ok I am SO excited that Keisha is blogging for me today because she is seriously an inspiration to me as corny as that sounds. She’s always impressed and intimidated me as a gorgeous and cool mom, but she’s such a normal, good, regular mom if that makes sense. I have followed her Instagram account since she started it and it always makes me feel like I CAN eat healthy and meal prep, even with kids. Here we go!!!
Hi, friends! My name is Keisha Miller and I’m the girl behind @_mindfuleating on Instagram. I can typically be found trying to fit my never-ending thoughts into a tiny caption so I am honored to be featured on Danica’s blog!
Today I would like to go over something I receive a lot of questions about, meal prepping. In my opinion, meal prep is an extremely personal technique so I have a hard time speaking on it. I’m all about mindful and intuitive eating (obviously) so I could never claim I was qualified to write a meal plan for someone else. I have spent the better part of the last 10 years battling weight loss, gain and maintenance and have come to a place where I refuse to cut out any food group so this helps keep me in line. I consistently try to eat what makes me feel good inside and out and I want nothing more than for others to do the same.
Full disclosure, I am a member of Weight Watchers. Due to what I said before, I do not promote or recommend this program to everyone, it just works for me! I’m only saying this because I might mention the program a time or two in specific phrases. Smart points is a big one. Think: “macros” greatly simplified into a point system. That’s all on that!
Ok now let’s get started! I have simplified my meal prep method into 10 steps BUT I have to say, meal prep is a creative art. If you feel something, go with it! If you have a specific question, my DMs are always open.
- Determine your goal.
There are so many reasons to get involved in structured meal prep. Some people aim to lose weight while others need a time saver. Another big motivation for people to get into meal prep is financial reasons. I have seen a very big financial benefit when I am consistently meal prepping for our family. It not only saves us money, it saves us time and energy! Also, if you’re choosing to meal prep specifically for weight loss, you’re going to have so many steps with measuring, weighing, dividing and calculating your food… It’s exhausting to say the least! Your personal reason for meal prep is going to help you figure out your plan, which is the next step.
- Make a plan
Planning can be done on paper, on your phone, on a napkin, on a whiteboard, the world is your oyster. The biggest step for success in most anything is to know yourself! What works for you? Personally my brain works best with a pen and paper BUT that is not always realistic. I have a toddler who loves to rip my pen out of my hand and eat it so sometimes I have to tap it into my notes on my iPhone behind his head while he sits on my lap and builds legos. Many times a week I yell “PLEASE TEXT ME ‘CRYSTAL LIGHT ENERGY and ‘OVEN ROASTED TURKEY’” at my husband when I am in the kitchen trying to make lunch and see we have run out of “an essential item”. My plan usually consists of figuring out when I can grocery shop, what sounds good, what my husband wants for meals, how many meals I’m going to need that week and when can I make all this food. I choose to not make a “weekly meal plan” as in like “Monday: spaghetti Tuesday: sandwiches” because we have a different schedule than most people. Many nights a week my husband and I have meetings, we eat dinner at different times, it’s just not predictable. We also don’t eat a different meal every night, that’s not what works for us! Assess what works for you and your family. If you prefer to have a different meal every night, plan on meal prepping for lunches so you have the energy to have dinner on the table!
- Research recipes
This is a very important step to me. I have many different routes of finding recipes but the two main ones would be Pinterest and Instagram. The recipes I have the most interest in have only a few ingredients and will reheat well (this might be a trial and error quality). I also can usually tell off the top of my head if it’s going to be “calorie friendly” by the ingredients. If you’re a beginning dieter, skinnytaste.com is a really good place to start! When I’m looking for recipes for my husband and I, I pick our brains to figure out “what sounds good”. This is so important!! So if I say “an In N Out double cheeseburger sounds bomb” I will brainstorm how I can recreate the taste of that in an affordable and balanced way. I will research how to recreate a smash burger, find a low calorie American cheese (velveeta), figure out a low fat alternative to the fry sauce (light mayo and ketchup in a small condiment cup), make sure I include lettuce/tomato in ziplock bags, have thin cut fries on the side (fries are surprisingly low in calories/points if you cook them right) and decide whether I need to “splurge” on a bun or if it’s the rest of the ingredients I’m craving. This step is where I add up the nutritional value and decide how many portions I’m going to divide it into (usually 3-4) and if I’m going to double it for my husband or make something different.
I spent YEARS thinking meal prep needed to be me putting a dry chicken breast in with soggy broccoli that ended up in the trash halfway through the week. It doesn’t have to be like that! You can make what you like! You can EAT what you like! Everything in moderation. Another thing I learned over time was that I didn’t have to prep an entire meal to make it effective. Anything from having onions cut ready to toss into most recipes or having sausage patties cooked for my breakfast sandwiches is really helpful.
- Pantry assessment/fridge organization
After I’ve gathered at least 2 recipes to try for the week, I go through my pantry and my fridge. Ideally, I would have over half the ingredients on hand. Starting out, you might not, as you would obviously accumulate them over time but recipes can get very expensive if you’re not utilizing your current stash of staples and spices! You can also look through both before you plan obviously, see if there’s anything you need to use up in your meal prep. I find this to be a good place for inspiration as well! I try to keep my fridge and pantry up to date and as clean as possible so that I can see what I have available. I don’t keep Tupperware food for longer than a week, I keep my cheese in the cheese drawer and make sure my produce is fresh. That’s not to say it doesn’t get cray in there on a busy week but I definitely take the time to do this step to utilize my meal prep fully! Also, you’re probably not going to want to meal prep if you have nowhere to fit it in your fridge.
