Fitness gurus, foodies, and budget bloggers alike swear by the power of meal prepping. But what is it? Meal prepping is simply the act of preparing and pre-portioning your food for the week all at once.
At first glance, cooking a week’s worth of food in one go may sound like a lot of work. So, why do it? It turns out that the benefits of meal prepping far outweigh the effort you have to put in.
This guide will dive deeper into the five benefits of meal planning, so you can take full advantage of this nutritious and budget-savvy food prep hack. These benefits include:
- Helps you save money
- Supports a healthy diet
- Saves time
- Reduces stress
Regulates energy levels
#1 Helps You Save Money
At first, meal prepping may seem more expensive in the short term—after all, all of those ingredients, containers, and utensils can add up. However, this habit begins to pay for itself quicker than you might think.
Just take a look at the numbers:
- According to a Gallup poll, Americans spend, on average, $151 per week on food. This includes eating at home without a plan and dining out.
- However, a comprehensive grocery list for the entire week will cost you between $43 and $85 per person, depending on where you live and where you shop. Even at its most expensive, you’re paying an average of about $64 for 15 to 21 meals.
- How does that cost break down per meal?
- Meal Prepped Meal – Approximately $3 to $4.30 per prepped meal, or around $10 per day
- Unprepped Meals – $7 a meal, or $21 per day
On a micro level, the difference might not seem significant. However, if you expand that out to a year, meal preparation yields annual savings of around $4,000!
Meal prepping allows you to fill up your plate and your savings account.
#2 Supports a Healthy Diet
Meal prepping does wonders for anyone trying to gain healthier eating habits and incorporate more nutrition into their diet.
But how does meal prepping promote healthy eating habits? There are a few key ways in which meal planning can help you maintain your health:
- Meal prepping makes it easier to make healthier choices
- It also aids in portion control
- Pre-prepared meals can help you stick to your meal plan
- Meal prepping offers nutrition on-the-go
Making Healthy Eating Choices
When you come home hungry from a long day at work, putting together a nutritious meal might seem impossible—especially when ordering takeout or popping some instant macaroni and cheese in the microwave is so much easier.
But what if a healthy meal was waiting for you in the fridge when you came home?
By preparing a healthy meal ahead of time, you’re less likely to succumb to takeout or junk food and more likely to enjoy a nutrient-rich dinner.
When you pre-portion your meals, you can control how many servings you dedicate to breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.
There are a few tools that can help new meal preppers make the most out of every pre-portioned bite. If planning meals ahead is a foreign concept, here are the most fundamental items you’ll need to make meal prep for beginners both functional and simple.
- Invest in a small kitchen scale to help portion out your meals for the week.
- Try portion-segmented lunch boxes so you can distribute ideal servings of veggies, fruits, carbs, and proteins.
- Pint mason jars are stylish and useful storage tools for packing soups, salads, and smoothies.
Making Your Meal Plan Stick
Planning and pre-packing your meals helps you visualize and control your calorie, micronutrient, and macronutrient intake.
No longer do you have to rely on complicated mental math for every meal or Herculean self-control when faced with a grueling pizza vs. grilled chicken salad decision at your lunch break.
If you make meal prep a habit, you can stick with your healthy eating goals simply by eating what you’ve made.
Want to maximize your nutrition intake for every meal? Add probiotics to your meal plan with Bio-K+® probiotic capsules. Each capsule can be taken before a meal to help support digestive and immune system health.
Stay Healthy On-the-Go
Have you noticed that it’s almost impossible to find a side of steamed veggies or a salad that isn’t loaded with high-calorie dressing at your favorite restaurant? When you meal prep, you can take your nutrient-packed, delicious meals with you. That way, you won’t have to settle for anything less than colorful, flavorful, and healthy meals.
For a delicious to-go salad with Bio-K+® probiotics and a kick of lime, try out this recipe for vibrant greens and grains packed in a charming Mason jar.
#3 Saves Time
While it might seem time-intensive to prepare all your homemade meals at once, it actually saves time in both your daily life and your week.
It’s math time again. Let’s say:
- You spend about ten minutes a day preparing breakfast, whether you’re cooking an egg, making avocado toast, or decking out your cereal with fresh fruits.
- Maybe you pack your lunch in the morning, or you stop by the food court or a drive-thru during your lunch break. That’s fifteen minutes, minimum.
- For dinner, you might spend twenty to thirty minutes grilling a protein, sautéing veggies, or making pasta on the side.
- To top it all off, you have to go to the grocery store again because you didn’t plan your meals ahead of time and are missing ingredients for the week. That’s another thirty minutes, if you’re speedy. (But with the commute, the line, and the double-back for those seasonal cookies, it’s probably closer to an hour.)
