Here at Unity promote a weekly or biweekly meal prep that we call a Sunday Ritual or a Wednesday /Mid-week Pick-me-up. The Sunday Ritual is based off of PN’s model of planning your family’s weekly schedule, make a list of ingredients and heading to your local grocery for fresh ingredients. The Mid-Week Pick-me-up involves a go-to or a brand new, exciting recipe you can use during the week that you can batch and use for the remaining days.
Weekly meal prep is efficient in many ways, but I would say there are the Big 3 Wins of meal prep.
The first Big Win is that you save valuable nuggets of time the mornings, afternoons and evenings during your week by spending just a few hours in one shot on Sunday. Instead of taking approximately 10 to 20 minutes three times per day during your week, you maybe spend 5 to 10 minutes just once or twice, which gives you more time with family.
There’s different “versions” of meal prep to try (see below), but it typically takes an average of 2 to 5 hours to complete (counting the trip to the grocery store). The simple version is quicker and easier but may be more boring to some while the complex version will be closer to 5 hours and more for the person who likes to cook and wants variety (versions listed below).
In all, this Win saves you time during the week. I actuality like to refer to this as you are now given more time. You become The Time Saver.
The second Big Win is reducing stress and anxiety by giving you full control over your week. No more “what if’s” or pockets of anxiety moments spread throughout your week when you and your family don’t know what to eat. You are in control and you’ll feel that way too (a damn good feeling).
This will in turn make everything seem easier so your left to focus in the big picture items at work AND at home. You should not notice better performance at work and happier lifestyle at home. You can easily base your performance at work (or should be able to use your job’s system), but you can use a daily 1-10 scale on how you’re feeling or even a happiness scale. Of course, there are several factors that go into being “happy”, but overall, we’re leading to better awareness. More awareness leads to mindfulness and more mindfulness leads to better choices. You become The Boss.
The third Big Win is you get to eat delicious and nutritious food that keeps you accountable towards your goals. When you prep this food ahead of time, it’s only human nature that you wouldn’t want to waste it plus you receive the benefits of fueling your body the right way throughout the entire week.
You can use the same or similar 1-10 scale to see how you’re feeling through each day as well as after each meal. Your health and fitness performance will be easier to identify as it all pertains to your goal. You become The Nutrition Ninja.
Ultimately, the weekly meal prep is measured on efficiency by how much time you save, a boost in performance, mood, and over happiness, and accomplishing your health and fitness goals. Unfortunately, weekly meal prep doesn’t always seem like a fun task. As a matter of fact, it often feels intimidating or stressful.
This is why I created several different ideas to gamify this process.
Idea 1: Time Created
Through my personal research, I have found that for every 30 minutes spent meal prepping on Sunday, you can “create” (free up) about 60 minutes’ worth of time through your week. This goes back to the concept of being “given time”.
For example, if I cooked and scrambled my eggs for each morning I could them store them in sealed bags or containers and have them for breakfast. This process takes 30 minutes at most. It then saves me at least 10 minutes each day during the breakfast time (the time to crack, prep and heat, and then clean). Now I just need to reheat the eggs and add my fruit and veggies.
The same goes for creating to-go lunches and snacks. It takes 10 to 15 minutes to get 5 Tupperware dishes ready for a salad kit. Add my protein that I made in a slow cooker or pressure cooker and I save time from running to the cafeteria, restaurant, or store during lunch, which is half of our lunch breaks.
The cool part is that you have to award yourself with you’re going to do with the time you were given back. I’ve seen things such as sleep, more time with kids, reading, project work, etc. You can take this a step further by having them send or post pics of the meal prep and what they did with their extra time.
Idea 2: Lost in a book
This idea is pretty simple and one of my personal favorite. Simply download the audio version of a book you’re interested in and listen to it while you work. It’s a bit tougher when you’re following a new recipe, but besides that it’s an easy way to enjoy your morning or afternoon as you get lost in your imagination (or thoughts if you’re reading a professional development book). This can be taken a step further with Google Home or Alexa as you can tell it to stop and take notes when you want. The biggest thing to remember is to not get too lost and forget an ingredient in the recipe…which may or may not have happened once or twice.
