How to Start Meal Prepping without Stress
How to Start Meal Prepping for Your Needs
Learn How to Meal Prep Mindfully + 10 Go-To Recipes
Today, we’re talking about how to start meal prepping in a way that works for you and your unique needs. Now, this doesn’t involve prepping and portioning every meal for the week, nor a set-it-and-forget-it meal plan that someone else came up with. To make meal prep sustainable, we have to learn how to meal prep mindfully—without adding more stress our lives.
Many of you probably found my YouTube channel through my meal prep videos and recipes. Certainly, it’s been a huge part of my life and my approach to health the last decade—which is why it was so important I take some time to talk about it in today’s video. My thoughts around meal prep have changed a lot over the years, especially as I’ve healed my relationship with food.
I’ve spent a lot of time teaching people how to start meal prepping by focusing on specific meals and recipes and a system. But, over the course of my journey, I realized all of this added to the stress in my life and increased my stress about food and my health. Instead, I had to learn how to meal prep in a way that reduced my stress and helped me find peace with food.
Why Meal Prep & Why’s it so Stressful?
Let’s start with the basics: Why do most people want to meal prep?
Well, we want to be healthy, of course! We want a healthy lifestyle to be easier and less stressful to maintain. So, why does meal prep end up causing so much stress? And, with all of that stress, is it doing us any good?
I’m not here to tell you that now think meal prep is “bad.” Rather, I’ve realized that meal prep is an outer wisdom tool. Most people want to follow someone else’s meal prep plan so it’s easier on them, so they don’t have to think about it. They want a set-it-and-forget-it to-do list. They get caught in the “doing” of meal prep, rather than the “being.”
We think following someone else’s plan will make things easier. But, the stress that comes with trying so hard to be healthy can work against us—especially when following a plan or diet that doesn’t take our own needs into account.
Remember: outer wisdom WITHOUT the foundation of inner wisdom can do more harm than good. And, this is why research has shown that people with more nutrition knowledge aren’t necessarily able to lose weight or live healthier lives.
Disconnecting vs Tuning In
In the past few years, I came to realize that the way I’d meal prepped for a decade inadvertently had me disconnecting from my body. I was eating food in amounts that were pre-determined, regardless of my hunger. And, I was eating meals and foods that were all pre-set—based on someone else’s idea of ‘healthy,’ or according to a certain macronutrient profile.
These things didn’t help me tune in and pay attention to my body here and now. They had me tuning out, eating mindlessly. My old approach to meal prep focused on outer wisdom.
The way I meal prepped, and the intention for many of us, is to actually not have to think about our choices. We think we need willpower to be healthy, and to make healthy food choices. So, with a set-it-and-forget-it system, it takes that willpower variable away. The food choices are already made for us!
But, unfortunately, this tuning out doesn’t support our long-term goals or health. If we want to heal our relationships with food, we have to think about our choices. We have to see ourselves clearly and get to know ourselves, our eating habits. And, we have to become comfortable making our own food choices, as well as confident in our ability to choose what’s right for us. This is all inner wisdom.
How to Start Meal Prepping with Inner Wisdom
At some point, I had to forget everything I thought I knew, so I could learn how to meal prep in a way that worked for me and not against me. Instead of disconnecting from the food, I wanted meal prep to support my goal to heal my relationship with food and health. And, I had to figure out how to start meal prepping in a way that was stress-free, so it didn’t do harm to my health.
The key is this: You must get to know your own needs really clearly. We must tune in to our inner wisdom. No one else’s plan can encourage you to tune in. Because their plan was designed for themselves, or their family—not for you!
Does this require some work on your part? Yes! Is it less immediately gratifying than a ‘quick-fix’ diet? Yes! But, is it also more sustainable (and effective) as a long-term approach to health? YES!
Outer wisdom, meal prep, and even dieting are not ‘bad.’ Rather, outer wisdom tools like these can be misused without a solid foundation of inner wisdom. Once I started to get to know my actual needs with meal prep, my approach changed. And, the best news: with inner wisdom, my meal prep got easier and less stressful, so it could actually serve me as intended!
Making Meal Prep Work for You
Only YOU can create your perfect plan. You are the only person who can know which foods you like and which you don’t; whether you like leftovers or not; how much variety you need each week; whether it’s more important that you have breakfast or lunch or dinner prepped.
But first, you need to get a clear sense of your own habits and needs: What will actually reduce your stress from week to week?
Getting to Know Yourself & Your Needs
All of this internal struggle and exploration led me to create the new Mind Over Meal Prep course. It’s focused on helping you explore what you need to lower stress with food and health at home. I wanted to help people learn how to meal prep so it works for their life, while also mindfully healing our relationships with food.
Through multiple worksheets—like the data collection PDF provided here, as well as follow-up assessments and reflections—you’ll get ultra-clear on what will actually serve you and your family best. This won’t just help you figure out what to prep each week, but also how to save yourself time, money, food, and stress.
To get to know you, use this worksheet to collect data about your eating and prepping habits over the course of several days or weeks. Then, analyze that data to determine how to start meal prepping in a way that meets your unique needs, and reduces stressors in your life.
- Which meal causes you the most stress each week? Start there!
- Which foods do you enjoy eating, and which meals do you repeat throughout the week? Make use of those as part of a lower-stress meal plan!
- What patterns and trends do you notice in your own eating and prep habits?
- Based on those patterns, how can you make adjustments to make your life easier, and healthier?
New Ways of Thinking About Meal Prep
The problem with the “old” way of meal prep is that it doesn’t get down to these root causes: What stresses me out with health and food? And what can help me be less stressed? This is the aim of the data collection exercise above, and the aim of this course as a whole. Learning how to start meal prepping in a way that doesn’t stress you out, and in fact helps reduce the overall stress in your life.
Now, the kind of mental and emotional reflection involved here is work. So, if you’re looking for a set-it-and-forget-it meal plan plan, this is not it. But, after seeing how damaging these were for myself, I can’t continue to endorse those kinds of systems.
If you want to learn how to meal prep in a way that is actually manageable for your own life, relying on inner wisdom—this course can be a great start. It’s also a great way to begin your meditation journey, with guided meditations in every module that are perfect for beginners or anyone who’s curious about how mindfulness can help their physical health.
And, since planning is one of the most daunting tasks when it comes to meal prep, it was also important to me to offer a guided system to help with meal planning. In the course, so you’ll find 100+ meal planning templates so you can choose the option that resonates with you. After all, you are the best expert in you!
I spent a long time creating this course because this shift in approach was a big part in healing my own relationship with food, so I wanted to share. Enrollment is currently closed, but you can add your name to the waitlist to be notified of the next time the course opens again.
Whether my new course is right for you or not, I hope these considerations I’ve shared can help you explore your own relationship with food and reflect on why meal prep is important to you. Getting clear about our intentions is key!
10 Go-To Easy Meal Prep Recipes
Figuring out how to start meal prepping begins with you figuring out what you like to eat, as well as which cooking methods and prep styles work for you. I actually advocate less recipes when it comes to sustainable meal prep, but I think they can provide wonderful inspiration.
Today’s Journal Prompt:
What does meal preparation look like for you?
What’s working in your current system? What would you like to change?