There are many benefits to meal prepping and this article will go over the pros and cons of meal prepping. We will look at it from many different viewpoints so that you (the consumer) can make the best decision for yourself based on your own personal goals.
First of all, what is meal prepping? Meal prepping, if you are unfamiliar, is the action of preparing your meals beforehand. Whether that be just for a single meal, an entire day or for an entire week. The pros of meal prepping are as follows:
- Convenience (meals are already prepared)
- Allows you to not have to worry about your meal
- 100% adjustable to your goals
- Sets yourself up for success
- Cost efficiency (it is cheaper)
The cons of meal prepping are as follows:
- Time consuming
- Tedious (similar to time consuming)
- Can be monotonous
Let’s talk about the Cons of meal prepping and the first being that it is time consuming. This is referring to the time it takes to prepare the food beforehand. When you meal prep you are cooking and preparing your meals a day or a few days prior to consumption. On the flipside, it takes hardly any time the day of, because you are quite possibly sticking your meal in the microwave and heating it up. Prior to this though, you do have to cook and prepare your meal beforehand. This can take anywhere from maybe an hour to a few hours depending upon what you’re preparing and how long you’ve been doing it for. If you’re a beginner, this will probably take a while. If you are actually weighing and tracking your food in an app this will add some more time to the equation. The good news is that with practice it won’t take you nearly as long to do! I myself am able to prepare an entire week’s worth of lunches and dinners in about an hour, maybe an hour and a half.
I’ll add to this the point that it can be tedious. While tedious can be time consuming which it is, I’ll also be adding to that the tediousness of being detail oriented. If you are weighing your food with a food scale you will be adding a small amount of time to the equation. On top of that, if you are logging your food in an app and trying to get your food to match your numbers precisely there might be some adjusting of the volume of food on the scale to match a certain weight. This will also add some time if you’re a beginner. Depending upon your goals and possible macro numbers you might need less than a pound of meat, you might need .8 pounds, 12.8 ounces, or 363 grams. Now, as I just demonstrated that with practice this will become easier. I’ve been logging long enough to know that a pound is also 16 ounces, or 454 grams depending upon how you want to track and weigh your food. Do you need to know this… no you definitely do not. You’ll just have to always log with the same unit of measurement.
The final point is that it can be monotonous, however it definitely doesn’t have to be. I myself do very well preparing and eating the same thing. Jen on the other hand doesn’t enjoy eating the same thing and varies her meals regularly. That being said, she does have probably about 4 or 5 meals that she uses more regularly than others, but that’s a different meal every night of the week.
Now for the Pros, the first being Convenience. When you prepare your meals beforehand your meals are already to go and all you have to do is heat them up. There is no deciding where to go, what to eat, what you’re in the mood for, the amount of time it might take to drive to and from. Just put your meal in the microwave and heat it up, or even easier… just eat it.
This is also similar to not having to worry about your meal. If you are indeed tracking your meals, macros, and/or calories, you don’t have to worry about how to modify your meal to match your goals. Do you take the cheese off your meal to cut down on the amount of fat you’re getting, do you add more meat to match your protein goals? These are things you might have to do if you’re eating out at a restaurant or some sort of a fast food type of place.
The next Pro to prepping your meals beforehand is that your meals are completely adjustable to your macro or caloric goals. When you’re prepping your meals beforehand you’re figuring out how many carbs you want or what percentage of protein you’re trying to hit for the day, or perhaps you’re just trying to consume 2000 calories daily and you don’t want to exceed this. When you prepare your meals beforehand you can add more meat, or take away some oil from your meals to match what your caloric or macro goals are. The difficult part of eating out is not knowing how much butter was used in cooking the meal, or looking at your plate and trying to figure out… is that 5 or 8 ounces of veggies. To add to that… do you even know what 8 ounces of veggies looks like or how does 8 ounces of veggies compare in size to 8 ounces of chicken or 8 ounces of rice? All those items have different masses and therefore 8 ounces is going to look very different for all of them. How do you figure that out and enter it into your app? If you prepared your meal beforehand you already have this all figured out.
This also ties directly into the Pro of being set up for success. If your meals are prepared beforehand you are getting the same amount of carbs or fat that you should be getting. You’re also getting the same amount of sodium because you know how much you did or didn’t add to your meal. As most of us know and realize, salt makes food taste good. How much salt was added to your meal? As we all also probably realize, salt causes water retention and if we had more salt with a meal because we ate out it will be reflected in the scale the next morning or the next couple of days. If we are prepping our meals beforehand we are able to control all of these variables and that is the number one way to be successful with our weight goals or body transformation goals. Consistency is key, and there is no better way to be consistent than preparing your meals beforehand.
The final benefit to preparing your meals is the cost savings. Just by way of comparison I’m going show you a few different options, the caloric and macro break down and also the cost. One of my favorite lunches is 2 pounds of ground chicken which is $3.99 a pound and a pound of rice which costs $1.49. I’ll also add some seasoning to it for some additional flavor. This meal comes out to $1.90 a day and the entire week is only $9.50. Another option is 2 turkey and cheese sandwiches made at home. The bread is about $3 a loaf, the shaved turkey is $7.99 a pound and the sliced cheese was $2.49 a package. This meal comes out to about $2.95 a meal and around $14.50 for a week. The macro breakdown of the Chicken and Rice comes out to 570 calories with 70 grams of carbs, 14 grams of fat and 44 grams of protein. The macro breakdown of the 2 sandwiches comes out to 520 calories, with 46 grams of carbs, 19 grams of fat and 44 grams of protein. By way of comparison the macro breakdown of a fast food burger is around 570 calories with 40 grams of carbs, 34 grams of fat and 30 grams of protein. Also, by way of comparison a 7.5 inch chicken cousin’s sub has 580 calories, with 49 grams of carbs, 27 grams of fat, and 35 grams of protein. These are also just the sub or the burger breakdown. If you add to that chips or fries you are adding roughly 200-300 extra calories and that doesn’t include a soft drink. Here is a chart to help illustrate the cost per meal and week when food prepping versus eating out.
|Cost per meal
|Cost for one week
|Chicken and rice
|2 Turkey sandwiches
|Fast food (burger only)
|7.5 inch sub sandwich
Please keep in mind that these numbers are for the most part kind of an average. Actual numbers can vary, but your looking at saving yourself a minimum of $10 a week. If you go out to eat at a sit down restaurant you’re probably looking at each meal costing $15 or more taking your weekly total to over $75 a week. In addition to that, you don’t have any idea of the caloric breakdown of those meals because most restaurants won’t list them. As you can see, meal prepping while tedious at first will not always be tedious and it will set you up for success in the long run. So it comes down to your goals and where you would like to be in a year from now, or 5 years from now?