A functional, balanced diet needs to be convenient, consistent, and more than anything, fun and satisfying to eat. We can blame the tub of ice cream for the destroyed calorie count, but it’s the bland steamed chicken that drives you there.
High-protein, nutritionally dense, good food helps reach fitness goals, and you know that daily deli sandwiches, fast food, eating out, and even most microwavable dinners just won’t get you there. But then again, cooking is tough! It takes time during your already loaded workweek, and if you have fitness goals, that means you’re working in gym-time, too.
Enter Weekly Meal Prep
The concept is simple: prepare a whole week’s worth of food just once a week. Most preppers choose Sunday, but whenever you’re free can work. You spend a few hours trashing your kitchen, baking, souffléing, chopping, roasting, and then packaging, and you come out with an exact knowledge of your weekly caloric intake, macronutrient values, and diet plan.
And here’s the kicker: meal prep does more than just gives you a daily allotment of food. It actually saves you money, accelerates your fitness journey, and reduces your weekly stress. No more paying for impromptu coffee cake at Starbucks because you’re in a rush; no more coming home from the gym, sweaty and tired, to preheat the oven and start a whole dinner. You buy fresh, cheap, delicious food, do the dirty work all at once, and enjoy your increased productivity for the rest of the week.
But here’s my favorite benefit of meal prepping: this plan offers a pretty hefty return on investment. Think about it this way: if you spend two hours cooking dinner on your meal prep day, that means you’ve saved the equivalent of two hours for every consecutive day of the week, because you get to eat that food every night. Each dinner you eat that week is going to taste like a complex, satisfying meal, all while saving you time. You get the product of a long cooking session, with none of the hassle.
How To Get Started With Weekly Meal Prep
First, pick out recipes. Thanks to modern refrigeration (thanks, Francis Bacon) most meals will hold up from Monday-Saturday. Choose meals that fit your preferred eating habits. That’s vital to success, and also wildly liberating. Whether you follow IIFYM, keto, paleo, vegan, GOMAD, or even good ole-fashioned omnivorism, make sure you choose food that you like. Not a bad criteria, huh?
Most meal-preppers advise starting slowly by preparing a week’s worth of breakfast one week, breakfast and lunch the next, etc. We say jump right in. Anyone who knows their way around a kitchen – and even you resourceful chefs who don’t just yet – can cook a week’s worth of food in one sitting. It just takes a bit of preparation, some planning, and a whole bunch of Tupperware.
The Sample Weekly Meal Prep Menu
Here’s a pretty simple, varied, and delicious 6-day sample plan to get you started. Some of the recipes are new to the MyProtein community: we’ve included macros and cost for them. Other recipes have been selected from our existing list, and macros can be found at the host page. Total and per-meal costs are included to show you just how cheap meal prepping really is. All prices have been recorded from a local supermarket.
Breakfast: Breakfast Burritos
The hardest part about this recipe is folding the burrito over all the filling. Warm eggs, browned sausage, and a healthy helping of salsa keep you full all morning, while the added carbs and fiber from the tortilla keep you alert.
|6 whole wheat tortillas||Cal: 380|
|12 eggs||Fat: 19.7g|
|6 chicken sausages, sliced||Saturated: 5.1g|
|1 onion, diced||Carbs: 26.7 g|
|1 jar salsa||Fiber: 13g|
|Protein: 33.5 g|
Dice the onion and sweat in a large nonstick skillet. Beat eggs in separate bowl. When onions are translucent, add eggs and sausage. Cook until eggs are done and sausage has been browned, then remove from heat. Mix salsa into the skillet. Divide into 6 equal portions, spoon into the tortillas, and wrap tightly. Freeze individual burritos, reheat before eating.
Total cost: $12.50
Cost per meal: $2.08
Snack (optional): Roasted Chickpeas
I recommend this supercharged roasted chickpea recipe for habitual snackers. They hold up great over the course of the week, and give you that satisfying carb crunch you usually miss.
Lunch: Turkey Chili
This low-cal, high protein, bulky chili crams plenty of fiber and vegetables into your diet. It’s light enough to eat during the summer, but still hearty enough to keep you full all day.
|2 lb lean ground turkey||Cal: 501|
|2 large (3 ½ cup) cans crushed tomatoes||Fat: 2.7 g|
|1 large container (4 cup) tomato puree||Carbs: 57g|
|1 can jalapenos||Fiber: 17g|
|2 cans beans of your choice||Protein: 45g|
Total cost: $25.75
Cost per meal: $4.16
Dinner: Coconut Curry Chicken
This ethnic favorite combines serious spice, healthy fats, and lean chicken, all of which keep you full through the night.
|3 lb lean chicken breast, cubed||Cals: 712|
|2 large onions, diced||Fat: 27g|
|2 cans coconut milk||Carbs: 57g|
|6 tbs curry powder||Protein: 60g|
|4 tbs garlic powder|
|Salt & pepper to taste|
In a large skillet, sauté onions in cooking oil of your choice (coconut oil is best). Add 4 tbs curry powder and 2 tbs garlic powder. When onions are translucent, remove from skillet. Immediately put cubed chicken in the skillet, season chicken with remaining spices. and cook until partially done (just barely pink inside). Add coconut milk, onions, and cooked rice and simmer until chicken is fully cooked.
Total Cost: $32.66
Cost per meal: $5.30
Dessert (optional): Protein Cheesecake
We don’t want to sacrifice the sweet tooth! Dessert is part of the eating experience: enjoy it with this guilt-free, long-lasting protein cheesecake.
If you want to bulk, add in a daily shake, steak, or protein cookie. If you’re cutting, knock off some of the gratuitous snack foods.
Total calorie count: ~1800 without snacks, ~2300 with.
Total cost: ~$70.00 for the week.
Cost per day: ~$12.00 per day.
Every day, for the price of one large pizza/a city bar martini you can eat a fully nutritious, satisfying three square meals. All it takes is some preparation, a spare Sunday, and a couple of hours of your time.
Most eating plans fail because they’re bland, unsustainable, unsatisfying, or just plain restrictive. Meal prepping takes the uncertainty and unpleasantness, and therefore the risk of failure, out of your diet. It affords you the newfound luxury of time while saving you money, stress, and freedom.
You can pursue keto, paleo, vegetarian, vegan, cutting, bulking, or maintenance diets while meal prepping. So go ahead – free your week, eat good food, workout longer, socialize more, just don’t worry about food. You’ve got it covered.