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How meal prepping can save your diet — and your wallet

SALT LAKE CITY — Whether you’re budgeting your cash or your calories, meal prep can be a life saver.

“I think there’s many reasons meal prep can be super beneficial — not only for you to have healthy meals, but it can also be a huge money saver,” said Cassidy Moore, a registered dietitian. “It really helps you to stay on track and not turn to fast food places or convenience food when you’re hungry.”

Moore oversees weekly meal prep activities at Fit to Recover, a community gym in Salt Lake City. She spoke with KSL NewsRadio’s Maria Shilaos about the value of planning ahead on Let’s Get Moving With Mariaand left listeners with these tips:

  • Start Small

People determined to make a change in their lifestyle often struggle to manage their enthusiasm, Moore said, which can lead to over-extension and burnout. Rather than attempting to prep 21 meals in one go, Moore encouraged first-timers to focus on weekday breakfasts or weekday lunches.

“Tone it down a little bit,” Moore said on Saturday’s episode of Let’s Get Moving. “Work up to doing multiple meals, but to get started, maybe focus on prepping a breakfast or your lunches — whichever one will be less stressful for you.”

Moore also encouraged listeners to start with tried-and-true recipes, which are more likely to turn out well and build your commitment to meal prepping.

  • Pick a “Star Ingredient”

Cooking one protein option in bulk can seriously cut down the amount of time you spend meal prepping, Moore said. She encouraged listeners to choose a “star ingredient,” like chicken or tofu, that they can use in multiple meals, or even multiple variations on the same meal.

“Try to tweak it up a little bit,” Moore said. “You don’t have to prep a bunch of completely different dishes, but putting a twist on a meal so you’re not eating the same food every day can help avoid burnout.”

  • Don’t Sweat the Storage

“Meal prep can look different for everybody, so don’t think you need to be following those people who have 20 containers in their fridge all laid out to go,” Moore cautioned.

While pre-parceling meals “ups the grab-and-go convenience factor,” there’s nothing wrong with cooking several large dishes at the beginning of the week and packaging your servings the same day you’ll eat them. Moore also cautioned new meal preppers not to get hung up on fancy tupperware sets: “I’m a big fan of just reusing old yogurt containers and things like that,” she said.

  • Utilize the Internet

Moore encouraged listeners to take inspiration from online resources like Instagram accounts and blogs, which can be great for finding recipes or restoring motivation. Specific recommendations included The Lean Green Bean and Sweet Peas and Saffron, which bills itself as “meal prep recipes for busy people.”

  • Focus on Fun

The best thing aspiring meal preppers can do for themselves is to get excited about cooking, Moore said, and to cook things they’re excited about eating.

“If you’re not going to look forward to eating the meal, the chance that you keep doing it is pretty slim,” she said. “If you don’t think of it as a chore, it makes it a little more fun. Then you’re excited not only to cook the food, but to eat it, too.”

You can download the full episode of Let’s Get Moving With Maria here.