Do you meal prep? Up until recently, I didn’t meal prep! However, as I got busier and busier in my week-to-week life, meal prep has been the way for me to go. Yet, since the pandemic winded down, it took me time (and lots of money spent on takeout – whoops!) to realize that meal prep was what worked for me (and my wallet!).
Throwing it back to my middle and high school years, I spent many nights out both during the week and on the weekends dining out. My Dad specifically would take me to his favorite restaurants in the adorable Arlington neighborhood of Shirlington as well as alongside Alexandria’s historic King Street in Northern Virginia and found cooking to be something that wasn’t a desire within his regular routine. My Mom would take me to places in the same neighborhoods alongside local restaurants nearby us in Lorton and Fairfax Station. We also enjoyed takeout A LOT (Chinese, Taco Bell, Chipotle, the likes). I learned that I enjoy the experience of eating out – the environment, the not having to cook, the interaction with my family members outside of the house while enjoying a good meal, and the many many many memories made. Dining out held and still holds a special place in my heart.
As I got into my post-graduate world, I learned that I will “all of a sudden” crave Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Chinese food, or Chipotle. AND, I would cave into those cravings on a regular basis, whether or not I bought groceries to make a home-cooked meal that night. I spent wayyyy too much money on food and my body started to feel the affects of eating out more than I should. I started to feel tired, stressed, and rundown way more often than not. The week after my 24th Birthday, I was eating out every meal. My friends and family were generous enough to treat me to Birthday dinners all throughout the week which I am SO SO SO grateful for. I also spent my 24th Birthday in the gorgeous town of Edenton, North Carolina (here) with Papa and my dog Rosie, so I went from a weekend filled with dining out to a week filled with dinners and lunches out on the town to bring in 24. That week was such a special week for me in 2023, and I am so blessed to have enjoyed that with those that I love. However, at the same time, I was SO SO SO tired and knew I needed to make a change with how I cooked and planned my meals.
The Sunday after my Birthday week, I got in the kitchen and I meal prepped my first-ever meal in a LOONGGG while. It felt AMAZING to be in the kitchen again. I finally *confessions* cleaned all the dishes from the week prior that I had been too tired to take on and enjoyed the experience of cooking a nice meal. I had a second to simply get off my phone, laptop, and the hustle and bustle of the world and enjoy the moment. And, at the end of the cooking process, I had a nice and delicious meal to enjoy. At the same time, I felt SO MUCH MORE awake and better when I’d gotten the chance to appreciate what was right in front of me. In that moment, moving forward, I just knew that I needed to meal prep a part of my regular routine more often than not. Realistically speaking, summer travel and, well, travel in general can make meal prep a bit tricky. I learned this fact when it came to Summer travel. On the same token, I noticed that meal prep made summer travel easier and more affordable. I found that I felt better, more awake, and healthier when I meal prepped (whether home or not). My wallet has been really grateful with meal prep, as well, as I am able to focus on some new-to-me savings goals, budget accordingly for upcoming travel, and place a greater emphasis on travel and activities both near and far on my bucket list.
I used to simply DREADDD cooking in general and felt as if it was something that I HAD to do every night. My work weeks and weeks in general are busy busy busy. 2-3+ nights a week after work, I have something going on outside of my house – whether it be networking, a happy hour, or dinner with a friend/family member, or a even a special interest group meetup. With starting events for the Ignite Young Professionals Program cohort that I am excitedly apart of (here) this month, my Fall 2023 season and seasons moving forward will likely be busy busy busy on both the weekends and weeknights, which can get STRESSFUL. While I am excited for the upcoming busy professional (and personal!) seasons, I also need to stay well-fueled and eat well. When I went to Isle of Palms, South Carolina for a week in June and stayed with my best friend Hannah alongside some of our best friends and her Mom alongside some of her best friends, I learned the value of healthy eating and was SO inspired by Hannah, her Mom, and her friends. Needless to say, the amazing women (Hannah included!!!) I vacationed with at Isle of Palms were such a pivot for me in starting my own healthy eating journey which for me involved MORE meal prep and LESS eating out.
My new ritual is to go grocery shopping on a late Sunday afternoon or early in the week (depending on travel), buy what I need, and then spend the evening cooking for the upcoming week while sipping on a glass of wine. I can ALSO practice mindfulness while grocery shopping and meal prepping, too! I have also gotten into smoothies during the week, which helps me to feel fueled during my usual afternoon slump. I went to Trader Joe’s on a recent early September Sunday and found myself enjoying being inside the grocery store and the shopping experience while only focusing on what I needed for the week rather than intensively planning in my head what I want for that week and then wasting food within the long run. Not to mention the sole fact that I can enjoy and see and get inspired what what’s in-season when I shop at the grocery store in-person as opposed to using Instacart.
In the past, I used to meal plan using Hello Fresh, however, in recent times, I have found it to not be useful for me. I found myself *surprise* wasting more and more food and money (woof!). BUT, while I am not a Hello Fresh customer anymore, one thing I LOVE about Hello Fresh, is their brilliant marketing strategy to aim to transform the perspective of home-cooked meals to be as good as takeout. Hello Fresh meals are super good despite being a bit pricey and not the best move for me AND tastes just as good as (if not better) than takeout. I have found Hello Fresh’s marketing strategy to be what I use when meal prepping – I want my food to taste just as good BUT better than takeout. And, well, I have found this to be true and a fun part of putting my meal prep into (what feels like) takeout cartons for the week.
Moreover, meal prep has allowed me to enjoy the moment and be more mindful while appreciating and healthier lifestyle for both my body and wallet. I am more than excited to be continuing my new habit of meal prep and continue my goal to practice mindfulness more regularly. At the end of the day, I want to feel good both physically and mentally, which meal prep allows me to do. Do you meal prep? I have learned to LOVE it and hope you will if it works for you, too!
XOXO – Katie <3