Meal prepping is a common recommendation for busy parents who want to provide healthy meals and make weeknights smoother, especially when there’s a young athlete with a packed schedule and a big appetite in the house. But meal prepping can also be overwhelming, and most people simply don't have six hours to spend in the kitchen on a weekend.
Thankfully, meal prep doesn't have to be a drawn-out process. Here, TrueSport Expert Kristen Ziesmer, a registered dietitian and board-certified specialist in sports dietetics, shares her tips for successful, simple meal prepping.
Planning is part of meal prep
Carve out time once a week to plan out meals for the coming week, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks—the busier your schedule is, the more important this step becomes! "Every weekend, I sit down and look at the week coming up," says Ziesmer. "For instance, I know that on Tuesdays, my son has soccer until 6:15 p.m., which means there's not a lot of time to make dinner. We know that meal should be leftovers from the night before, which means the night before, I need to make a bigger meal so that we have those leftovers."
Build a regular grocery list
Meal prep also means having all your ingredients on hand. Once you decide on meals for the week, you can build a comprehensive grocery list. "Blindly going to the grocery store and shopping at random usually means you'll be back at the grocery store within a day or two," Ziesmer notes. And once you've created this master grocery list once—ideally in a digital format so it doesn't get thrown out—it becomes easier to quickly look in the fridge and pantry each week and add or subtract items from the list as needed.
Redefine what meal prep means
The concept of meal prepping calls to mind stacks of perfectly organized containers in the fridge, labeled with which night they'll be eaten. That's not realistic for most families. "Before I had kids, I used to spend Sundays meal-prepping, making all of my food for the entire week, but now there's no way I have half a day to devote to that," says Ziesmer. Now, she meal preps by always cooking extra when she is in the kitchen. "Cook extra when you do cook! Rather than make everything on Sunday, I double recipes for dinner every time I cook it, and then we have that for lunches, or use the extra ingredients to have a dinner made with leftovers," she explains.