Meal Planning vs. Prepping - A Beginner's Guide

The Beginner's Guide to Meal Planning vs. Meal Prepping
The Beginner's Guide to Meal Planning vs. Meal Prepping

Meal prep and meal planning are one of those processes that you either love or you hate. I think for years, I tried to get in a routine of meal prepping so that I have everything I need in front of me without having to deal with the hassle of wondering "What am I going to cook for dinner?" (yep, I do the cooking in our four walls). To be completely honest with you, I'm not too keen on leftovers. There are some meals that I can eat for days in a row (think pasta or soups). With other meals, I may eat it when I first cook it and maybe the next day, but if it isn't gone by dinner, it probably won't get eaten.

I love the idea of having a perfectly organized refrigerator, not that mine is like that all the time, but I try to keep it somewhat organized (at this very moment, not so much). So I wanted to give you a beginner's guide to meal planning and meal prepping, so that you can be on your way to a fit lifestyle. If you're mindful about what you are cooking and eating, you're on your way to having the healthy body and mind that you want. I gave meal planning explanations as well as meal prepping because I do believe there is just a slight difference. Let me explain.

Meal Prepping

Meal Prepping involves shopping, setting up, cleaning, prepping, cooking, and portioning out all of your food in containers for the week all at one time so that you can simply grab and go from day to day. "What's for dinner" is literally on auto-pilot. Here's an example of a picture of a completed meal prepping session. This is a very good option because it keeps you disciplined and conscious of when and how much you eat.

example of finished meal prep, courtesy of
example of finished meal prep, courtesy of

Meal Planning

Now, here's what I love to do and I incorporate it with meal prepping. I've tried to eat the same thing for seven days in a row for each of my meals out of the day, and didn't particularly enjoy it (it got boring fast). I decided a better option for me was a hybrid of meal prepping and meal planning. I think there's a difference, and here's why.

Meal planning also includes setting up a menu for each week to take the guesswork out of "What's for dinner". You pretty much do all of the same steps in meal prep, except the last step. You are actually cooking from day to day. Most days, I really enjoy cooking and experimenting with different recipes. So the cooking isn't so much of a chore for me. I can meal prep for breakfast and lunch, but for dinner, meal planning is the way to go for me. I can change it up from day to day, and not get bored.

The Benefits and the Work of Meal Planning and Prepping

There are absolute benefits of meal prepping and meal planning. You are completely committed to eating healthy meals every day. You have no excuse for not eating healthy, because you've taken the time to prep and cook all that healthy food for each one of your meals for the next seven days.  They both require you to pay attention to what you're putting in your mouth during every part of the day. And because you can see what you're eating, you can control the portions, the salt and sugar content, and be more accountable in eating and fitness.

Now here's the work; you have to plan out all of your snacks and meals, from breakfast to lunch, dinner, AND snacks. You have to go shopping using your shopping list and follow it to the tee. No straying from the grocery list you made. if you're prepping, dicing, slicing, portioning, and cooking, you will have to pack it all away so that it doesn't go bad. If you're planning, you have to make sure that you've got all your ingredients and you have to list out the meals that you're going to eat each day. Committing to cook what you've written down is also imperative to maintaining that focus.

Meal planning and meal prepping both bring long term benefits, and whichever one you decide, even if it's a hybrid like the process that I do, will be perfectly alright. The most important part of the process is that you stick to it. Implementing the process in your life is half the battle, and 80% of having a fit and healthy life.

Until the next post.....#befocusedbefitbefly

Do you meal plan or meal prep? Or do you do a mixture of both?