Maybe I’m a total freak and normal humans would not need to overcome meal prep fears.
I have no idea. I’m not a normal human.
I was talking to DJ Foodie about his new book, MAKING ENDS MEAT, a guide to affordable batch cooking. I told him even the THOUGHT of meal prep was incredibly intimidating to me, but I had a lot of trouble explaining it.
What Was I Afraid of?
I’d pick recipes that would be ruined by freezing. I’d buy the wrong ingredients, or I’d get the wrong amounts. I’d have a stupid spreadsheet full of prices from 217 stores and miss half of what I needed from each stop, hate my life and give up before I even got home.
I’d prepare everything wrong. I’d stress out and procrastinate, letting the food spoil. I wouldn’t have enough room in the freezer once I started. I’d accidently dump half a container of salt into sauce and ruin two weeks’ worth of dinners.
I’d not have the right equipment so I’d MacGyver-it-up with whatever I could find (like I do) and blow up the kitchen. Basically, I’d make a royal mess of everything and prove myself an irredeemable loser.
All my fears wound up being variations of me, clumsily pushing through countless, self-induced mini disasters, wasting time, energy and money.
But this doesn’t mean I didn’t want to TRY meal prep. I just felt inadequate thinking about how I’d get from “great idea” to “a month’s worth of meals in the freezer.” So mostly, I didn’t go there outside my own head. I might read a blog on it here or there, imagine how great it would all feel, but never get past the checklists before declaring, “someday.”
But then I started helping care for my dad with Alzheimer’s and I needed to prep meals for my folks.
I felt strapped for time, even more strapped for energy and on a budget (always). My standard “figure it out as you go” approach wasn’t doing the trick anymore. I felt like I was completely failing when I told DJ, “I don’t just want to see your meal prep book succeed. I NEED for it to succeed. I am sinking over here.”
Now I may not have been quite as desperate if I’d been getting enough sleep, wasn’t grieving my father’s decline, or whatever, whatever, whatever. But life isn’t always neat and tidy. Sometimes, you find yourself holding a big ol’ plate of “whatever.”
And I really needed some help. So, I set my fears aside and promised DJ I would try out his system and report back.
How did DJ’s ideas work out for me? Very well, but with a caveat. How I do it is not like DJ does it. That’s fine, because it doesn’t need to be. I am not a professional chef and never will be one, but that’s not the qualifications needed to succeed.
What I needed was a solid framework to get started, plenty of practical, how-to info and more than anything, the courage to try. I needed encouragement, not lectures and stress about not doing things “right.”
Fortunately, DJ gave me plenty of what I needed. As he says in his book, “You do you, Boo!”
So here is how I did “me” and managed to get past my fears
#1: Overcome Meal Prep Fears by REFRAMING
I was already doing some batch cooking, even though I didn’t call it that. DJ pointed this out.
When I got bulk hamburger, broke it down into portions, seasoned and froze it, that WAS meal prep. Or when I chopped up everything for Mostly Mom’s Minestrone and vacuum packed it up in the freezer for a cold, tired someday? Meal prep, baby!
Same goes when I cooked up extra taco meat and stored it for later. Even when I just froze leftovers for another day, it counts as meal prep. Chopping up onions and celery to freeze before it goes bad is also meal prepping–and not avoiding the consequences of poor planning, dang it. Go, me!
Knowing I was already doing some of this made it way less intimidating. And I’d say there is a good chance you may be doing some meal prep without even realizing it as well. Go, you!
Think about building on what you already do. That feels a lot easier that starting from scratch (because it is).
#2: Overcome Meal Prep Fears by STARTING SMALL
It doesn’t have to be a single session to squirrel away a month’s worth of meals for 12 to count. Do something, anything, and work your way up. And don’t tell yourself it must be perfect, because perfectionism is just procrastination in a pretty dress.
Am I perfect at this?
No. No I am not. But I’m doing it, nonetheless.
I tend to prep ingredients more often than fully assembled dishes. So maybe I’ll cut a few extra veggies when I’m making dinner and bag them up to freeze. Then when I want to throw together a skillet meal or soup, I’ve got a bunch of pre-chopped veggies to make it quicker.
Once you try, you can get better. And each time you reach outside your comfort zone, you learn more and become more confident. Not perfection. Just progress. All progress is good progress. Small efforts add up.
#3: Overcome Meal Prep Fears by NOT COMMITTING TO MEAL PREP
Rational reasons are nice, but it’s invariably the emotional motivation that will ride you over a hump.
Don’t commit to WHAT you will do. Commit to WHY you want to. ~Dix
So don’t commit to any specific activity. That won’t do much go. Commit to goals really care about instead–the reason and not the routes. A big part of why I managed to overcome meal prep fears was because I knew exactly why I was doing it.
- I committed to helping my folks during a difficult time (by preparing meals).
- I committed to supporting my friend DJ, by testing the ideas in his book.
- I committed to taking good care of myself by eating reasonably well.
- I committed to prioritize making my own life easier.
- I committed to offering myself the same grace I offer others (and be happy with imperfect efforts).
In short: Give yourself credit for what you are already doing. Start doing a little more. Know exactly what you want to accomplish and commit to that.
Do these three things, and I’m betting you can overcome meal prep fears just like I did. I’m rooting you on! Just do your best, friends. That’s always enough.
p.s. Help Getting Started
Utterly biased recommendation: DJ Foodie’s book, MAKING ENDS MEAT was exactly the complete, well-organized and trustworthy info I needed, all in one place. Highly recommended.