How to Meal Prep for the 9 to 5

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Eating healthily is hard, right? I used to spend ages every evening making a salad for my lunch al-desko the next day, but quickly realised that a long day at work or a busy evening would mean I’d take a drive to the shops at lunch time to buy something. Not the most budget-friendly, or supportive of my fitness goals. Weekly food-prep seemed to be the way forward!

I tried for ages to get into the typical food-prep routine, finding myself frustrated at spending hours in the kitchen on a Sunday afternoon only to eat boring food that made me want to head to the vending machine within minutes. However, now I have picked up my own style of food-prepping, and some tips that I’d like to share with you. All with the aim of hopefully helping you make some tasty breakfasts and lunches for your 9-5 job.

Food Prep #likeaboss

First Up… Smoothies

I’ve already talked about my post-workout smoothies in my 12 uses for protein powder post, but I really do think this little addition to my diet has made the world of difference in my training. I used to go from finishing CrossFit at 7am to getting to work at 9am having had nothing but a cup of tea, but for the last 2-3 months or so I’ve added in a smoothie as my “first breakfast”.

I keep frozen fruit and cartons of almond milk, to ensure I always have a supply of ingredients. I usually use half a banana and a handful of blueberries, mixed berries or mango and spinach, give it all a blitz and then add in my creatine and whey protein. Recently though, I’ve found PACK’D, which are pre-portioned smoothie kits made up of chopped frozen fruit/veg and a sachet of superfood ingredients. I wasn’t keen on the Detox superfood sachet (though the fruit/veg on its own was lovely!) but the Energy and Defence packs are blooming marvellous. I make them all with almond milk, and of course my creatine and whey. They really are a time saving machine and give you a brilliant variety of nutrients to start your day. You can buy PACK’D from Sainsbury’s. I’ve only seen the Detox one, but hopefully they’ll stock the other flavours soon!

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(Second) Breakfast

I have a few grab-and-go breakfasts, my favourites being eggy oats (porridge made with egg whites) topped with fruit and nut butter, Protein Weetabix with greek yoghurt and fruit, greek yoghurt mixed with whey and topped with granola and fruit, or scrambled egg (eaten cold by the time I take it to work) with smoked salmon and avocado and some chilli flavoured munchy seeds. But, if I really want to be organised, I’ll cook up a frittata.

I choose my fillings (veg, meat, cheese herbs, etc.) and fry them off in an oven-proof pan until cooked. Whisk some eggs and egg whites with a little salt and pepper and pour them into the pan. Leave it to cook on the bottom and then transfer the pan to a pre-heated grill to cook through. Leave to cool and then cut into quarters. This usually keeps in my fridge for about 4-5 days.

Lunches

I find a hot lunch so much more filling than a cold one, and vegetables better than salad, so I typically cook up a batch of meals that I can microwave at work. I opt for meatloaf (this recipe for hot or cold meatloaf is amazing) turkey sausages (these ones from Sainsbury’s are amazing), salmon fillets, or chicken thighs. Yes, I know chicken thighs are higher in fat, but they’re so much more flavourful and don’t dry out when re-heated like breasts do! Plus, there’s evidence to suggest that saturated fat isn’t associated with heart disease after all.

I batch cook my meat using the most amazing cooking invention known to man (ok, maybe a slight exaggeration, but seriously, this thing is great!), the Tefal OptiGrill. It’s basically like a souped-up George Foreman grill. It has different settings depending what meat you want to cook and then a sensor in the hinges that detects the thickness of the meat. Together, these calculate when your food will be cooked (you can even cook straight from frozen!), or even when it will be rare, medium or well done (for red meat and bacon). I’ve used it for steak, lamb steaks, bacon, sausages, chicken thighs and fish and all have come out perfectly cooked. It’s a food prepper’s dream! And what’s more… the plates can be removed and put in the dishwasher. Amazing.

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For sides I go for a big portion of mixed vegetables. My favourite combinations are:

  • Ratatouille – garlic, red onion, courgette, aubergine, peppers, plum tomatoes, chopped tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, basil, thyme.
  • Roasted veg – red onion, mushrooms, peppers, courgette, cherry tomatoes, mixed dried herbs.
  • Lentil mix – puy lentils, red onion, cherry tomatoes, garlic, spinach (I add the spinach raw to the Tupperware and then microwave it with the whole meal to wilt it, then it’s not double-wilted!).
  • Green veg – courgette, tenderstem broccoli, sugar snap peas, kale and leeks. Leeks make everything taste amazing!

Sometimes I go mad and sprinkle my meals with feta too!

I try to avoid having starchy carbs with lunch (but have them with dinner and sometimes breakfast) because I feel that my weight is more easy to manage this way, but you could easily add a portion of rice, sweet potato, new potatoes, pasta, etc. to these meals.