All this for a (conservative) grand total of four to five hours per week spent preparing your meals, excluding weekends. That’s the equivalent of a long shopping trip. Or a short road trip. Or a normal Scorsese film.
Now, think about how much time it takes you to meal prep. Carve out two to three hours (max) on a weekend afternoon, pop on your favorite podcast or some tunes, and start cooking. Before you know it, your meals will be good to go for the next five days!
See the difference?
It’s also important to note that the total time saved per week isn’t the only benefit. The daily time you save on cooking also leaves room for you to focus more on work, school, or family, without the hassle of pots, pans, and preheats.
#4 Reduces Stress
Speaking of mental health, it turns out that a regular weekly meal prep routine can have even more benefits to your emotional well-being.
Because you’re dramatically reducing the number of daily choices you have to make regarding your health—and you’re not taking so much time away from work, school, or family—meal prepping may help alleviate your stress levels.
According to the research published in the journal of Food Quality and Preference,
“People may find choosing to be a depleting task on their limited psychological resources; hence, choosing can add to their general stress. Not faced with choosing, one avoids this unnecessary stress. Consuming a meal without the burden of choosing has potential as a stress-reduction strategy.”
#5 Regulates Energy Levels
On top of redirecting your energy to more meaningful tasks throughout the week, meal prepping may also have a physiological effect on your energy levels.
According to research published in the science journal, Nutrition,
“Skipping breakfast (completely skipping breakfast everyday versus having breakfast everyday...) and taking meals irregularly... were positively correlated with the prevalence of fatigue.”
Less fatigue means more energy throughout the day. And more energy means more focus, and more time spent with the people you love. Truly, what more could you ask for?
How to Keep Food Fresh While Meal Prepping
What’s the use of preparing gorgeous, healthy meals for the week if they’re spoiled, wilted, or unappealing by day five? Why meal prep if you can’t, well, eat your meals?
That’s why you’ll want to put in the time needed to pack meals that last. Luckily, there are a few easy rules you can follow to make storage a breeze.
Here’s how to keep your food fresh:
- Keep wet and dry foods separate, like granola from yogurt or dressings from salad.
- Keep cooked and raw items separate. In the fridge, always store raw produce underneath ready-to-eat or cooked items.
- Know what needs to be frozen and refrigerated and how long each item will last—typically, you should consume refrigerated meals within a few days and frozen foods within a few months.
- Some foods, like avocados and tomatoes, just don’t store well when cut. In that case, wait to add them to your meal for when you want to eat them.
- Store your food out of the “danger zone.” Any temperature under 140° F and above 40° F is a recipe for disaster (the main ingredient in that recipe: bacteria).
- Invest in high-quality, airtight, glass or silicone food containers (ones that will fit in your fridge and pantry). Not only does this keep bacteria out, but it keeps nutrition in.
Bolster These Benefits With Bio-K+®
Clearly, the meal prep benefits outweigh the costs. And what better way to enhance these benefits than with a healthful capsule or drink that supports your intestinal flora for gut health and nutrient absorption?
Where your hard work bumps and your meal prep sets, Bio-K+® spikes.
Don’t waste precious time, money, and energy cooking three times a day or dining out on quick, calorie-dense meals. Instead, spend those resources with family and friends, engage in your passions, and enjoy a healthier lifestyle.
Mendes, E. (2020) Americans Spend $151 A Week On Food; The High-Income, $180. Gallup. Retrieved from: news.gallup.com/poll/156416/americans-spend-151-week-food-high-income-180.aspx
(2020) How Much Your Monthly Food Budget Should Be + Grocery Calculator. MintLike Blog. Retrieved from https://blog.mint.com/food-budgets/monthly-grocery-budget-calculator
Osdoba, Katie. Mann, Traci. Redden, Joseph. Vickers, Zata. (2015) Using food to reduce stress: Effects of choosing meal components and preparing a meal. Food Quality and Preference. 39; 241-250.
Tanaka, M., Mizuno, K., Fukuda, S., Shigihara, Y., & Watanabe, Y. (2008). Relationships between dietary habits and the prevalence of fatigue in medical students. Nutrition (Burbank, Los Angeles County, Calif.), 24(10), 985–989. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nut.2008.05.003
Danger Zone’ (40 °F - 140 °F). United States Department of Agriculture, Retrieved from https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/safe-food-handling/danger-zone-40-f-140-f/ct_index
Lindberg, Sara. “10 food storage mistakes you're making that are ruining your leftovers.” Insider, 18 Jun. 2018, Mistakes to Avoid When Storing Food and How to Fix Them (businessinsider.com)