When you’re running your own empire, it can be hard to fit in the basics like sleeping enough and eating well. We usually think about meal-prepping as a thing for people who work in an office, but it can actually save you time and money when you work from home too.
I’m Jess Cording, a dietitian, health coach, and writer, and I do most of my work from home. When my #wfh clients (had no idea that hashtag was even a thing until recently) ask if they should still do to the #mealprep thing, my answer is always an enthusiastic, “Totally!”
When I first started working more from home, I’d cook from scratch every morning, noon, and night. When you factored in prep time, eating time, and the Instagramming my #lunchbreak time (sad, maybe, but comes with the food blogger-dietitian territory), it’s no wonder maintaining momentum was a struggle.
Be honest, have you ever found yourself on a call trying to do the dishes or chop vegetables as quietly as possible as 2 pm?
Um, yeah, me neither.
Having lived that reality, I’ve found prepping food ahead of time to be incredibly helpful, and my clients who’ve tried it have too. You don’t have to do the massive spreads you see on social media.
Here’s how some slight tweaks can help you make food prepping work for you so you can enjoy healthy, delicious meals that are quick to throw together.
You’ll also enjoy simple pleasures like real plates and utensils and without having to hunt for a comfortable spot in the cafeteria.
You don’t need a formal meal plan—even a short list in the notes section of your phone works.
To give you a real-life example, I have a note that lists Monday to Sunday and then simply the meals I plan to have each day. I take that week’s plans into account so I know which days I’ll have time to cook and when I may be dining in a restaurant or eating on the go.
That said, you can also use a meal-planning app or set up a google calendar or spreadsheet to help you map out what meals and snacks.
Regardless of what method you use, planning streamlines your shopping and saves time and money, whether you’re physically going to the store or using an online retailer.
Block out time to actually prep what you bought.
Sure, you can do the Sunday afternoon thing, but if it makes sense for you to spend an hour on Sunday, and then a half-hour on Tuesday night, and another hour Thursday morning—go for it!
If you struggle with carving out time, put it on your calendar to remind yourself that your health is equally important to the other stuff on your to-do list.
When it comes to meal-prep, my philosophy is, “If you’re turning on the oven to make one thing, you may as well make all the things.”
Rather than knock yourself out making an assembly line of mason jar salads, overnight oats parfaits, or identical Buddha bowls, though, make it your goal to turn your fridge into a salad or stir-fry bar. By that, I mean focus on prepping a bunch of ingredients you can pick and choose from later when you’re ready to eat.
That way, you won’t be cooking from scratch every time but you have the flexibility to change your mind if you don’t feel like having the same thing five days in a row. Maybe you want to eat a salad with grilled chicken one day and then maybe you want it on a sandwich the next. The lentils you use for Tuesday-night vegan tacos are easy to repurpose with roasted veggies, goat cheese, and a poached egg.
Here are a few of my meal-prep staples:
- Wash and trim some greens to use for salads or to throw into omelets, stir-fries, pasta, and more.
- Spiralize some veggies such as zucchini, beets, or butternut squash. They’re a great way to add color and nutrients to cold or hot dishes.
- Roast a sheet pan of various vegetables to use throughout the week. A few delicious ones: brussels sprouts, cauliflower, asparagus, and butternut squash.
- Hard boil some eggs for an easy protein option you can enjoy over salad, on toast, in egg salad (try making with avocado instead of mayo for a delicious healthy twist), or on their own as a simple snack.
- Grill some up some chicken or tofu. While you’re at it, marinated veggies like peppers, zucchini, and eggplant are also delicious on the grill and incredibly versatile.
- Your slow cooker is awesome for a hands-off way to make chicken or another protein you can use in a variety of dishes.
- Shake up homemade salad dressing to use through the week. Keep it stored in a sealed jar or airtight container to keep it fresh. Try olive oil with vinegar and dijon mustard or play with incorporating fresh herbs. Miso-tahini is another of my favorite flavor combinations.
- Make a pot of your favorite whole grain or beans to use for quick and easy carbs.
Make It Nice
Establishing work-life boundaries can be hard when you work from home, but carving out designated space in your schedule can actually help you be more productive and happier.
I struggle all the time with tearing myself away from the computer for meals, but here’s what has worked for me: Put your lunch break on your calendar to remind yourself it carries just as much importance as other stuff in your day.
Use your best plates and arrange food attractively. Those extra thirty seconds take you from “get food in mouth” to an actual eating experience. Sit away from your computer and keep your phone out of reach.
For those of you with an outdoor space to sit, take advantage and savor your break. Even 15 minutes makes a world of difference!
Do you meal plan?
If not, are you inspired to start trying? Leave a comment below!
About Jess Cording
Jessica Cording, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian, health coach, and writer with a passion for helping others experience a happier, calmer life and a balanced relationship with food. Through her writing, consulting, public speaking, and counseling, she works with individuals, corporations, health care companies, food and lifestyle brands, and the media to help make drama-free healthy living approachable and enjoyable.
Need some lunch inspiration? Jess created five day's worth of delicious make-ahead lunches to make it even easier to eat well on a busy day.