Food prepping, yes or no?

I remember once visiting a friend who was getting ready for a fitness competition.

She opened her fridge to consider our dinner options and there was no actual food in the fridge, no ingredients, just neatly stacked rows of tupperware full of breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the week, all carefully organized and colour coded. Chicken, sweet potato, fish, green beans, oatmeal.

Each week she cooked and prepared all her meals for the week ahead. So organized, so intimidating.

We went out and got Indian food instead. Phew!

People like advance meal prep for planning purposes. You won’t be caught off guard without healthy meals at the ready. It’s also typically praised for portion control. When done right, meal prep sure does photograph well. See 20 Photos That Prove Meal Prepping Is a Way of Life. There’s an instagram hashtag and loads of pinterest boards. I don’t make them but I think the meals in mason jars look the prettiest.

Occasionally I give it a go and make batch meals for the week. But in my house this plan can go wrong in one of two ways.

Way 1: Teenagers discover that what’s in the matching tupperware containers tastes good. Portion control be damned. They combine the contents of two or three containers to make a meal.

Way 2: I get sick of the contents, eat non prepped meals, and later throw out the rotten food and feel guilty. When I posted on our Facebook page about this a reader confessed that she too often threw out the healthy meals after they’d gone bad. I’m not alone!

I’ve discovered a solution for the first problem. Opaque tupperware. No one peaks in and my food is safe. Shhhh! But the second problem? Not so much.

In the end there’s some things I can prep and other meals I have to just buy ingredients and let things happen. Too much planning, for me, can be too much of a good thing. I do like cleaning and chopping veggies in advance. And there are some breakfasts I like to make in advance, like these egg and veggie muffins and also tubs of cottage cheese with fruit and granola. But planning out everything is just a little bit too much for me.

How about for you? How much structure and planning do you like around meals? Is advance meal prep a way of life for you? Or do you do it all on the the fly?




17 thoughts on “Food prepping, yes or no?

  1. I don’t prep, either. I’m fussy, and mostly it’s that I don’t find that the taste and texture reliably remain consistent for more than a couple of days but also the mere idea of meal prep just makes me tired. Some things I’ll make enough to last a few days, and I make my own chicken stock (a result I like – and a process I dread), but I don’t prep and store full meals.

    I think the degree of food prep (or cooking, for that matter) that works for someone really has to be tailored to whatever they find challenging, and my challenges wouldn’t be helped by meal prep. I like cooking but only on a small scale, don’t mind cooking daily, don’t have a tight schedule, and don’t have a problem with portion control. Meal prep would actually make life tougher.

    Kind of like finding your way with exercise. I have to be able to exercise at home or outdoors. I just don’t care for the gym. My partner, however, does much better going to a “third place,” with lots of equipment, to focus on exercise (and, for that matter, likes weekly meal prep, at least for food to bring to work).

  2. I will prep the items going into my lunches to a certain degree – wash and cut up the veggies, have the protein prepped and ready to be put into containers to carry to work. But that is the extent of my food prep. The hubby and I might remember to pull out in the morning what we’re going to fix that night for dinner, but we are not dedicated meal planners. I like the flexibility it affords me, and the resultant creativity from not planning it out too much.

  3. I would love to be a bit more strategic on food prep, but I will never be a diligent as the major meal preppers because I am lazy and I am only learning to cook so I struggle with how to make things that taste good enough to want to eat for a week. Plus, I don’t like eating the same things all the time…except eggs and toast…I think I could probably eat that every day. lol….and well, that takes zero meal prep. lol

  4. Don’t prep. Lucky if I cook one meal a day. I am an eater outer but I have go to places with fresher food. Perils of living a lot of the work week alone (kids at dad’s and partner with shift work). It works for me. The idea of organizing my meals is overwhelming and I refuse to feel guilty so…never happens. I’d rather spend my time with my dog or a friend.

  5. The idea of portioning out my food into meal-sized containers and stacking them up in the fridge for the week has zero appeal to me. No resonance whatsoever. It has a sense of rigidity about it that I find off-putting. It’s almost always associated with the diet mentality of making it easy to “eat right” by setting everything up ahead of time. Under the article you referenced is a click button that appears under every photo for a “clean eating plan.” Prepping food like that in advance and putting it neat little containers is, quite simply, a diet strategy that leaves no space for spontaneous meal-decisions based on what you feel like eating that day. No thanks. Every time I clicked on the next photo of the little meals all lined up I felt myself die a little bit inside. The idea of living like just strikes me as sad.

