why is Meal Preparation Important?
Time is scarce for many of us, and when time is scarce we often have fewer options when it comes to lunch. If you have a choice between two poor options, the best choice you can make is a poor one. If you already have a healthy meal with you, then you’ll be much less likely make poor diet choices. If it removes the choice altogether, then that’s some willpower you’ve saved that you can put towards something else.
How Long Does Meal Prep Take?
Lunches for a week can be done around an hour, I prefer to break this up into two half-hour sessions to avoid the need to freeze or defrost anything. If you’re planning to prep for two or more meal per day, then it will take a little longer but I’d guess three hours as the absolute maximum, unless you’re cooking something really special.
Here’s how to get started in under an hour.
- Buy some food containers on your way home today.
- If you haven’t already got them at home, grab a starch (rice, pasta, potatoes etc), protein (chicken, meat, beans etc) and some vegetables too.
- Work how much you’ll need of each for your meals and set aside enough for the number of meals you want to cook.
- Cook your starches, proteins and vegetables and add them to your food containers, and let them cool on the kitchen surface.
- If using salad then add later on once the meal is cool.
- Any prepared meals to be eaten within three days goes in the fridge, anything else goes in the freezer. (Note: Salad doesn’t freeze well)
How Does This Save Time?
If you go to buy your food at a convenience store you might think that you’d save a bunch of time compared to preparing your meals but does it actually work that way? You might have a shop close to your place of work that sells healthy meal options but most people don’t, typically you’ll find yourself going out of your way to a shop, uhmm-ing and ahh-ing over a limited selection before then waiting in the lunchtime queue before getting your food and making your way back to work.
Food prepping takes advantage of a time-management tactic known as chunking. Chunking is where you spend time focused on one thing as opposed to jumping from one thing to another like a grasshopper on speed. The result is that you get more, better quality work done (in this case nutritious meals) than if you were to spread that time out across other times when your attention is being pulled in a hundred other directions.
Let’s say it takes a total of fifteen minutes to get your food and get back to work each day compared with an hour spent at the weekend. You spend less total time getting your food, you eat the right food and you get your lunch time back so you can enjoy your lunch in the sun, read a book or even take a nap.
Keep It Simple
Meal preparing is something we’ve all done in one way or another. If you’re a parent then you’re likely no stranger to packed lunches, if not then you’ve probably made your own basic packed lunches for school or work. It really isn’t difficult and if you live a busy lifestyle then you will run into situations where the skill really is useful.
It doesn’t have to be cooked
I like to cook my pre-prepared meals because as I’m often cooking chicken or fish for them anyway but there are plenty of options available if you would rather not cook and you can buy cooked meats if that’s your preference. The basic packed lunch of a decent sandwich, a yoghurt and a piece of fruit is fine, how long does that take to put together? Although I’d suggest that those looking to lose fat would do better switching the bread for wholemeal pittas and making sure the yoghurts are low-fat.
It doesn’t have to be difficult
If you type ‘meal prep’ into a Google Image search then you’ll see all sorts of visually impressive meals that people have made ranging from simple starch/protein/veg combinations to culinary works of art displayed proudly in mason jars. If you’re just starting out, don’t think your meals need to look like that, it’s not like you’re going to be posting every single meal on Instagram is it? I mean who does that..
Start simple and just make healthy packed lunches, if you want to make it more elaborate as time goes on then that’s great, but the purpose of the food is to help you eat well and free up time so you have more time and energy for the things that are important to you.
Create a Schedule
If you set aside an hour each week to prepare these foods then you’ll find the process is very easy to get used to. If you already make packed lunches for your children then make one for yourself at the same time. Nearly all of us eat at least one meal away from home so why not invest a little time to eat better and live better.
..And maybe even save on the washing up.