If this isn’t factor for you, you can definitely skip this step. One thing I pride myself in is knowing a “good price” for most anything I buy food wise. I learned this in AZ (Fry’s girl 4 life) but now I live in a small town where we only have 3 grocery stores to choose from. The most expensive one, Hy-Vee, I love but choose not to shop at. Almost every item there is a good dollar more than the other two (Walmart and Aldi). That adds up! While Aldi prides itself in very low prices, I know that some stuff is cheaper and only available at Walmart! I shop at both these stores for different things. I have used the app “Flipp” many times for price comparison or ad matching at Walmart. I do not use coupons as I can never justify the time and effort it takes me to clip and use them with my kids in tow. That’s not to say there’s not a place for them, I just do not use them at this time in my life! We are in medical school so our grocery budget is basically set for us but before we were here I tried to stay around $120-$150 a week for a family of 4. That is eating very well and having a loose budget! I could absolutely tighten that up and live off less if need be! I would encourage anyone trying to set a weekly budget for food, try meal prepping and see if you can’t get a good idea of how much you use per week after a couple of weeks. ALSO, last thing. We honestly do not really eat out at this point in our lives. This has helped me really buckle down and perfect my meal prepping but I am no stranger to a daily McDonalds run! This is just a side note about our season of life.
- Create a grocery list
The next part is pretty self-explanatory. I prefer to write my list the night before I shop because a lot of times its easier for me to edit and one of my kids might need my phone at the store BUT many times my list is on my phone. Ideally, I first write out everything I need. This includes snacks we are out of, essentials like eggs and bread, any sort of treat or chips etc. Don’t get so caught up in meal prep that you forget to plan for the rest of your life or you’ll feel deprived. My meal prep is usually one big meal I eat for lunch OR dinner so that leaves a couple of other meals to account for. After I have written it once, I will rewrite it divided by store and if I’m feeling really ambitious, I will list it in order of where it’s at in the store so when I go through I’m not going back and forth through the aisles. It’s not a perfect science but it helps me a lot. Finally, one of the most important steps to me is to keep track as I go! I have to mark stuff down on my list as soon as we run out or I’ll never remember. That way I don’t pre-buy and mess up my grocery budget and we also don’t go without.
- Determine supplies needed
Personally I look at my supplies as my tools. I buy cheap Tupperware so I’m not afraid to throw it away when it gets gross. I keep my Tupperware cupboard organized so I can find what I’m looking for. I use small condiment cups for, well… condiments instead of scrambling to figure out how to send the dressing with my husband’s salad. Worth every penny and on the same aisle as ziplocks at Walmart! I have a few nice lunch boxes and coolers. I don’t buy disposable utensils anymore but I have before and they were really helpful! Figure out what you need to make meal prep successful and fun!
- Build your meal
Often times, I have a set main course but not sides. When I do a full meal I loosely aim to have a protein packed main course, a side of vegetables and a carb. So I might make meatballs and add frozen broccoli and spaghetti noodles. Surprisingly, meal prep is a really good way to get in extra vegetables. If I was making spaghetti in real time, I might not want to dirty an extra plate or even think about the broccoli in the freezer. Meal prep helps me see a balanced portion without having to think about it every time I make a meal! Again, please do not be afraid of anything! If you want spaghetti, go for it. If you want a baked potato, go for it! Portion out your cheese and sour cream and chives and make it a meal you will actually enjoy! Making meal prep fun and actually taste good was revolutionary to me. So much less food and good intentions going to waste! So much balance! It also helps me assess what is important to me in my food. Are banana peppers why I’m craving in N out? Then capitalize on the banana peppers and get rid of the fry sauce, IDK! You can do it, listen to yourself.
- Prep meals
Before my angel toddler started taking the world’s shortest naps ☺ I would use Tuesday naptime to meal prep after grocery shopping on Monday. I get out all my ingredients and chop/slice what I can beforehand so I maximize my time in the kitchen. I love to cook and my favorite part of cooking is figuring out how to effectively multitask and get stuff DONE in the shortest amount of time. I clean up as I go and make sure my kitchen is clean before and after as often as possible to minimize stress. I also cook what I can in my oven or air fryer so that I don’t have to baby it on the stove. Don’t worry if it takes a couple weeks to get a system down, practice makes perfect! There’s so many tiny tips and tricks I use that work for me and I could share them but they probably wouldn’t work for you. Please don’t get caught up in what others are doing! I know you have seen 358 pictures of bloggers with huge tupperwares of cut carrots and hard boiled eggs and that was me too but I have found that I don’t eat the carrots I buy and old hard boiled eggs gross me out so I had to stop that! Meal prep is what you make of it! A lot of the time it’s me making a big healthy meal but also weighing out an oz of goldfish into a ziplock bag for when I’m running late to story time at the library. I need that!
- Portion control and calorie/point counting
As far as dieting goes, I try to keep my meals between 350-600 calories or around 7 smart points. As a general rule, I usually make my husband’s meals about 2x whatever mine is. He is about twice my size though so take that into account haha. Even if you’re not dieting, this is a good way to gauge what you’re eating and how much. I weigh things into the tupperware to make sure I’m getting the right amount, the amount I accounted for. This helps when I’m making something like salsa chicken and I have a big soupy meal to distribute evenly. It all evens out eventually!
Here are 3 of my favorite meals to prep and reheat. I have made them multiple times with great success so I hope you like them! I post most anything else that I love on my Instagram and none of it is “diet food” so you can always go there for inspiration! I hope this was at least mildly helpful and gave you a glimpse into my favorite hobby!
Crack Slaw (2 links)
Sriracha Turkey Meatballs
Versatile Chicken Breast
BRB I’m just making a meal prep list to help with this baby weight. Wasn’t that so helpful and awesome? Love her. Bon Appetit!