Even a little goes a long way.

Last week I wrote a post talking about how important weekly food preparation is for keeping on track with your diet and healthy eating. I didn’t really know what to expect as it was my first blog post, but I’m really happy to say I’ve received quite a bit of positive feedback. I’m even more pleased to say that people felt able to share their worries and obstacles in response to my words.

As a family, we’ve been on the slimming world journey for 6 months now, so we’ve had plenty of time to trial, test and often fail in our preparation techniques. You don’t get into a routine overnight, and failure should always be thought of as the positive step to getting it right next time.

Your questions and comments reminded me of just how tricky this journey has been, so I wanted to come back to and expand on the idea of preparation to see if — just maybe — I can help out a little more.
Quite a few of the comments ended with “ I wish I had the time” or “ i tried to do it but it seemed overwhelming so i gave up”

I hear you. It can be time consuming and may often seem a little overwhelming if there are a few members in the house that you need to cater for. We definitely experienced these feelings. But I kept going back to what my old karate instructor used to say, “it never gets easier, you only get better.”

I think we all just need to remember that we’re only human! Life, work, kids, pets, something will inevitably get in the way; we just need to take it one day at a time, and gradually build to a routine that — most importantly — feels right for us. It really is worth it in the end.

Here are a few thoughts I had to help you break it down…

As you get started, don’t try to make your entire week’s worth of meals all in one go. Start small and work up. Prep a day or two in advance until you get more comfortable with the process and you feel you can take on more.

In the beginning, it’s best to stick with recipes you know like the back of your hand. That way you can be confident in the outcome, and all your focus can be on the preparation ahead of time. Our “go-to” recipes are the chicken & barley soup, bolognese (which can then be easily tweaked into a chilli) and a minestrone (mainly used for quick lunches in the office). Sticking to what you know means a stress free prep time as you are confident in the recipes, enabling you to get used to having these meals ready made ahead of time and seeing how beneficial it can be.

This one is important to remember if you’re feeling especially daunted by the thought of preparing in advance. Food prep can be any number of things; cooking full meals isn’t the only way to prepare. Try things like washing & cutting fruit, chopping veggies ready for meals or snacks, or cutting up and weighing your meat into portion sizes ready for recipes. This all helps to cut down your time in the kitchen, making it easier to make healthy decisions without thinking “but that’s going to take me ages.”

As I mentioned in the previous post — I organise my fridge into recipes, with all the main ingredients for specific a recipe grouped together on the shelves. So, by grabbing half or a full shelf’s worth of ingredients, I know I’m good to go and won’t need to go hunting around the fridge compartments looking for the carrots etc…

When starting out — or equally if you’re very pressed for prep time — it’s an important part of the plan to prioritise your meals. Ask yourself, “which recipe(s), if prepared ahead of time, is going to help make my week easier?” If mornings are crunch times, then focus on breakfast to keep you from missing out on this important meal as you dash out of the house, i.e. pre-cut fruit salad or overnight oats. If you find yourself stuck for anywhere to eat a healthy lunch then things like salad boxes, boiled eggs, packaged hams etc will all help. If dinnertime is your most stressful point then those bolognese, soups and slow cooker recipes will be the ones for you.

As this is primarily aimed at Slimming World dieters, I feel it’s important to mention syns. Prepping these can help you keep on track and avoid those extras that can easily creep in. We’ve all been in this scenario…you feel like something “naughty”, so you pop to the cupboard and grab a packet of something. “How many syns in X?” was an all to frequent cry in our house. “Dunno, I’ll have a look but i think X.” In the meantime, while you are leafing through the book, the SW website or googling the answer, X has already been eaten and often contains more syns than originally thought, sometimes pushing you over for the day. I’d recommend keeping a list of the treats you are likely to have and their syn values to hand — we have ours written out and on the sweetie cupboard so it’s unavoidable! This not only saves time, but also those awful “Oh man I should NOT have had that” guilty feelings.

It’s easy to think that if you haven’t got a whole afternoon to dedicate to your food prep then you shouldn’t even bother. Don’t get into this habit! There will always be moments when you just don’t have enough time. Equally, if you’re always waiting for the “perfect” time to start then, let’s be honest, nothing would ever get done. It’s important to make the most of the time you have, and do as much as you can with it. Be positive! Any food preparation is better than none at all — so even if it’s just one meal ahead, that’s one more meal you won’t have to worry about later.

The options are endless when it comes to prepping ahead of time; there really is no right or wrong way to go about it. It will often come down to making the most of your time, and getting as much done in that time as you can. That said, in order for you to sustain it and be successful at it, your prep routine must fit into your lifestyle. As ever, it’s important to find what works for you. You might only feel it necessary to prep your veggies ahead of time. Or maybe you switch to overnight oats to beat the Monday morning rush. Perhaps it’s a slow cooker meal, or two, a week that feels right for you.

When it comes down to it, preparation is only going to work if it meets your needs; don’t try and squeeze yourself into doing it all at once because people say it’s what you “should” be doing. Start slow, play around with what you do, and when you find what works for you, add in a few more meals or tweaks every week.

Give yourself some time. As with everything new, it’s really important to give yourself some time to experience the benefits, reap the rewards, and start to form new habits. It’s said that you need to do something for three weeks for it to become a habit — and this is no different. Don’t give up after the first week if it doesn’t all work out they way you imagined. Adapt and adjust along the way to make it fit in.

Food prep is all about making your life easier at mealtimes. For that little upfront effort that might initially seem like more work, I know you will come to see that it’s definitely worth it. Being able to open the fridge/freezer 10 mins before meal times and see food ready prepared and waiting to be eaten is really rewarding, time saving and totally stress relieving. There is nothing more stressful or boring than coming home after a long day and having to start to think about what you need to do to make a healthy meal. It was a game changer in our house, and i feel confident that if you give it a try it will be for you as well!

Remember, there are no rules to this, whatever is going to work for you is the right way to do it ;-)

— We have a family Instagram where we post pictures of our meals (dull) as well as recipes and tweaks to recipes —