3 Key Steps to Successful Meal Prep & Productive Work Weeks
We all know, or at least we are learning, that nutrition plays a huge role in how productive we are at work. If you aren't on that train, stop reading now and check out Improve Nutrition; Improve Productivity where I share how the two are highly correlated. If you are on that train, I'm excited to share three steps to simply implement meal prep into your weekly routine.
In a previous blog, Improve Nutrition; Improve Productivity, the first tip I shared was Meal Prep. I lead with that tip, because it has been one of the biggest game changers for me and my family. I have been prepping meals for close to eight years and can confidently say that when I don't meal prep, I am far less productive on many levels. For starters, I waste mental space thinking about when and what I will be eating. Often I will choose convenience over quality, or choose quality but pay a premium because I'm buying it already prepared. Once I settle on lunch, the entire process repeats itself as I pack up to head home to a family that will be demanding dinner soon. I've wasted mental capacity, money, time and the opportunity to nourish my body with quality food & ingredients. Do you find yourself in this rat race?
If so, I'm here to share my tried and true tips on meal prepping to have the most productive work week. To start, I will share my definition of meal prep because I've seen those carefully curated pictures on social media that you may be imagining now. The food is beautiful, tons of variety and a bit intimidating. That's not me. In my world, meal prep is simply preparing necessary ingredients that will allow you to quickly assemble a meal. It's not a premeditated menu. I know several people who 'meal plan' and I simply don't have the time or energy to do that to the extent that some do. Plus, I am a simple cook. I like whole foods, simple, clean and quick. With a family of 7, I'm trying to maximize time and maximize nutrition... while cooking as little as possible!
STEP ONE: PLAN
I just said that we aren't meal planning. By plan, I suggest considering the following to plan your grocery trip and cooking:
- How many lunches and/or dinners do you want to prepare? For how many people? Our schedules change quite frequently and I despise wasting food. Therefore I need to know how many lunch meetings my husband or I have and what evening events are taking place.
- What proteins will you or your family eat as a leftover? Important. Don't make a bunch of fish if you wouldn't dream of eating left over fish.
- What veggies will you or your family eat, frozen or otherwise?
- What complex carbs will you or your family eat, on repeat?
STEP TWO: PREP
Don't over complicate things. The idea is to be able to pull out a few containers and make a quick meal. You can even pre-prep a few grab-n-go containers. For example, we rotate meats each week to switch things up. This week, I made chicken. I bought my chicken in bulk from Costco, grilled 3 breasts and boiled two breasts to make shredded chicken. I cubed 2 of the grilled chicken breasts for salads, wraps or bowls, and saved another for heating. Then I shredded the boiled chicken, divided in half, seasoned half with taco seasoning and made a quick chicken salad with the other.
For the veggies, we love grilled, steamed or roasted veggies. I will steam zucchini & yellow squash, roast spaghetti squash, and have a few frozen options on hand. By the way, research shows that unless you buy from a local farmers market, often organic frozen veggies are the most nutrient dense. Tip: we prefer to slightly under cook our veggies, so when we heat them up they are still a bit al dente.
For our complex carbs, I often make a big batch of cilantro brown rice, bake 1 or 2 sweet potatoes, and make some pasta salad (I use chickpea pasta...shhh...don't tell my family it's healthier!).
Last, I also wash and make a salad blend to make quick salads. Personally, I do a morning fast most days and my first meal is a HUGE salad with healthy proteins and fats. I like to use a good salad blend, add arugula, and chives. I also prep a seed & nut blend (chia & flax seeds, sliced almonds, walnuts). With those two things prepped, I can easily throw on a protein, and a few veggies or fruits to make various options throughout the week. This takes about 5 minutes when I'm home. Otherwise, I whip it together in the morning to eat at the office or on the road.
STEP THREE: STORE & GO
Once everything is prepped, you can make up a few grab-n-go containers and store the rest. I prefer glass containers, as I feel the food stays fresher longer, it's easier to clean, your fridge won't smell of leftovers, and it's healthier!
Now, you will know exactly what what your meal will consist of, you only need to plan when you will eat! Over time, you will get better at gauging how much you will need for a variety of meals and what items your family is most open to eating on repeat or heated up!
To give you some ideas, these are some of the meals our family ate this week:
- Chicken and Rice bowls with choice of veggies on top. The kids will add pesto or salsa, plain greek yogurt & cheese.
- Stuffed baked sweet potato with chicken. We love adding buffalo sauce, plain greek yogurt and chives
- Spaghetti squash topped with chicken, marinara, and parmesan. Place ingredients in a casserole dish and heat until warm and cheese is melted. Served with a green frozen veggie.
- Cold whole grain wraps with veggies & chicken
So, how does all of this tie into productivity? Think about the time you will save not having to leave work to get food, prepare food from scratch in the evenings or any other time. There's no additional stress when someone asks you, "what's for dinner." There's no stress on the drive home to figure out how you are going to feed your family a nutritious meal before the evening activities. There's no stress or guilt for feeding your family fast food, yet another day!
Aside from the time and stress, your body & brain will thank you and reward you for providing it the proper nutrition to function optimally! In my book, that one is a non-negotiable. You only get one body, so let's make sure it's a well oiled machine.
I'd love to hear your tips for meal prep and how you feel it impacts your productivity. For those of you who haven't tried it, give it a go! If you have questions, I am MORE than happy to help.