Why Prepping Your Meals Only Once A Week Is A Big Mistake

Admittedly, meal prepping isn't for everyone. It requires picking out recipes before you grocery shop and setting aside time to cook a large batch of food. Prepping also assumes you have enough refrigerator real estate to accommodate all those portion-sized containers (we're looking at you, city-dwelling foodies with multiple roommates).

On the other hand, meal prepping is a great way to save money, combat time scarcity, and practice your culinary skills. One study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that meal planning is "associated with a better adherence to nutritional guidelines and an increased food variety (overall, fruits and vegetables)" in adults. An estimated 43.6% of Americans meal prep regularly, and it can help eliminate mealtime stress later in the week — but not at the expense of a stressful mass-meal-prep day on Sunday that leaves you up to your eyeballs in ingredients and overwhelmed before you even begin.

The point of meal prepping (not to be confused with batch cooking) is to streamline your weekly tasks and synergize the flow of your lifestyle. If cranking out an entire week's worth of meals in a single go doesn't feel like it fits naturally into your groove, don't be afraid to break your dedicated prep time into two- or three-day chunks. Sunday and Wednesday are popular choices, perhaps due to their even spread throughout the week. Thinking you have to do it all at once is a major meal prep mistake.

Work smarter, not harder

Making seven (or more) meals in one setting isn't just a large undertaking, it can also potentially compromise freshness. When you cook and package all your meals for the week at once, chances are that the quality of the meal you eat on Day Two is going to be a lot more appetizing than the same meal on Day Seven. Over time, bread gets soggy, casseroles break down, and salads wilt. It isn't your fault — but it is asking a lot from your airtight containers, and (news flash) they might not be up to such a Herculean feat. Plus, by meal prepping a few times a week, you also get to switch up your different recipes and keep things fresh from day to day. 

The exception here could be if you're whipping up a huge pot of soup. With soup, it's just as easy to make a big batch as a small batch, which can be poured into individual-portion-sized Tupperware containers for easy grab-and-go meals throughout the week. Many soups even become more flavorful after a few days.

As you get started, it can be helpful to start by prepping just lunch or just dinner for a few days and build from there. Alternatively, you could also just prep ingredients rather than entire meals. Chopping, peeling, slicing, and/or roasting your meats or veggies ahead of time can hugely expedite the cooking process for quicker meals later in the week.