What is “meal prep”?
First things first, what does “meal prep” mean? Is it the newest fad in age of fitness and health fanatics? Is it a euphemism for being lazy? Well, maybe. At its core, meal prep is exactly what is sounds like — preparing your meals. The key, however, is that it is done prior to consumption. For example, a crowd favorite is Sunday meal prep days, aka setting aside time on Sunday to plan, cook and package breakfast, lunch and dinner for the upcoming week.
Do you have to be a fitness guru to meal prep?
No! The only thing you “have” to be in order to meal prep is an enthusiastic individual who perhaps hates cooking or simply wants more time out of each day. On second thought, you don’t even have to be enthusiastic; be as apathetic as you want.
If I loathe making just one meal, why would I want to make seven at once?
You make a good point; after all, no sane person would say, “Well, I hate doing this, so let me do it ten times over!” Let’s take a little detour here and imagine a scenario that, undoubtedly, many people can relate to.
Set the scene: it’s a Wednesday, you barely made it through the first half of the week, it’s 6:40 pm and you’ve been laboring away in the lab for twelve hours straight — oh, and you didn’t have time to get coffee this morning. You’re fatigued, probably considering switching majors, and can barely tell the wet lab and dry lab apart at this point (okay, maybe not that tired…). What motivation could possibly be mustered to withstand a twenty-minute train ride home and then proceed to cook a full dinner at this point? Lucky for you, there’s a savory-looking fried rice with a dash of tofu in the refrigerator that’s calling your name!
All jokes aside — thanks for enduring this all-too-familiar trip down stress-lane with me — the motivation for preparing meals ahead of time is, generally, to free up loads of time later in the week. Not only does meal prep save time, but one could even argue that it promotes healthy eating; after all, you may be less likely to dial up Uber Eats out of desperation if you have a lovely homemade meal waiting for you. In fact, it has been argued that meal prep can save money and time, help with weight control and reduce stress.
The hidden benefits of meal prep
Maybe that graphic anecdote wasn’t enough to convince you. So, let’s take a moment to consider some of the hidden benefits of meal prepping.
Perhaps the most unexpected outcome of making my meals ahead of time was the fact that I suddenly had all this time to spend with my loved ones. No more going home at noon to whip up a salad. Instead, I got to take my lunch out to lawn for some much-needed laughs with friends. Eventually, my relationships flourished as I started saying “yes” to trips after work, instead of “sorry, I have to go preheat the oven.” Now, we all know correlation is not causation, but the timing is uncanny.
Time, time, and more time
Just in case we haven’t hammered this one home enough, the amount of added time in the week is worth it alone. However you want to spend this free time, now you can! Whether that means a trip to the local museum, finally reading in that adorable reading nook you always tell yourself you will, or laying on the floor contemplating every decision since you were five, the possibilities are endless.
Depending on the meals you choose, prepping ahead of time may mean you carry utensils around for that soup or stir fry you packed for lunch. In which case, hello sustainability! Now, when you get that 3:00 pm “free food in the lounge” email, you’re more than ready to pounce.
Resources to get started
Whether you’re enticed or not, here are some resources to help get you started with meal prepping — useful if you’re a beginner or looking to expand your options!
Disclaimer: there is a 90% chance you are going to need a little bit more than your average kitchenware — i.e. it might be hard to store your pre-made meals using just the plates and bowls in the cupboard. What to do? Get some containers! Even better? Buy glass containers — hello sustainability (nice to see you again ;) ).