Why Meal Prep
The millennials guide to meal prep is the easiest way to save money and get your financial life in order immediately. Think about it, if you spend $4 per day on coffee each morning plus another $10 per day on lunch, you are spending $70 per week, $280 per month, or $3,360 per year.
What would you do with an extra $3,360 in your pocket at the end of the year? Invest? Vacation? Get out of debt?
When you make your own food, you control exactly what goes into your body. You pick the recipe and the ingredients – there are no surprises.
Have you ever heard the saying, you are what you eat?
It’s true. By taking the time to pick healthy recipes, create a grocery list, and prepare your meals at home, you will improve your overall health and enjoy nice home cooked meals.
Each time you order take-out how many one-time-use containers and plastic utensils do you use? Even ordering a simple salad and drink can result in:
- The bowl that contains the salad
- Plastic lid to cover the salad
- Plastic container for dressing on the side
- Fork and knife
- To-go bag to carry your salad
- Plastic Cup
- Plastic Lid
That is a lot of one-use packaging for just one meal. If this is your typical lunch, how much waste are you generating throughout the week?
Even if some of the packaging is paper based, the product is produced in a factory which causes pollution.
The millennials guide to meal prep commits to multi-use environmentally friendly packaging to reduce pollution and improve not only your health, but the health of everyone in the world.
What is Meal Prep?
How many times have you gone to the grocery store with no grocery list and no idea what you are going to eat for the week? You find yourself aimlessly walking up and down the aisles grabbing things that look good with no clear direction. You end up walking out of the store spending over $100 and you have no idea what you got. To make matters worse, all the fresh fruits and vegetables you bought earlier in the week end up getting thrown in the garbage because you have no idea what to make with them.
Not only have you wasted your money, you wasted your time as well. It’s frustrating being in this cycle. You think to yourself, if I just throw out everything I mind as well go out to eat.
Meal prepping is making a conscious effort to plan what food you make ahead of time. By consciously planning, you go to the grocery store with purpose, only spend money on items you need, and live a healthier and happier life.
How to Start Meal Prepping?
The prep part is key, you want things to be as simple and easy as possible – you want a grab and go situation.
If you need to go to the office everyday, it is highly likely you will not take the time to prepare your meal in the morning right before heading to work.
When you come home from work, you are tired, and just want to relax. The absolute last thing you want to do is cook up a storm. You want to be healthy, but if the food is not right there waiting for you, you will grab the easiest thing you can get your hands on, be it ramen, peanut butter and jelly, grilled cheese, or the take-out menu.
Meaning, if your meals are not grab and go, you will likely be ordering take-out.
The millennials guide to meal prep focuses on choosing containers that cause the least amount of harm to the environment and your health.
What does this mean?
It means using glass containers. They might be heavier and a little more expensive than their plastic counterparts, but they are highly durable.
My favorite glass containers are the Pyrex Ultimate Food Storage Containers. The Pyrex Ultimate is a glass container with a glass lid and silicone around the rim to seal in the contents of what is being stored. I have been using the same 6 small bowls and 5 large bowls for YEARS.
Hands down, my favorite cooking accessory a slow cooker. As luck would have it, slow cookers come in a wide price range. Meaning, there is something for everyone. A simple slow cooker with three settings (low, medium, and high) is all you need. However, some of them are programmable and have an automatic shut-off feature after 4 hours, 6 hours, 8 hours, and 10 hours.
There are so many recipes you can make in a slow cooker and the best part is, this way off cooking is “set-it-and-forget-it”.
Next, a rice cooker is another one of my favorite “set-it-and-forget-it” kitchen accessories. Rice cookers are extremely simple to use. All you need to remember is that for every one part of rice you need two parts of water. For instance, 1 cup of rice requires 2 cups of water. Once you add the rice and water, click the switch (only one setting) and the rice will start cooking. When the rice is done, the cooker automatically turns to “warm”. Add warm rice to your meal after the vegetables are done cooking.
You can also cook quinoa, couscous, and oatmeal in the rice cooker which makes it pretty versatile.
If you are serious about making your meals at home, it is worth investing in a good set of knives. Cheap knives will break and become dull quickly. Investing in a quality set of knives will last you a lifetime. My favorite is Wusthof brand. Once you transition from cheap knives to good knives you will notice a clear difference. Slicing and and dicing becomes much easier and faster. If you are going to invest in just one knife, choose a the Wusthof Classic 6″ Cooks Knife. A classic Chef’s knife is highly versatile and is all you really need. This is what I use and it is perfect!
Another one of my must-have kitchen accessories include stainless steel mixing bowls. They are simple, easy to clean, durable, and you will end up using them all the time. They come in a variety of sized but one smaller and one larger stainless steel mixing bowl works great. A couple good mixing bowls make your life so much easier in the kitchen.
