Meal prep or meal planning?

Are you a prepper? Or are you a planner? Or a little of both?

I’m definitely a lot of both. But I like to keep things simple. First of all, it’s really important for me to know what is in the the food I eat. I would say that 95% of the food I eat is purchased and prepared by me or my husband. We rarely go out to eat (and actually prefer to make our own most of the time). But since I had gastric bypass surgery, I need to know what is in my food. I need to avoid added sugars and fried foods as those are an instant recipe for disaster and the need for a very close bathroom. There’s also some foods I used to eat, but my digestive system no longer tolerates.

Meal prep is now part of my weekly routine. But for me, planning comes first. I typically sit down on Friday or Saturday and think about what I want to prepare for the upcoming week. And then out comes Pinterest. I typically will make one or two recipes for the week, either a salad or soup, and then plan for roasted vegetables, and maybe a few Instant Pot recipes (lately egg bites have been in rotation and I sometimes make either quinoa or some kind of vegetarian recipe using beans or lentils). On the weeks when I am getting a farm box from Farm Fresh to You, I pick my box contents around what recipes I might make. Sometimes when I’m just not in the mood to cook, I just pick things I can prep and eat raw.

I have seriously memorized the layout of our local Nugget Market, so I make a list of all the things I need for recipes in the order they appear in the store: produce, then bulk items, then anything from the meat/seafood/vegan sections, frozen fruit for smoothies, almond milk, eggs. And that’s it.  I keep almost completely to the outer aisles of the store, where things have no packaging or ingredient lists. Whole food is my thing. Exceptions may be oats, spices, coconut milk, or Bragg’s ACV. Minimally processed.

In my planning, I like to honor meatless Monday, and I will often do a completely vegetarian week, if not vegan. Lately I have been looking for baked tofu recipes or something with tempeh, which I honestly could eat plain and uncooked and be a happy girl.

There are some weeks where raw foods work for me. There are some weeks when raw carrots or radish immediately give me an uncomfortable heartburn-like feeling.  I’ve learned to roll with it and just make sure I have options available for days when my digestion is tempermental. I also keep nuts like cashews and almonds on hand, either as snacks or as part of meals.

Once I get everything home, I follow somewhat of a routine too. Frozen stuff in the freezer, staples get put in the pantry, and then all the produce gets washed, dried, then prepped, either for recipes, or for snacking. I put things away in single serve sizes (I have these little Lunch Box containers which are the perfect portion size for a bariatric patient. They also stack easily in the fridge. And when they are prepared and ready to go, I know I will actually consume them and not just add them to the compost pile in the backyard. (Sound familiar?)

I do the same with my recipes. I either package up complete meals in single serving sizes or store them in bigger containers for assembly in the morning as I get ready for work. At the moment, I am doing 2 protein shakes a day, so one is typically in the morning mixed with chai tea or in a green smoothie with frozen fruit, a few handfuls of greens, and either chia seeds, or chlorophyll or some other supportive superfood supplement.

I’ve had clients ask me to do meal prep for them, and that’s actually fun for me, as long as they are eating in alignment with foods I already eat. My biggest problem is I can’t actually eat a whole recipe by the end of the week. I will either cut the recipe in half or freeze half in mason jars for future consumption.

I just chatted with a client this morning about meal planning. In recent weeks, she had asked me for tips on meal prep. Today, she told me that last week, she and her husband sat down and planned out all of their meals for the week, then stuck to the plan! She’s not big into the all-at-once food prep, but the planning worked for her.

My point here is that you really need to find what works for you, through trial and error. I have such a daily routine during the week, I need to have everything pretty much ready to go for me to pack and bring to work. And when I come home, the last thing I typically want to do is cook. So it’s all about assembly. Bio-individuality applies to daily routine just as much as it applies to food. They say one person’s food is another’s poison. I can’t dictate my routine to anyone, nor would I dictate my exact diet. Everyone needs to find that right balance on their own.

I’m curious to hear about other routines or suggestions for meal prep and planning. Share in the comments or on social media!

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