Meal prep is a bit like breaking up with that shitty significant other you had in college; you know you’d be happier if you did it, but you just keep coming up with excuses not to.
Well, the excuses end here. We’re actually going to do this—and it’s not going to be as painful a process as you think it will.
And in case it bears repeating: Consistently bringing your lunch to work is very much worth it.
A packed lunch routine could save you thousands of dollars, force you to eat healthier, and ensure you don’t have to hear the “But, I want Chinese!” whine from your coworkers nearly as often. And, if you’re willing to put a little time in, it can easily build into a habit.
Instead of throwing together a turkey sandwich every once in awhile and ordering in the rest of the time, sign on for a meal-prep challenge with us. For the price of one of those $14 salads you don’t even like, you can make a week’s worth of lunches. You just have to get started.
1. Pick a day
Every week is a busy week, so build consistency into your schedule if you want to make time for meal prep.
So, designate a specific day of the week that will be your prep day. Most people choose Sunday because they can see the week ahead and know which days they’ll need to bring a lunch. But really, any day when you have the time to shop and cook works.
2. Pick a way
There is no one-size-fits-all method of meal prepping. They approach you choose should really depend on your schedule, your tastes, and your ability.
Or you could choose a mix of all three. There’s really no wrong way to prep.
3. Pick your meals
No matter which way you choose to prep, a weekly meal plan is essential.
While deciding what you’re going to want to eat on Wednesday on Sunday can seem daunting, if you know what you like, and don’t try to get too fancy, you can’t go wrong.
Apps like Mealime and Yummly help you to create a calendar for the week, find recipes, and create shopping lists to make things easier when starting out. But there are also tons of food sites to check out to find inspiration.
Budget Bytes is filled with large batch recipes. Plus they show how much it will cost you to produce each recipe—and even breaks down how much each serving will cost. Seeing those number will put $14 salads in a new context for you.
Sweet Peas and Saffron puts together a list of meal prep lunches every week that not only look way better than a bagel from a cart down the street, but are way more nutritious and balanced, too.
Work Week Lunch is a great option for those hoping for a wide variety of recipes. The site has a huge vegan and vegetarian section that will appeal whether you keep veggie all the time or just want a break from an omnivore diet every once in a while.
4. Pack it up
If the idea of fitting all of those meals in your refrigerator is giving you anxiety, don’t worry. Investing in the right containers can make all the difference. Plus, in addition to optimizing fridge space, good containers will also ensure that you actually enjoy your lunch.
Throwing everything in to one of your old Tupperware containers is going to make everything look like a big ol’ mess when you pull it out of the fridge at lunch time. But products like Freshware Meal Prep Containers, $15.49 for a pack of 21, keep everything separate, fresh, and delicious. They’re stackable and microwave, dishwasher, and freezer safe—and of course, they’re incredibly Instagram-friendly.
So, pick a day, make a plan, hit the store, and get to cooking. In just a couple of hours you’ll have everything you need to set yourself up for an amazing (and delicious) week.