Mason jars are great for storing your breakfast and using for your iced coffee in the mornings. I use mason jars every day, not only for my iced coffee and breakfasts in the morning, but also as my regular drinking glasses at home. They are cheap, convenient, durable, and add a little personality to your kitchen. But most importantly, they don’t leak the contents of what you store inside them.
I usually do all my meal planning and prep on Sundays. Which means, on Saturday night I start looking through Pinterest for ideas on what I want to eat for the week.
When you are resolved to start meal prepping, it is crucial to pick a day during the week that is dedicated to grocery shopping and cooking. Browse on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest for ideas on what to make. Once you try a few recipes, and meal prep for a few weeks, you will get more familiar and comfortable in the kitchen and start getting into a routine.
The process is much more manageable when you pick one day a week to meal prep. Have this be your errand day. Grocery shop, cook, clean, and do laundry.
Pick any day of the week that works best with your schedule.
Once you pick out what you want to make for the week, it is time to write down your grocery list. Your list is going to prevent you from getting derailed in the store.
A grocery list keeps you on track, you know what you need and all you need to do is get in and get out. You have a plan and you know exactly what you going to make when you purchase your food.
Leave the days of wandering aimlessly in the grocery store behind!
Pro Tip: Do not go to the grocery store hungry. Even if you have a grocery list, you are highly likely to make impulse purchases.
Millennial Meal Prep Lunch Ideas
If you are an iced coffee drinker, no worries, I got you. I am also an ice coffee person (even in the winter). Invest in some mason jars (listed above in kitchen accessories) and a cold brew maker/french press. You can get these for pretty cheap on Amazon. Cold brew your coffee overnight in the fridge and in the morning fill up your mason jar, screw the lid on, and that’s it! You are good to go. Not only are you saving money, but you are also saving the environment because you are limiting the use of plastic cups and straws.
A couple of my favorite breakfasts in the morning include hot oatmeal, overnight oats, and chia seed pudding.
When you want hot oatmeal in the morning for breakfast, on the day you designate as your meal prep day, use a mason jar for each day of the week and add some raw oats with whatever toppings (if any).
For instance, I typically add 1/4 cup of oatmeal, 1 TP chia seeds, 1 TB black seed, 1 TB cocoa nibs, and 2 TB sugar in the raw. Then, when I arrive at work, I fill up my mason jar with hot water and screw on the lid for about 5 min so the water can absorb into the oats. That’s it!
For those days that you want overnight oats, its really simple, on the day you designate as your meal prep day, for each day of the week, in a mason jar, add your raw oats, toppings, and milk, put it in the refrigerator.
For instance, when I make overnight oats, I add 1/4 cup of raw oats, 1 TB chia seeds, 1 TB black seed, 1 TB cocoa nibs, 2 TB sugar in the raw, and 1/2 cup of cashew milk. I stir everything together with a spoon and put it into the refrigerator. In the morning, all I have to do is grab and go.
Chia Seed Pudding
Chia seed pudding is really easy to make. In a mason jar add 1/4 cup chia seeds to 1/2 cup of water with whatever toppings you want and put into the refrigerator overnight. Its delicious, high in protein, and keeps you full for a long time.
You don’t need to have the same toppings every day of the week. Try different toppings in each mason jar to get different flavors. This is a great nutritional breakfast that is super diverse.
Look up on Pinterest different recipe ideas. The sky is the limit.
I am vegan, so everything I suggest is going to involve plenty of vegetables.
Soups and Stews
My favorite lunches are those I can make in a slow cooker. In the winter I love making delicious, comforting soups and stews. My favorites include lentil stew, pea soup, minestrone, southwest, and mushroom. Yum! Portion out the food in the food storage containers. I never have issues with food leaking when using the Pyrex Ultimate, even with soup, which is really amazing.
Another one of my favorite meals to prepare for lunch is a simple stir fry. I ALWAYS have mixed frozen vegetables handy. I just put them in a pan with a little bit of avocado oil, some salt, crushed red pepper, garlic, and smoked paprika. While I make the vegetables, I make sure the rice cooker is cooking at the same time. Once everything is done, I add a little bit of rice and a little bit of vegetable in my favorite glass Pyrex containers and ta da! Meal prep complete.
I love roasted vegetables. Not only are they absolutely delicious, but they are really simple to make. Chop up some potatoes, asparagus, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, whatever you desire. Coat the vegetables in a thin layer of avocado oil, sprinkle some salt, crushed red pepper, and smoked paprika, and put them in the oven. Once they are done, add a little bit of rice and some roasted vegetables to your food storage containers and that’s it! A perfectly simple, absolutely delicious, and definitely nutritious lunch, ready to grab and go in the morning.
- Meal prepping will save you a ton of money in the long run. It might be a little difficult at first but once you get into the habit, it gets easier, and you might even enjoy it!
- Do you have a favorite recipe? Let me know in the comments below!
- Was this guide helpful? Have questions? Let me know! I am happy to answer.
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