When you hear “meal prep” what do you think of? For many of us, our first thought is the amount of time spent planning, cutting and cooking. However, the reality is that meal prep doesn’t have to be overwhelming or take hours of your time. Rather, it’s a great way to maintain a healthy diet and reduce the stress that often surrounds cooking.

Here are a few suggestions:

The best way to be successful is to meal plan before you meal prep.

Before shopping, cutting and cooking, be sure you know which recipes you’re using for which meal. Without a plan, you will spend more time grocery shopping, spend more money, prep food inefficiently, waste food…the list goes on! Meal prep should help us, not hurt us. Start with a plan!

There is no right or wrong way to meal prep.

To be sustainable, meal prep needs to fit into your lifestyle. Do whatever will meet YOUR needs. Don’t get bogged down in thinking it has to be done a certain way or a certain day of the week.  Choose a day that works best for your schedule and prep in a way that helps you succeed.

Don’t try to prep it all! Even the littlest bit of food prep makes a difference.

Many people get stuck in the mindset that if they can’t prep all their food at once, why bother. Obviously, that is not the right approach to take. Some food prep is better than no food prep at all.

Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to prep an entire week’s meals. Start slow and prep one or two meals/snacks at a time. Then, as you get comfortable with the process, you can prep more.

It is also not necessary to cook all the food you prep. Food prep can be anything. It can mean chopping up vegetables ahead of time for recipes, portioning out food items for snacks, or cutting meat to be ready to cook.

Choose which recipe(s) would make the biggest difference in your week if you made them ahead of time.

If you are short on time or don’t have the energy to prepare a lot of food, you should prioritize your meals. If you are rushing around every morning and run out of time to eat, focus on preparing breakfast. If dinnertime brings temptations to grab something easy on your way home, chop up some veggies and meat to be cooked quickly once you’re home.  You can also consider a crockpot recipe so you can eat as soon as you walk in the door.

Give yourself time to reap the rewards and make it a habit.

It is important to keep it up long enough to experience the benefits, see the results, and form new habits. Don’t throw in the towel if it doesn’t work out the first time…or the first few times. Just make adjustments along the way. Food prep is about making your life easier. Sure, it takes a little effort and time upfront, but it is worth it. It is so rewarding to open up the refrigerator door and see healthy delicious meals and snacks ready to eat.

Try one of these easy dinner recipes for your first weekly food prep day. Remember, you don’t need to do them all. Pick one, then the next week add on another and so on. Always keep in mind even a little food prep is better than nothing!