In college, we try to find the quickest, cheapest thing called food to put in our body. The more we can microwave it, the better. Which is why Ramen, Easy-Mac, sugary cereals, pre-made granola bars, and frozen pizza are staples in our lives.
But our bodies can’t handle that lifestyle of eating forever.
When I turned 25, my toned body became squishy and cellulite was visible, even though I was still working out the same. Now if I drink heavily one night, I wake up with bags under my eyes and look haggard. Seeing this sudden change has helped me realize how important it is to be mindful of what we put in our bodies.
So I began meal-prepping each week. Here are some tips I learned about grocery shopping and eating well:
1. Shop Your Cupboards
According to the Washington Post, the American Society wastes $165 Billion in food every year. And According to the USA Today this is a third of what we buy. So I’m a fan of looking at what you already own and basing your meals around that. This helps you spend less (which is a godsend when you have bills) and food doesn’t go bad before you have time to eat it. It’s also great for when you buy a random item for a recipe (like that box of Rice Krispies for scotcheroos that’s laying around because you can’t make 2 pans in one month) and need another reason to use it.
This step can also be used after you choose your meals to know what spices, etc you have so you don’t buy multiples, as well.
2. Layout a Menu
When you sit down to make a menu, you need to look at your schedule for the week to see the days you’re going to be home and when you have time to cook. Also, meal planning is about more than just dinner. We eat breakfast, lunch, and snacks so they should be on the menu, too. For me, I like things quick and I like to eat many times a day. So when I menu plan it looks something like this:
- Breakfast: Over-night oats or hard boiled eggs
- Lunch: Wrap made with turkey or tuna/chicken salad
- Snacks: Cheesesticks, apples, and nuts (Check here for a list of options)
For dinner, I like to make large meals that I can eat for leftovers later in the week or bring for lunch. I also like to make things in the Crockpot when I don’t have a lot of time at night to cook. (If you’re looking for meatless options, that help you eat more veggies check this out.)
3. Avoid Pre-Packaged Meals
When I started my first “real” job that wasn’t at a restaurant, I had to actually grocery shop. So I took the easy route and purchased frozen meals to eat for lunch every day. Do you know what happened?
After 3 months of eating them, I gained weight! Between the sodium and extra additives to increase the shelf life, these meals were an unhealthy choice (This article has some fun facts about the negatives to additives). However, not all packaged food is bad. I still like to use frozen fruit for smoothies and eat canned tuna. But I now live by the rule of limiting packaged food not found in its natural form.
4. Make Things Ahead of Time
I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I get home from work I am ravenous (Like I’m going to eat my arm if I don’t get food in me now ravenous). My boyfriend likes to call this being ‘hangry’ (In case you have never felt the need for immediate food, Buzzfeed has a great article to understand my prospective). This is why we keep many snacks around the house to keep me patient while dinner cooks.
Previously when I lived alone, and didn’t have someone to keep me from shoving the first thing I saw in my mouth, I would prepare ahead of time. Sometimes that meant having snacks, like carrots & hummus or cottage cheese, to eat while I cooked or having dinner ready when I got home, either by cooking the day before or in the slow-cooker during the day. However it will work for you, I recommend doing it. No one wants to be hangry. Apparently it ‘isn’t attractive’.
5. Cheat Days are Good, But Try to Limit Eating Out
We hear so much about eating well and dieting and things to avoid and blah blah blah. Yet there’s never that article that says eat the ice cream. It will help you.
So I’m here to tell you, eat the dang ice cream. Or whatever it is you’re craving. Just in small doses (Not the whole pint even if Ben & Jerry totally gets you). Because if you deprive yourself of something that you love, then you will wind up binging on it later. Just don’t do it all the time. I suggest setting aside one or two days a week to go to dinner/drinks with friends or to splurge on that craving that you love. Your waistline and your wallet will thank you.
If we’re proactive now, then life will be easier as we age.
*Note: If you read my disclaimer, I am not an expert. Please do your research and talk to a health adviser before making any life changes.