Idea 3: Create your own cookbook
This one takes time to develop, as in weeks and weeks, but you eventually create your own cookbook with all the recipes you accumulate. The catch is you have to try at least one new recipe each and every week and then save the ones you like. Now you can make your own notes, prep variations, recipe mods, etc. by creating your own cool book.
Idea 4: The Family Tree
I like this one for being at home with the family and it creates a sense of belonging. There’s two ways I’ve used this one: 1) you ask a family member which type of food they would like, and it becomes “their recipe” this week; and 2) you can look up your own family tree and maybe make a dish that is from your ancestors. I like the second option for more of a personal experiment, but it entertains me nonetheless.
Idea 5: The Buddy System
You can do this with a loved one or a close friend that also meal preps. Doing this together allows conversation to happen and the time flies (so make sure you do it with someone you really care about!!). Basically, you find a partner in crime and go into the meal prep together.
Idea 6: The Groupie
This is a fun one, especially when you see the power and over impact it plays on each person. It’s essentially The Buddy System amplified by 1,000. A group of people come together and meal prep together. It takes a bit more coordination and the right location, but A LOT gets done. My ultimate dream for my future training facility is to own a building that also includes a commercial kitchen that allows members of the facility to meal prep together on Sundays.
Idea 7: The Meal Swap
This one is another HIT with the members of my gym and it stemmed from a group of ladies that I recommended get together to meal prep. Now they’ll meal prep and swap meals. One person cooks a ton of breakfasts, one does lunches, one does snacks, and one does supper. This one is easier because you just do a ton of the same food so there’s no prep change and re-cleaning. It’s harder to make sure the budget is split equally.
Idea 8: Tiers of Meal Prep
I touched on this earlier, but I basically broke down meal prep into different versions of easiness. The easiest version is done with a meal-delivery service that prepares the entire meal and delivers it to your door step. The next easiest version is some prepared meals and some meals you do yourself (the meals are simple as well). The next version, for example, is bulk foods and using tons of slow-cookers, instant pots, “Steamable” veggies, and my gym’s “EZ-PZ Recipe List. It requires only one new recipe per week that is typically used as a base protein that can be added to nearly anything. The complex version is for one who likes to cook and involves +3 new recipes each week.
There’s a couple other different versions in between the simplest and most complex, but this allows for a “change of pace” for someone who does meal prep on a regular basis. Unfortunately, it also shows different time constraints. The simple version is typically done in less time with the complex being more time. Depending on the person/family, this one varies quite a bit, but I created it to help with structure (along with the PN meal prep infographic).
Idea 9: Outsource
This is a growing trend in our industry. A member can go with a company of preference and choose how far they’d like to go with the service. They could go with a company that sends all the ingredients and requires some prep, or they could go with one who cooks and preps the meal and sends you the final products that just need to be heated. This idea can get a bit expensive, but the trade-off is the time saved.
A few of these ideas were created over the last couple years, but some were created and need to be experienced to get the full feedback. I have a few members who are supposed to be doing these, so I can’t report the full details yet. However, I know that I’ve done each of these and I feel like as long as I am doing at least one of those ideas I am always keeping meal prep “fresh” and not growing complacent. It provides a new yet familiar experience every time, like going to one if your favorite restaurants and trying another dish on the menu.
This process could use work. I tried to compile previous ideas and make some new ones. The 3 Big Wins almost always help a person get started with meal prep. I know most of our members do it and reap the benefits of it. I also know it can get boring, so I tried creating ideas that would work well with each person. We can always go back and see if there’s an idea that leads to more efficiency by using the methods above.
I personally use The Buddy System (with the girlfriend) on a weekly basis. If there’s a Sunday when one of us needs to be out of town, the other will pick up the slack and we’ll square up the following weekend. If I go solo, I almost always have a book on. Like today, while Mandy went shopping, I listened to Brendon Burchard’s High Performance Habits on Audible.
I also really like the “time given” or “time gained” system. I am always creating a schedule for my week and it works well to plan some stuff around 15-minute increments that you save. I think this idea has more potential, but people must really value their time to make it work at its best.
Now it’s time to put this into ACTION. At Unity we stress that as long as we’re taking action, we get 1% better every day. And action beats intention every day of the week (and twice on Sundays…as the saying goes!).
Pick an idea and PUT IT INTO ACTION this week. That’s your goal. Then let me know how it goes!