Here's How To Make Meal Prepping Easier If You Always Dread It, According To Experts
Meal-prepping definitely makes my life easier. It's so convenient to be able to reach into the fridge after a busy day and have one of my favorite dishes all ready to eat. But once Sunday afternoon rolls around each week, I have to admit that I have very little motivation to pull myself away from my latest Netflix obsession during those last few precious hours before the work week begins again. I'm always on the hunt for tips and tricks for how to make meal-prepping easier because it's just so hard not to dread it. With just a few tweaks to your meal-prep routine, though, the chopping and sautéing can start to feel less like a chore and more like a time to care for your body.
Annessa Chumbley, a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant for Premier Protein, tells Elite Daily that something as simple as turning your meal-prep time into a boogie session with your favorite music can take it from tedious to fun (no dancing with knives, though, please).
In addition to cranking up the tunes, there are plenty of other ways to keep your time in the kitchen from being something you absolutely dread. Tie on your cutest apron, put on some funky music, and get ready to get cooking.
Start Off Small
As tempting as it can be to just go all in and meal-prep everything you're going to be eating over the next week, Chumbley suggests starting off slowly by just focusing on whatever meal you find yourself needing healthy dishes for the most. For example, if you always seem to be rushed to get out the door in the morning and can never quite make the stunning oatmeal bowls you'd like to start your day with, just try meal-prepping overnight oats for the week.
Only Prep A Protein
"Prep one protein-filled food at the beginning of the week, and then pair it with plants throughout the week," Chumbley recommends. "You'll be amazed at how much of the work is done once that protein part is prepped." Plus, proteins are super versatile, which will prevent you from having to eat the same old quinoa and asparagus dish for seven nights straight.
If you aren't sure where to start, Chumbley recommends cooking up plenty of ground beef, then using it in a variety of meals like spaghetti, tacos, and chili. Of course, if you aren't a meat-eater, simply cook up some tasty lentils or bake a whole bunch of tempeh and you'll be all set.
Create Your Own Salad Bar
Is there anything more tedious than chopping up a million little pieces of vegetables first thing in the morning? I doubt it. If you love having hearty, tasty salads throughout the week, make things a little easier for yourself by tracking down some of your favorite toppings ahead of time and getting them all ready to go so that you can literally just sprinkle them on and head out the door, suggests Chumbley. "Put items like hardboiled eggs (already peeled), drained and rinsed black beans, chickpeas, shredded cheese, sliced almonds, and dried cranberries in clear containers," she explains, "so that you can create your very own salad bar and make delicious lunch options quickly throughout the week."
Let The Slow Cooker Do The Work
I've always lived by the phrase "work smarter, not harder," and that philosophy can definitely apply to meal-prepping. It's really not necessary to spend hours meal-prepping, says Chumbley. Instead, let a tasty recipe cook in the slow cooker while you're gone during the day. Then, you can enjoy a hot dinner and portion out all of the leftovers for later in the week — no time standing over a hot stove required.
"This is my favorite for batch-cooking anything, from shredded chicken, to ground beef, to steel-cut oats," Chumbley tells Elite Daily. "There's no babysitting the Crock-Pot. Just throw the ingredients in, turn it on, and feel the productivity happen."
Incorporate Prepared Foods
Using pre-cut or frozen veggies can save you both time and money, so don't feel like you have to do everything yourself. "If on a budget, there are plenty of plant-based foods that are cheap and nutrient-dense," registered dietitian Amanda Baker Lemein, MS, RD, LDN tells Elite Daily. Adding in nutritious ingredients like cauliflower rice, carrot noodles, or butternut squash noodles adds plenty of flavor to whatever you're cooking and keeps your chopping and peeling time down to a minimum. You can also spice up a meal with packaged sauces to save you more time and give your recipe more pizzazz.
Start A New Podcast
Turning on your favorite bop is one way to make meal-prepping more fun, but if you're looking for an even bigger way to distract yourself, try listening to a podcast while you cook, says Chumbley. "This way, you can nourish your mind at the same time you are doing good things for your body, making it a valuable time," she explains. Plus, if you tune in to something really captivating, such as true crime podcasts like S-Town or Serial, you might just find yourself looking forward to your weekly meal-prepping sessions.