Making your own lunch has several benefits, as they are often healthier meal options that save you money. Who doesn’t want that?
But some of us are strapped for time, or we don’t think far enough ahead, until it’s 11:45 a.m. and we’re scrambling for Jimmy John’s delivery. But with the right mindset and dedication to make a week’s worth of food, you can create a meal plan that sticks. Here’s how to start.
Prepare the Day Before
For those of us on the Monday-Friday work schedule, get your meal prepping started on Sunday (or whatever day precedes your work week). This is when you’ll want to map out the basics for each day:
- Mid-day snacks
Then ask yourself some questions and address them accordingly: Do you need to cook any food beforehand? Do you need to go to the grocery store? Do you have enough options to make it through the week? Did you include the right amount of each food group? When you address these questions on Sunday after you’ve mapped out your meals, you won’t be desperate for takeout come Thursday.
My downfall usually comes on that fateful Thursday, when I’ve had the same exact meal three days in a row and my body rejects the thought of yet another turkey sandwich. All of a sudden, I’m in line at Chipotle, spending money and consuming more calories than I should.
So when you fill out your food schedule for the week, consider having two or three different options, switching throughout the week, to avoid this. For example, let’s say you makes a week’s worth of grilled chicken breasts. How can you make different meals using chicken as your base?
- Combine with mixed vegetables and couscous.
- Add to baby spinach with fruit, nuts and your favorite vinaigrette.
- Mix with pesto and feta cheese into pasta.
Once you have a core item, be that a meat or vegetable, think of different ways to prepare it – whatever you can do to last you until Friday!
Shortcut when You Can
Meal prep is not above finding shortcuts here and there. It’s encouraged! Here are some simple ways to lead you to munch-time success.
- Simple smoothies. Throw fruit, veggies, yogurt, protein powder, peanut butter or juice (or whatever sounds good) into a blender with ice and enjoy a quick and nutritious meal. Watch the sugar on this one!
- Make dishes that you can replicate or make in bulk. Salads and sandwiches are easy to assemble on a day-to-day basis, but you’re not going to be braising ribs during your lunch hour. Get mileage out of whatever you make on Sunday – this is where slow-cooker and pressure-cooker meals come in handy. Pastas and soups are the ultimate heroes in portion and longevity.
- Lunch bags and containers matter. Compartmentalization can make it easy to separate several ingredients until it’s time to chow down. Consider salad shakers and other handy containers where all you have to do is open and assemble.
- Once you’ve gone through a few weeks of lunch prep, reuse one of the plans you’ve already had. That’s why it’s good to write the plans down and keep a record!
That doesn’t sound so hard, does it? Now you’re eating better and you have more money to spend on a nice dinner, if you so choose.
How often do you bring your lunch and how does it help you?