Keep it Simple and Plan Ahead – Keys to Avoid Meal Prep Burnout

Written by Beth Chamberlain. Nutrition Educator, Waldo County.

Coffee Cup, Plate, Table, Breakfast, Chair, Morning

Several years ago Mark Bittman, well known American food journalist and cookbook author, wrote an article for the NY Times called, “Summer Express: 101 Simple Meals Ready in 10 Minutes or Less,” (find article here: https://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/18/dining/18mini.html). While some of his recipes may not be particularly budget-friendly, the ease at which they can be prepared is something to be admired. Who doesn’t love the idea of meals made in 10 minutes or less?

Meal prep burnout is something we all experience.

What’s quick, easy, and healthful – is often our daily challenge. Bittman takes the agony out of meal prep by showing us that a knife, cutting board and skillet, are all that’s needed for easy-to-prepare meals. His article also demonstrates that cooking with whole foods can be just as fast and convenient as ripping open a package of microwaveable processed food, but significantly more nourishing. A great reminder that convenience foods are not the only time-saving option.

Food, Salad, Raw, Carrots, Sliced And Diced

Take inventory of your kitchen. Do you own any gadgets and appliances? Are you using them? Crock pots, Instant Pots, Grills and air fryers are either good old standbys or the latest trend. If you have any of these, you may want to dust it off and give it another go. All these methods typically require little prep time but yield a deliciously cooked meal.

Trying new recipes can rekindle motivation which is one of the keys to avoid meal prep burnout. Find a recipe that makes your preferred vegetable the star of the show. For example, cut a zucchini in half, lengthwise, scoop out the seeds then top it with your favorite pizza toppings. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until zucchini is fork tender. Find recipe here: https://www.mainesnap-ed.org/recipes/zucchini-pizza-boats/ Tired of cooking altogether? Explore no-cook meal ideas online!

Creating a weekly menu is another of the keys to avoid meal prep burnout. Get the family involved –have each family member choose their favorite. If possible, take turns making meals. Think about what you have on hand then make a shopping list. Check out store flyers to take advantage of what’s on sale. Find resources to spice things up, such as weekly menu charts, like the one here: https://choosemyplate-prod.azureedge.net/sites/default/files/audiences/grocery_gameplan_interactive.pdf .

The bottom line is to keep things simple. Start with what you know and go from there. Plan ahead by pairing foods with easy recipes for quick, simple meals, as Bittman does. Like most things in life if we keep it simple and plan ahead, the outcome is more in line with the result we want.

Father and Son on the Kitchen