It may seem impossible to food prep and plan for intuitive eating. However, having good nutritional choices and foods you love on hand is crucial when following an intuitive way of eating. While you don’t have to plan out every meal, every hour of the day, it’s nice to be able to go to the refrigerator and freezer and pull out foods that you want, which are already prepared.
When I first started my food blog years ago, I was into Weight Watchers (you’ll see many of my recipes still have points listed) but over the years and after joining the Freedom Group, I’m now following a more Intuitive Eating Plan and way of life which I love. I love not counting calories! I love not being on a diet!
It’s funny, though, when it comes to food prep, I’m still doing things very similar to how I’ve done in the past. This way just works for me – no matter what “diet” or no diet I’m following. I like making fresh food and having it on hand, so I’ve always frozen many of my recipes to enjoy later. Keep reading and I’ll show you how incorporate what I’ve always done into food prep and plan for intuitive eating.
Here’s a bonus call I did for the Freedom group about Taking the Stress Out of Meal Prep
I thought you might like to see a bonus call I did with Margie Beiswanger from the Freedom Group. I’ve talked about this program so much! I was invited to be a guest speaker on one of their bonus calls. In addition to their regular scheduled weekly calls, they often have a bonus call. You’re getting a sneak peak at one of them (minus the Q&A because of privacy reasons for the members). If you want to know more about the Freedom Group, check out Cookie Rosenblum’s website and get on the waiting list. It’s definitely worth waiting for!
What is food prep, meal prep and meal planning? Are they the same?
These are my own personal definitions of the terms food prep, meal prep and meal planning. In my mind they are definitely not the same. Here are my descriptions as I see them:
Food preparation (or food prep for short) is about getting the food ready for cooking. You can food prep things like:
- chopping vegetables or meat
- gathering spices
- having sauces and broths already made in the freezer
- grilling chicken to use for later
Meal prep is putting the actual meal together such as putting the recipe together such as making the lasagna, casseroles, meat loaf, etc. It can also be putting something together like a chicken wrap – tortilla, chicken, veggies, etc.
Meal planning is pulling it all together in a balanced meal and answering the question:
What are we having for dinner?
Answer: Salad, lasagna and grilled asparagus. See the differences between the three terms?
What are the benefits of food prep, meal prep and meal planning for intuitive eating?
The benefits of all three include:
- Ease – you can put together a meal in a hurry if you have all of the parts ready to go
- Saves you time and money – you don’t order a pizza at the last minute or rush out for take out
- Saves you unnecessary calories and helps you make healthier choices about food.
Why do we rebel against all of them?
I think we rebel against food prep and meal planning because of these three reasons:
- We don’t feel like eating what we’ve cooked or planned.
- We never got around to making it like we had planned.
- Something always comes up that changes the plan.
And the biggest reason:
We think it’s going to take too much time.
Really having food already made can be super simple, if we let it. You don’t need to have one big cooking day if you don’t want to.
My 8 easy tips to food prep
I’ve been doing my own way of food prep and meal prep for a long time. It’s not as hard as you might think. Of course there are the people who like to plan out every meal for every day and put it all on the calendar and make out a huge grocery list. And if that’s you, that’s great! That’s not me!
Even though I have Type A tendencies, when I’ve done food prep, meal prep and meal planning the more traditional way, the food always goes to waste. (See the reasons above in the, “Why we rebel section.”
For me the traditional way of meal planning doesn’t always work when you’re trying to eat like a natural eater. You don’t know what you might want to eat, what sounds good, what your body needs that day. Or you don’t finish it all.
Here are my 8 easy tips to food prep which lead into easy meal planning:
- Always make extras when you cook. Always. Don’t just make one, always make two. It saves you so much time and effort. I can’t emphasize that enough. No reading the recipe twice, no going to the store twice, and you do dishes once. It’s so much easier to just double a recipe vs making it twice.
- Save any leftovers from the meal and freeze them into portions. Don’t just put them in a container and call it a day. You can put them in your refrigerator if you know you’ll eat them later in the week. But if you know you won’t, then package them into individual servings and freeze them. When you need a quick lunch or dinner, you can pull out the amount of portions you need.
- Set aside a morning or afternoon and make a big batch of something that takes some time. Make a big batch of grilled chicken, individual meat loaves, grilled hamburgers, lasagna. After they are cool, cut them if necessary, flash freeze them and then seal in individual portions.
