Let's be real... any true meal prepper know the struggles with falling off the bus. What separates the successful meal prepper from the unsuccessful is the ability to persevere and get back on track without guilt or shame. In this article we're going to address the most common problems you'll face when meal prepping and how to start meal prepping again, once you've fallen off track.
Why You Stopped Meal Prepping and How to Get Started Again
It is not hard to imagine how a previously committed meal prepper gets caught up in what feels like a vicious cycle of the day-to-day and starts to question if they still have the time and commitment to continue prepping week after week. We agree consistency can be tough, but then, when you look at the costs of giving up your plan and all the progress that you have already made, before throwing in the towel, it may be a good idea to look at what is causing the most difficulty.
After years of meal prepping, and falling off, and hearing stories for the Meal Prep on Fleek community, here are the most common reasons people have stopped meal prepping and some ways to make it easier to start meal prepping again.
While keeping in mind that everyone meal preps with different goals in mind, we are going to look at some streamlining some of the main ideas here. The name of the game is all about what works for you personally! What works for you, probably won’t work for that guy that parked his Lexus in your spot last Tuesday. We are going to look at some flexible hints that will hopefully save you time in the kitchen, and keep you motivated. And maybe there will be a few ideas that surprise you!
Top 7 Meal Prep Problems AND how to solve them:
Problem #1: Cooking on a weekend is too time-consuming! I don’t have time for family anymore.
Solution: Meal prep is a great way to get your family involved with a few little jobs that they can do to make it easier when you are ready to do the final prep. Kids can be great helpers at packing food. Make this a part of your family time so that you CAN sit down to watch Moana for the 16th time before bed. Small chopping jobs can be done a day ahead of prep day to make the cutting up part shorter. Or you could always roast some of the meat the night before. There is no rule that it ALL has to be done on Prep Day.
Problem #2: I don't want to eat the same thing every day. Or, There isn’t enough variety. There is just so much chicken and broccoli a person can eat.
Solution: Make less boring chicken and broccoli dishes. (Resource: Not Boring Chicken Recipes) If you have been limiting yourself to never-ending meals of poultry and a vegetable, then you either have missed something in what we have been saying or you are a food masochist. There are flavors galore out there! Lots of different proteins, carbs, fruits, and vegetables to choose from to switch in and out. You might want to put it in the container the night before instead and pack it up as your mood dictates. Spices and herbs are free, so be as liberal as you please with those! Jazz it up with a little sauce or vinaigrette. Lots of great easy recipes for some great ideas right here on MPOF!
Problem #3: Meal prepping is too restrictive.
Solution: This kind of goes a long with the variety thing. Actually, meal prep should not feel restrictive. If it is, you are doing it wrong. No one likes to feel restricted, so don’t be! It is a good idea to find some whole foods that are easy and convenient that can be added to your meal planning. Trader Joe’s has some terrific snacks and pre-prepped vegetables that can make your life super easy! If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s around you, we hope we haven’t put salt in an already open wound. If you are lucky enough to have one around you, get to know that store like your best friend. TJ’s is a meal preppers BFF. Soups are a great idea to make ahead and freeze. They are fast, easy, and include everything you need in one dish. You can have a lot of different ones frozen on hand to go with your mood.
Problem #4: It is too chaotic. It feels like a hot mess that I can’t control.
Solution: Make sure that you have a plan and a methodical approach. Don’t try to finish one recipe before starting on another. That is chaos and a waste of your precious time. The best approach is to get all your cutting for all recipes done first. Then do any cooking or roasting at the same time. Sauces or seasonings can be prepared while things are cooking, or you could be cleaning up cutting boards and knives or making sure you have your containers ready. Once you have your method down and you are doing something every minute, you soon will feel like less chaotic and more productive. Here are some of our favorite Time Saving Tips
Problem #5: I have to keep running out to the store for a forgotten ingredient.
Solution: This is an easy one. Make sure you double check your grocery list to make sure you have everything you need. Continuous running out to the store is frustrating and takes so much time too. But it happens to all of us! And especially to newbies. In time, you will have a much better idea on how to keep a well-stocked kitchen. So don’t give up at the first forgotten ingredient run. It does get better! Also, look into the possibility that there might be something else you could substitute the ingredient with “just this once”. Flexibility is key.
Related Article: How to Read a Food Nutrition Label
Problem #6: There is no wiggle room in meal prepping.
Solution: This might actually fall under the category of myth. Let us clear this up right here:
You are as free as you want to be!
You don’t have to take as gospel every suggestion.
You can “wiggle” as much as you want.
We give you permission! If you need to give yourself a treat yourself sometimes to keep yourself on track, then do it!! Don’t put yourself in a perfectionistic bubble and if it drives you to give up. Better to keep yourself on track by occasionally splurging a little than be so strict on yourself that you give up altogether.
Problem #7: It is too predictable and takes all the fun out of cooking.
Solution: Some people like the idea of cooking every day. It is therapeutic for them. If this is you, by all means, cook every day a little more so that you can pack some leftovers. There is nothing in the Meal Prep Handbook (joking; there isn’t one) that says that you HAVE TO bulk cook it all in one day. That works for some people and not for others and that’s ok. The main ideas still work: preparing ahead delicious, fresh, convenient meals that keep you on track to achieve your health and fitness goals. If you need to refresh on the basics, make sure you review our Meal Prep 101 post.
What meal prep ideas have made prepping easier for you?
We would love to hear what you have to say. Leave us a note in the comments to share your thoughts.