    1. I think it depends on how you think about it. Doing some of it feels like getting a jump on the week, like Sunday laundry and groceries. Life is hectic at my house that it helps to have things that are already made to eat after Aikido, for example. Otherwise, the $5 pizza slice and pop on the way home is a bit too tempting! I also love the idea of group meal prep and share. I keep thinking the church kitchen would be good for this. Each make five casseroles and share, for example. But the fridge full of tupperwares isn’t for me either…I’m somewhere in the middle.

  6. (I’m new to the blog… hello!)

    I do a bit of prep on Sundays because Mondays, especially Monday mornings, are stressful enough. Lately I have been roasting a pan of potatoes and browning some ground pork to make two days’ worth of breakfast hash (I fry eggs in the morning) and making two days’ worth of salads for lunch. Sometimes I’ll make a meat sauce, or chop veggies for the slow cooker to finish off in the morning. If something comes up, my prepped meal only has to wait one day, two max, and won’t go bad, and it’s one fewer thing I have to worry about as I’m rushing around.

  7. Once a month or so, usually after pay-day, I spend a weekend making curries, dhals, hotpots, veggie/pulse stews, tagines etc, and I put them into tupperware big enough to hold one or two portions, and I freeze them. Because I make four or five different meals (usually 4 or 6 servings of each), and I don’t mind eating the same meal twice in a week, it means I have enough dinners that I don’t have to cook from scratch more than once or twice during the week. And because freezing them means I don’t have to eat them if I feel like something else, quite often at the end of the month there will be some left, so when I make the next batches, I have an even bigger selection to choose from.
    Last weekend I made a vegetable and chickpea coconut curry, a dhal with bottle gourd, a mixed vegetable curry, a lentil, spinach & vegetable hotpot and an aubergine & tomato dish.

  8. I usually only plan for the next day’s lunch– dinner leftovers get portioned into a tupperware to take to work. It’s just another step when cleaning up after dinner. The only drawback is sometimes we don’t plan for leftovers, and then I have to buy a lunch.

  9. My daughter and I have become plant based eaters (we try not to use the V word) a whole three months ago and one of the best things has been a renewed vigour for cooking. vegies cook quick and at least a few nights we do a “potato bowl” which is every vegetable you can think of with a scrummy topping – guac or tahini dressing or a whizzed bean dip. easy peasy and great eating.
    New challenges? keeping loads of fruit and vegies in the house for our newly ravenous appetites. I realise that salads get forgotten too – I’m inspired by the line-up of salad jars – even some evening chopping could speed things up in the morning.

  10. Ok, a lot of Asian traditional meals don’t taste great as prepared, “leftover” food. So even my mother with 6 children didn’t cook huge batches for Tupperware. Instead, she spent effort on cutting up meat into dinner amount for freezer. That was it. Not even pre-cutting veggies.

    So sub-consciously I’ve carried this cooking style into my adult life. Over 65% of my cooking is traditional Asian dishes….not even Vietnamese, Japanese, just some form of Cantonese Chinese cooking. I’m just lazy in learning a ton of new recipes. People have to understand to me, cooking is like retention of speaking Chinese naturally: I have to be able to do it naturally, on the fly, from my heart…not from a regimentation of Tupperware bulk cooking. I can’t make cooking dull for myself…so anything to allow my heart, creativity and make it healthy for myself and him.

    So as a child-free person, I don’t have interest in pre-cut veggies. If we do it, it’s because it’s random and afterthought for a dinner prep, because 1 of us cut too much of 1 veggie.

    He has a tendency to do more bulk soup making. I will do some of this but only enough for a 2nd or 3rd meal because bulk pureed soups are more practical to prepare to feed ie. 4-6 people from total volume prep.

    I find it VERY non-creative to make cooking like a regime. But I can see with more than 1 child in family, it might be practical at times for certain ages.

  11. I find it hard enough to come up with 2 weeks worth of different meals for our little family of four. But, when I fo, it makes grocery shopping that much easier, and requires less thought each day.

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