- Invest in a good vacuum sealer (paid link). This is critical. Don’t put leftovers in a Ziplock bag. They will get freezer burn easily. If you take a few minutes to seal them up, they will literally last years and stay fresh if vacuumed sealed. I’ve gone through quite a few in my life. You don’t need a fancy one – in fact I prefer my Anova (paid link)
- Freeze everything in portions. Nothing goes to waste, people can eat what they want. Portions make great lunches too! When you make soup, portion the leftovers into 1 cup portions. I like to use the Souper Cubes (paid link) to do this, then transfer to vacuum sealed bags when totally frozen. If you freeze in large batches, it takes a long time to thaw out and chances are you won’t eat all of it anyway so do smaller portions.
- Invest in a big freezer and keep it organized.
- Have a variety of fresh vegetables, lettuce, and spring mix available in the refrigerator.
- Have a variety of fresh fruit on hand.
How does this method work with meal planning and intuitive eating?
Over time when you start cooking this way, food prep and meal planning are easy. I tend to cook a few times a week and then eat from the freezer the rest of the week. When I get up in the morning, I ask myself, “What should we have for dinner according to our daily activities? Is it going to be a rush day where we need something super quick? Are we eating lunch out so we might not be too hungry for dinner? What do we feel like eating?
Because you’ve done a lot of food prep – having the parts in your freezer and/or fridge, you can easily pull things together.
If it’s a rushed day, then I go to the freezer and pull out maybe some individual meatloaves I’ve previously frozen. Or if it’s a day I have a bit more time, I might make a stir fry with all of the vegetables I have in my refrigerator. Or if I’m craving a salad, I’ll pull out some veggies, lettuce and use some grilled chicken I have in the freezer.
If you’re just starting out, unless you have a few big cook days, it may take a bit to build up a supply in your freezer, but over time you’ll have plenty of variety to choose from based on previous cooking.
How is my method different?
My method is different than traditional meal planning as it’s super easy and allows for flexibility. Instead of meal planning every meal for the week, you base it on your activities and needs for the day. Of course you can always look ahead and plan earlier but with so many options in the freezer, you have choices and you can put them together the same day you want to eat them.
What do I make every week?
Here’s how I food prep and plan for intuitive eating. I have a list of things I like to make every week. I do like to cook so if you don’t, some of your weeklies may be different.
Here’s what I make every week:
- roasted veggies – good for snacks and side dishes. I make a big batch on Sunday typically and eat them through the week.
- homemade salad dressings – like my Skinny Blue Cheese Dressing or Healthy Garlic Ranch Dressing
- easy bucket bread that makes 4 loaves- I bake a loaf when I run out – Best Homemade Stone Ground Bread
- 2-3 recipes (mostly from my website)
- pasta or rice to have on hand for quick easy meals with frozen grilled chicken and fresh vegetables
Items I have on hand in the freezer (partial list):
- frozen grilled chicken – makes a quick meal – easy to put together wraps, over salad or pasta, tacos.
- individual meat loaves – Even Better than Granny’s Meatloaf
- Homemade Spicy Chicken Sausage – great in fall/winter over acorn, delicata or butternut squash.
- all kinds of recipes, including many of my Instant Pot recipes – like different kinds of soup, tomato sauce, Shredded Buffalo Chicken and more!
How do I keep everyone happy with food choices?
This is a hard one but you already know that if you’re following an intuitive eating way of life. If you have kids, try to keep a few things on hand that you know they love for those times when you just want a salad for dinner and don’t feel like fixing anything. Recipes such as my Healthy Air Fryer Popcorn Chicken already made in the freezer, work great – just pull out and reheat.
It’s actually kind of fun when people come to my house to visit. If we’re deciding what to have for lunch, I just let them go to my freezer and pick out what they want. Because everything is mostly in 1 cup portions, my guests can choose their lunch. We did this recently – my mom is vegan so she picked the Healthy Black Bean and Lentil Chili, my uncle chose my meatloaf and the other family members picked out their favorites such as my homemade chicken noodle soup. We all ate together but we didn’t all eat the same foods. It worked out great!
If you’re not a huge cook, don’t worry, just start making a few things that you love and double the recipe. Eat some, freeze some. Foods that are vacuumed sealed, last for a very long time. Eventually over time, you’ll build up your freezer and you’ll have lots of choices to choose from. When you food prep and plan for intuitive eating, it doesn’t have to be hard. Just start stocking up on the foods you love and go from there.
To learn more about what staples I keep on hand – get my new ebook – Homemade Kitchen Staples !