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How A Few Hours in the Kitchen Can Change Your Life (Yes, Really.)

by Elise Museles

Sunday Funday

It’s 6:30 on a Tuesday night. Your meeting ran long, and you’ve been stuck in traffic for 45 minutes, starving and cranky while you rotate between two terrible radio stations. You stumble through the door, irritated and exhausted. Just when all hope for a decent evening seems lost, you open your refrigerator to find the makings of a delicious, healthy meal that you can have on a plate in less than ten minutes. (Sounds of angels and trumpets)

You change into something cozy and within a few minutes, you’re tucking into a a big, warming bowl of soup with a side of southwestern quinoa & black bean salad and grain -free chocolate chip cookies for dessert. You mentally thank the considerate person who thought ahead and made all this food.

(That person is you.)

If we’re friends on Instagram or Facebook, you’ve probably heard me sing the praises (and quite loudly, at that!) of “Sunday Funday.” It sounds like I’m overselling it, but it’s not an exaggeration to say that Sunday Funday has changed my life. It has exponentially reduced my stress, halved family meal gripes, and made it easier for everyone under my roof to eat healthier. When you set yourself up for a week of healthy eating, you’re so much more likely to succeed! You’re reminding yourself that you take this “health” business seriously; you’re putting in the work to make it part of your daily life.

Does that seem like something you’d like in your home? I thought so!

Today I’m breaking down how I spend just a few fun hours on Sunday prepping the food that my family and I will eat over the coming week. It has transformed the way our house runs—so much so that I almost can’t remember life before meal prep. (Or maybe I just don’t want to…?)

To get you started batch cooking and baking, here are some tips that I’ve found helpful.

Baby steps
If this is your first time meal prepping, don’t overdo it with three pots of soup, two different energy ball recipes, and 15 pounds of produce. Start with a few dishes and go from there. Whip up a batch of chia seed pudding to add to your berry parfait . Slice red peppers, cucumbers, and carrots to eat with the hummus you grabbed from the farmer’s market. Throw some grains in a pot while you roast a few root vegetables and prep all the colorful veggies for fresh salads.

When we keep things doable and fun, we’re more likely to keep doing them – which is the whole point, right?

Be just prepared enough
I wouldn’t really suggest heading to the market with a long, itemized list. Surprised? I also don’t always advise adhering to recipes! So what do I recommend?

Have a loose idea of your coming week and how you can prepare. Do you need protein bars to help you get through spin class? Will you have early meetings or camp carpools all week, making  smoothie ingredients a must-have for a quick breakfast option? Do you know you’ll need bite-sized snacks for a road trip? Let your week (and seasonal produce) guide your shopping decisions.

Make plenty of ‘base’ foods
If you include quinoa in most of your meals, make a huge pot of it. If you toss roasted sweet potatoes into your meals, throw two or three trays in the oven. If you always start with a leafy green salad, wash and slice those greens. If your family loves chicken, grill extra to add to lunch and dinner bowls. Think about the foods around which you center your meals and prepare enough of them to get you through the week.

Involve your friends & family and have a good time
It’s easier to get your partner/child/roommates in the direction of healthy choices if you involve them in the process. Ask them which of your recipes they like the best and invite them to join you at the farmer’s market. Encourage them to pick out the colors of the rainbow and stock up on the tomatoes, blueberries and avocados that they love so much.

When you get home, have a good time in the kitchen together. Turn on their favorite music, pass them their own chef’s knife and cutting board and enjoy each other’s company as you chop, peel, roast and grill.

Think about it as self-care
Instead of viewing batch cooking as a huge effort so that you’ll have something healthy to eat when you’re too tired to function, try reframing it as time you give to yourself to make an investment in your health and your week. That change in thought alone makes a pretty big difference, doesn’t it?

And if you’re still not convinced, imagine how thankful Future You will be when she opens up her fridge mid-week to discover lovingly prepared fruits, vegetables, soup, and snacks.

Show Future You how much you love her: Make her something good to eat.

Do you meal prep in advance? Share your favorite make-ahead meals in the comments. Right now, I’m into lots of colorful salads and grilling all the amazing summer veggies.

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