Snacks

This doesn’t really count as food prep, as I tend to go for easy to grab snacks that I can chuck in a bag and take to work, but I thought I’d tell you what works for me, in case there’s something you want to try yourself! My go-to snacks are:

  • Yeo Valley Bio Active Live yogurts – these are delightful yogurts flavoured with fruit (no refined sugar). I have an afternoon sweet-tooth so a lunch-dessert always helps stave this off! I bought mine from Sainsbury’s.
  • Apple with peanut butter (my favourite right now is Pic’s, which is made with just nuts and salt, or the unsalted one which is 100% peanuts). I bought mine from Be:Fit, but you can also pick it up from their online store.
  • Kind snack bars – if you haven’t had these, you’re missing out! They are nut-based snack bars that actually have a pretty reasonable sugar content in them. I used to have Nakd bars, but found myself hungry shortly afterwards, however these keep me nicely satisfied until dinner. My favourites are the dark chocolate and sea salt, or maple glazed pecan and sea salt, but they’re all lovely! You can get them in Tesco, Waitrose, or Whole Foods.
  • Battle Oats – these are so lush and filling it’s unreal! They’re basically flapjack bars made with gluten free oats, coconut oil, butter, honey and flavourings. They also have a whey mix and protein crisps in, meaning each one packs a 20g protein punch. All flavours are lovely, but my favourite are cinnamon raisin and cranberry & blueberry fusion. I bought mine direct from their website, but you can also get them from Amazon*.

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I do sometimes have other snacks instead, like egg muffins, boiled eggs and fruit, or rice cakes with avocado and egg or goats cheese and fig, but realistically these do take extra prep, and right now I’m finding my breakfast and lunch prep takes up enough time. Convenience means that maybe I’m having a little more sugar than is ideal, but right now it’s working for me.

Final Thoughts

So there’s my slightly-longer-than-intended post on how I prep my meals for working 9 to 5. I hope you’ve found it useful, or at least interesting? Ultimately I’ve spent far too long in the past looking at the minute details of my diet and forgetting to consider the bigger picture that I’ve now gone back to basics and am taking the big steps to try and make my diet better – i.e. avoiding shop-bought sandwiches (which usually come with a packet of crisps and/or a chocolate bar or sugary drink!), making healthy, nutrient packed lunches, and eating foods that I know will fill me up.

Getting to know your body, what it needs and wants, and what fuels that fire in your belly is the main goal. Don’t sweat the small stuff!

Do you prep your meals in advance? What do you like to cook up? Comment below – I’d love to hear from you!

Photos taken using my Olympus PEN E-PL7* and M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 45mm 1:1.8 Lens*

Disclaimer: I received items from PACK’D and Tefal for free, and I spent a day at Yeo Valley to find out more about their Bio Live yogurts. As always, my opinion is my own and not affected by items gifted to me. To find out more about my policy on this and other matters, see my Disclosure page. * Affiliate link. Affiliate links do not affect the price that you pay, but any commission earned helps me to pay the costs of running this site. To find out more about my policy on this and other matters, see my Disclosure page.

8 Comments

  1. 19th May 2016 / 7:31 am

    Don’t apologise for the post being long, it’s really helpful! Now that I’ve started running again I’ve been overhauling my diet but it does take time and effort, so it’s great to see how someone else manages it all!

    Laura xx | Loved By Laura

    • Georgina Spenceley
      19th May 2016 / 9:46 am

      Thanks so much Laura! I’m glad it was helpful. Well done on picking up running again! x

  2. 19th May 2016 / 9:08 am

    I totally stopped meal prepping as I never seemed to have a Sunday free to do so but your post has inspired me to try and start again! I definitely need to try Pack’d – I saw them in tesco the other day and they look great!

    Ali (My Big Fit Diary)

    • Georgina Spenceley
      19th May 2016 / 9:48 am

      Oh that’s great to hear – thanks Ali! Let me know what you think of PACK’D! I think it’s such a great idea, but a little pricey – I know I’d never have all of those ingredients available at once though, so really it’s a price you have to pay if you want the variety! Good luck with food prep 🙂

    • Georgina Spenceley
      19th May 2016 / 9:49 am

      Thanks Hannah! It is SUCH a good grill. I was lucky to receive it, but knowing what time and effort it saves me (and the fact I don’t have to watch the meat to see when it’s cooked so I can do other things at the same time) I’d definitely splash out for it myself. LOVE your blog name by the way! x

  3. 19th May 2016 / 1:29 pm

    This was super useful and great snack suggestions!

    Sophie-rose.co.uk x

    • Georgina Spenceley
      24th May 2016 / 6:56 pm

      Thanks very much Sophie! Glad it was helpful x

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