How to Meal-Prep for the Week in Less Than an Hour

Nicole Loher is a triathlete, Adidas ambassador, and all-around fitness guru, all while balancing a badass day job in the fashion industry (and several side gigs to boot). Needless to say, she's an inspiration in the art of hustling—and she's totally game to share her knowledge. Follow her column, Part-Time Athlete, for her expert advice on everything from establishing a training regimen to finding early-morning gym motivation. Below, she shares how she plans her meals for an entire week—in less than an hour.

Photo:

Stocksy/Suzanne Clements

Did you know nearly 40% of food in the U.S. is thrown away? In 2016, my biggest resolution was to waste less food for a few reasons. One: to save money. Two: to be better to the environment. And three: to have a plan of what I needed for the week so I could stick to my diet and avoid mindlessly grazing on my roommate’s Wheat Thins. Since then, I’ve only dialed this in more and more to the point where my significant other and I eat every meal at home with the exception of one meal that’s eaten as a “treat meal.”

In the last two years, I really feel like I’ve mastered the art of meal planning. Try these five steps below to get your meal prep down in under an hour.

Photo:

Stocksy/Suzanne Clements

Step 1: Map out your week before you go shopping.

First, make it a priority to spend some time sitting down before you go to the grocery store to map out what your week ahead looks like. This way, you won’t haphazardly purchase items that would easily go to waste. Below is a sample of how I simply break out my days to get an idea of where I’ll be when and identify how many meals I’ll need:

Monday

6 a.m.: Hour workout at gym
8 a.m. to 6 p.m.: Work
6 p.m.: Event for work

Tuesday

5:30 a.m.: Hour workout at gym
8 a.m. to 6 p.m.: Work
7:30 p.m.: Company summer party

Wednesday

5:30 a.m.: Hour workout at gym
8 a.m. to 6 p.m.: Work
7 p.m.: Meeting a friend for a movie

Step 2: Based on that agenda, figure out how many meals you'll actually need to plan for.

By looking at that schedule, I can identify a couple things as it relates to the meals ahead:

1.  I won’t be home for breakfast at all, so I’ll need to think of a breakfast that’s portable or I can eat when I get to the office.

2.  I don’t have any lunch meetings, so I’ll need to make sure I’m planning to bring my own lunch every day.

And it looks like I won’t be home for dinner at all this week, so there’s no need to plan for that.

Step 3: Plan out your meals.

After identifying the meals and key events, work to figure out the best meal for each situation and, in general, what you want to eat that week. To keep costs down, aim to buy what’s in season and try to double up on meals as much as possible. Personally, I’ve adopted the “eat the same meal every day for an entire week” plan, but if that’s too extreme for you try starting with two of the same meals for two consecutive days. Below is my menu for Monday through Wednesday based on the information above:

Breakfast: roasted sweet potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, avocado
Snack: RXBar
Lunch: 85 grams sautéed bell peppers, four ounces ground turkey, and avocado over a bed of spinach
Snack: apple and almond butter
Dinner: (out)

Step 4: Make your grocery list.

Don’t be afraid to be exact. Based on the above, this is what my three-day meal prep would look like:

3 sweet potatoes
1 carton of eggs
2 avocados
2 bell peppers
12 oz. ground turkey
A medium carton or bag of spinach
3 apples
A jar of almond butter
3 RXBars

Step 5: Schedule time for the actual meal prep.

Now that you've planned it all out, it should be a breeze. Here’s an example based on my sample three-day plan:

1. Roast sweet potatoes at 375ºF until done.
2. Hard-boil eggs.
3. Pre-section almond butter into little containers.
4. Pre-pack three days of spinach as a bed of salad.
5. Sautée bell peppers and ground turkey in olive oil.
6. Once cool, partition alongside spinach.
7. Organize and put eggs, avocados, apples, and RXBars in a familiar place so they’re easy to grab and go.

While this process may require a bit more thought than what you’re doing now, trust me when I say your sanity, nutrition goals, and bank account will definitely thank you once you get into the swing of it.

Giving the above plan a go? I’d love to hear how it goes down. Until then, be well.