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How Can I Make Meal Prep Easier?

Meal Prep Kind of Sucks but You Can Still Make It Out Alive

#MealPrep has over three million tagged pictures on Instagram. Seriously. Go look at it. There are also accounts dedicated to meal prepping, like @mealpreponfleek and @mealprepdaily, with hundreds of thousands of followers. The photos are captivating, inspiring, and . . . intimidating as hell!

People are OBSESSED with meal prep. And for good reason — there are countless benefits to planning and preparing your meals ahead of time, and it's a surefire way to help you eat healthier and lose weight. I myself have touted its ability to help save money and provide more nutritious food throughout the week. But while everyone is singing its praises, here's what they're not telling you: it's not that easy. This might get some people riled up (trigger warning), but I have to say it — meal prep kind of sucks, and we need to address it.

No matter how simple meal prep may look, there's a lot of legwork. Here's what you need to be aware of ahead of time so you don't get so frustrated you give up forever. Because in the end, it's absolutely worth it, but we need to talk about the parts that suck so we can come into it with a positive attitude and sustain this helpful, healthful practice each week. For those of you who have been struggling through these things, know you're not alone!

  • The dishes are going to be a pain in the ass. Pots, pans, bowls, whisks, knives . . . when you're cooking food for the whole week, you're going to have almost a week's worth of dishes to clean up. Plus, if you're working with limited equipment, you may need to do some midprep washing to continue your healthy endeavors. Just know this ahead of time to prevent frustration!
  • The entire thing is like the kitchen Olympics. Have you ever tried cooking quinoa on the stovetop with chicken in the oven while chopping veggies and whisking up a salad dressing? It's like jumping up and down on one leg while rubbing your stomach and patting your head, but your head is on fire and the room is on fire and everything is on fire. OK, maybe it's not that dramatic, but if you're lacking culinary prowess, this can be more than daunting at first. Start by cooking foods you're more familiar with. Is cooking brown rice easier for you than cooking quinoa? Start there! More familiar with how to sauté asparagus versus sweet potatoes? Go for the greens. Keep a familiar "control group" when you're starting out so you're not overwhelmed by too many new projects.
  • The prep requires prep. You'll need to know exactly what you're making ahead of time in order to have all the groceries you need. I can't tell you how many times I've returned from Trader Joe's or Whole Foods only to curse at the sky saying, "HOW DID I FORGET EGGS?!?" You'll need to choose recipes and map out each day of meals, and from there, create a list of groceries. Make that list, check it twice. Or three times.
  • Making your own weekly plan is hard. Unless you're Bobby Flay, creating a delicious week of meals can be intimidating, if not outright impossible. It's OK to rely on a preset meal plan! You can find meal prep ideas here on POPSUGAR, browse Pinterest, or try programs like Kayla Itsines's BBG or Tone It Up — they craft weekly meal plans and specifically outline what you'll be eating and when and include grocery lists.
  • It takes forever. Meal prep takes a long time, particularly when you're new at it. Once you have a routine, a rhythm, and a set of recipes, it will get easier . . . but from my experience, not THAT much easier. You need to carve out time for this so you don't rush and then end up with burnt (or half-cooked) food, incomplete meals, or high stress levels (or all of the above). There are hacks to make meal prep easier, and you'll get faster over time — just be patient!
  • You're committing to a new lifestyle. This might sound weird, but it's not just an activity . . . it's a new way of life. You'll be grocery shopping a LOT more (produce goes bad quickly — looking at you, avocados), and you'll be sacrificing some of your weekend to commit to healthy eating throughout the week. It takes time, it takes effort, and it takes commitment — but the payoff is amazing.

So now you know. If you've been meal prepping on your own, buried in a mountain of dirty dishes that never seems to shrink, wondering why everyone is so joyfully obsessed — it's because they got past these hurdles. But you're not the only one with these frustrations! Meal prep is just like exercise; it's hard work, sometimes you hate it, sometimes it makes you miserable, but in the end, you feel incredible, and you're doing something awesome for your body.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Sheila Gim
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