beef and broccoli and stir fry veggies on meal prep containers

Why Is Meal Prepping So Hard? (5 Causes and Solutions!)

Typically, when we first get involved with a new lifestyle choice, we can often be overwhelmed with the best way to do it.

But why is meal preparation so difficult?

Meal prepping is hard without a system and without the right techniques.

With meal prep, you can spend hours looking for ideas on how to be more efficient at it, only to be met with countless websites promoting recipes and ideas that don’t help.

There are several misconceptions about meal prep that can be solved with a few simple explanations and some proper guidance, whether you’re just starting out or are a veteran meal prepper looking to shave a few minutes off weekly prep work.

So, how can you make meal prep easier?

Well, my forward-thinking friend, you have finally stumbled onto the right page to help you cut down on those long hours and painful grocery bills.

So put down the knife and the fifth pound of chicken, wash your hands, and help yourself to some tips and tricks to get you started with easing the load of your weekend kitchen sessions!

two meal prep containers with salmon and salad, pancakes and blueberries

The Causes and Solutions for Difficult Meal Prep

It can be very easy to want to conquer every step of meal prepping when you first get started in the skill of getting meals ready for the week.

The ambitious jolt we all feel when we realize we can just make our own homemade TV dinners that are not only healthy but as simple as a quick reheat can often be invigorating.

This can lead to grocery bills that are astonishingly expensive, time spent in the kitchen that feels more like a shift at the office, and a lot of uneaten food in our fridge.

young woman holding bags of groceries

Cause #1 — Meal Prepping is So Expensive!

How do you even spend two hundred dollars at a grocery store? Well, it starts with looking up 10 to 12 recipes that have more ingredients than you could find in a local farmers’ market.

A lot of money that gets spent at the grocery store could be cut in half relatively quickly with a few quick tips to lessen the financial pressure you feel every week.

Solution #1 — Plan Ahead and Look For Deals

With meal preparation, typically speaking, you will be making one to three meals for the week.

Now, if you want to prepare your family’s ancestral beef stroganoff recipe that costs more than most car payments, I’m not here to stop you.

Alternatively, you could look for recipes that are not only simple to make but relatively easy on your wallets.

A popular choice for those that want a healthy meal that is also easy on the wallet is chicken and broccoli on a bed of rice. Compare the cost of that per serving to any restaurant you could eat at, and you will see why people save an absolute fortune on food per month by switching to meal prep.

You should also keep an eye out for things that are in season or on sale and take advantage of them. Out-of-season produce can be unbelievably expensive.

different veggies on the table for meal prep

Cause #2 — Cooking All This Food Takes Forever!

I’m sympathetic to this problem. I’ve been in the same position.

When first starting out, it can be very difficult to feel like you are saving time when you are watching the hours cruise by as you sweat over a hot stove with three different burners working at once.

This noon-to-night kitchen work can make it feel like you are wasting time trying to cook for yourself when you could just as easily get something to heat up on the way home.

Solution #2 — Get Familiar With Reliable, Simple Meals

Do you remember the first time you actually sat down and tried to peel potatoes? (This is gonna be a pretty weird analogy, but bear with me.)

The first time you peeled potatoes, you were slow, terrified about the safety of your index finger, and sloppy at making good peels every time.

Now try to remember the third time you skinned a potato. Your index finger was an afterthought as you got smooth pull-throughs with every swipe of your trusty swivel peeler.

Cooking a meal you’ve never made before is incredibly similar.

At first, you will be double-, triple-, and quadruple-checking the recipe and instructions to make sure you get it right. By the tenth time you cook it, you will be a machine, finishing in half the time while blaring Spotify loud enough to get a noise complaint.

The more you reuse a few easy, familiar recipes the quicker you will become. What was once an all-day affair will quickly be cut down to a few hours, and you won’t have to worry about food until the next cooking session.

Cause #3 — A Lot of My Groceries Expire

Anyone who has stepped into their local grocery store has experienced this.

Shopping for food is a lesson in patience, and one of the hardest ones to learn is that sometimes your potato can turn into a weird, starch tree.

If you are just beginning in meal prep, you will likely have that uncomfortable moment when you realize that half of the stuff in your fridge is a few days past moldy.

Solution #3 — Plan Out Meals and Only Buy Ingredients for Those Recipes

We have to take some accountability for our spending habits, and unfortunately, sometimes our eyes are bigger than our stomachs or our wallets.

The difficult reality to face is that a lot of the time when we start grocery shopping, we begin to buy everything in sight, thinking we will make a meal out of it when in reality, we aren’t even sure what papaya really is.

Keep a list of every ingredient you will need for your weekly prep (keep it simple), as well as drinks and household items like paper towels and deodorant. The next time you go shopping, stick to just what is on the list.

It can become a lot easier not to spend needlessly when we hold ourselves accountable, especially with a written list.

This is especially true for food, which will become second nature as you shop more often with meal prep in mind.

Don’t beat yourself up over this one, though. Everyone has been guilty of letting things go once or twice in their life.

healthy meal prep for lunch

Cause #4 — I Don’t Want to Eat the Same Thing Every Day

Are you suddenly too good for chicken, broccoli, and rice?

Just kidding, it’s perfectly natural to be looking at two more days of the same meal, wondering how you are possibly gonna stomach another bite of the same dinner.

There is a guy out there who has eaten a Big Mac every day since the seventies, but that doesn’t mean you have to eat chicken every day of your life.

Solution #4 — Prep Alternatives or Prep More Often

So there are probably more ways to get around this feeling of culinary monotony, but I want to discuss the two I find to be the most helpful.

The first is making sure that when you prep for the week, you add a few substitutes throughout.

Maybe instead of rice, you cut up a bit of iceberg lettuce and use a couple of slices of cucumbers instead of broccoli. Now that chicken isn’t as unpalatable as it was a couple of minutes ago.

Another good way to break up the monotony is to prep twice a week or prepare a couple of meals at the beginning of the week.

If you have some time in the middle of the week, maybe you can cut down the time you prep on the weekend in half by making the second part of the week’s food on a Wednesday or Thursday.

This way, you are making sure that you don’t get nauseated whenever you look at a stalk of broccoli, and it also lessens the work you have to put in on one day by splitting it across the week.

prepping ingredients for crockpot cooking

Cause #5 — I Don’t Enjoy Cooking

So you wanna eat better, but your local community has little more than a Subway when it comes to healthy restaurants. The problem is, though, you find cooking about as entertaining as watching someone watch paint dry.

Not everyone has to love a hobby, and cooking is definitely something that isn’t for everybody, so how do you meal prep when you can’t stand the idea of making food?

Solution #5 — Utilize Cooking Hacks

Just because you don’t like standing over a stove for an hour and a half doesn’t mean you can’t still prep meals.

Take advantage of culinary shortcuts that make the process of cooking much simpler and more efficient.

Now off the top of my head, I am not entirely aware of who invented the crockpot, but they deserve a national holiday in their honor.

By utilizing crockpot recipes, easily prepared foods, or simple salad combinations, you can cut the time in your kitchen down to a few minutes and still enjoy delicious meals throughout the week.

Unfortunately, you will still have to spend some time in the kitchen, though 30 minutes a week is a lot more preferable than 4 to 5 hours (even longer if you aren’t familiar with cooking).

Conclusion

Meal prepping doesn’t have to be hard — it doesn’t even have to be time-consuming. The longer you stick with it and learn what works for you, the simpler it will be.

With these solutions to those doubts that may be plaguing you, you can comfortably get started and shave off a noticeable amount of time and money!

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