Psst… You don’t have to love meal prep

Confession: I hate meal prepping. I don’t mean chopping vegetables and seasoning meat before I actually cook my food. That part I enjoy. I mean cooking enough food for 4-7 meals, packaging it separately, and then eating it throughout the week. I’ve tried it. It annoys the heck out of me.

Of course, the problem that it’s trying to solve is good. Cooking for one person sucks. I’m used to cooking for a whole family, or at least a decent group of friends, which means making enough food for 4-6 people and often having a little leftover. It’s easy to cook that way, and I’m happier to put effort in because it isn’t just for my sake.

When I’m cooking for just me, it’s harder to portion things, a lot of effort for just one person, and can lead to extra expense or wasting ingredients. To avoid that, the lazy thing to do is to eat lazy food like frozen meals and takeout, which are often unhealthy and are usually also more expensive than normal cooking. Hence — especially since emerging adulthood often means we’re cooking solo and short on funds — meal prep.

But I have been forced to realize that I simply will not eat more than 2 (maybe 3) portions of what are effectively leftovers. I don’t like leftovers, and that’s a very privileged problem to have, but here we are. However, part of the issue is that I don’t like anyone telling me what I have to eat, including past me. And while I’m willing to eat the same thing frequently, three dinners in a row is too much.

Which, of course, presents a problem. To which I am currently trying out what has (so far) been an effective solution. I present to you: partial meal prep. What I mean by that is that I go to the store, buy a number of ingredients that are an A+ in the mix-and-match department, do all the washing and chopping ahead of time, and then package them up and put them in the fridge/freezer/whatever. This way, I have options where I still get to choose the details of what I’m having and do the final stages of putting it together (rather than just reheating it). But all my options are fairly healthy and I’ve taken some of the work out of the process.

So far, this has mostly been with fruits and veggies because like most of us I know I need to be eating more of them. I bought a bunch of salad ingredients I actually like, prepped them, and then when it’s time to eat I just pick whichever ones I’m feeling like and make a salad that actually tastes good.

I’ve also been pre-cutting and packaging berries so that I have those as a snack at home or at work instead of chips or bread or other things I already eat enough of. I’m still working on incorporating more proteins, but have at least separated some meats into smaller portions sizes in the freezer so when I cook it it’s a couple rounds of leftovers and I don’t end up wasting food.

Of course, if the full meal prep thing works for you, go for it. But if you’re like me and are prone to food boredom, then this is a good halfway point to help out your health and your wallet without making a week’s worth of dinners in one go.

What have you found most helpful when cooking for one person? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

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