Meal Planning + Prepping Made Easy!

Don’t let busy weeks keep you from eating healthy! DietBet player Brenna shares her tips for planning and prepping your meals so you're set up for success!
meal prepping

It’s hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle when there are so few hours in the day. As a working mom to a small child, I know that that struggle is very, very real. There are so many days I walk through the door and am dead on my feet. Thinking about having to cook a meal from scratch would instantly make me think of excuses to not cook. 

Do any of these statements sound familiar? Well, I have to give her a bath tonight. I got home a little later than normal, and really don’t have the time. Oop, I “forgot” to set the chicken out to thaw. I would make every excuse in the book so that I wouldn’t have to cook.

I tried to justify my junk-filled takeout dinners by countering that I’d gone for a run that day, or would hit the gym the next morning. But let me fill you in on a secret: you cannot out-exercise a bad diet. It just isn’t sustainable. No matter how many miles you run, or steps you climb, or squats you do, you can’t negate your unhealthy habits for long.

Luckily, having home-cooked, healthy meals requires much less daily effort than you might think. The secret lies in 2 powerful tools: meal planning and meal prepping. Here’s my down and dirty guide to both:

Meal Planning

Meal planning can be a tedious task, as it involves committing a chunk of time to ensure it’s done properly. However, it’s definitely worth it, and saves you time, headaches, and money in the long run. Here are the three steps I follow in my weekly meal planning:

1. On Sunday afternoon or morning, browse your cookbooks, search on Pinterest, or defer to some family favorites to write out a meal list for the week. As a note from experience – if you want to try out a new recipe that looks like it may take time, leave it for the weekend. That way you don’t have to rush through it or encounter unexpected hiccups. 

meal planning

2. Write out the ingredients from each of the meals on your list and go through your pantry and refrigerator. There are so many things we stash away for a recipe that we never end up making. Instead of spending money to buy something you already have, double check your supply first! 

3. Review your local grocery ads and try to circle or highlight any items you need. Don’t receive the grocery ad in the mail? No problem! I use an app called ‘Flipp’, which displays all the ads close to whatever zip code you enter. It even lets you circle items you want to pick up.

Meal Prepping

While meal planning is important to ensure that you’ve thought out your week and have everything on hand to create your meals, meal prep is the reason why you won’t be able to back out of your plan to eat healthy.

Before I was serious about meal prep, I would half-heartedly put together a couple lunches for the week on Sunday. Once I returned from maternity leave however, I found myself with little time to do what needed to be done each night, and real meal prep became essential. Here are the three steps I use in my weekly meal prepping:

1. Pick one day to prep. I would highly recommend using the day you have the most amount of time. Meal prep requires a solid chunk of time up front, but pays off throughout the week.

2. Thaw out any frozen food. In order to save fridge space, we keep a lot of meat and veggies frozen. Make sure to set out all the frozen items you will need ahead of time so that they can thaw properly.

3. Do most of the work on Meal Prep Day. In our household, we choose Sundays to meal prep. This gives us a large amount of time to crank out 90% of what will need to be done in for each meal, including chopping and cooking veggies and portioning out ingredients. That way, when it comes time to serve the respective meal, all you have to do is execute. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, you can cook every dish ahead of time so that you just have to pop it in the microwave. 

Meal prepping and meal planning have been instrumental in achieving my family’s weight loss goals. We are able to spend most of the week committed to being a healthy family, without taking extra time to cook meals each night. Does it seem like a daunting task? If so, start small, such as only prepping dinners for a few days, and work your way up to prepping all your meals. Implementing these habits will ensure you have your meals ready to go any day of the week, leaving you with extra time to do whatever your heart desires. Trust me, in the end it’s all worth it—both for physical and mental health.

Make it WayBetter

Keep track of the recipes you like! Whether it's a physical binder or bookmarks online, having a set of tested-and-approved recipes is a great way to streamline the meal planning + prepping process.