Instagram Meal Prep isn’t realistic.

Instagram is full of beautiful meal preps just like the photo above, taken from my favorite Instagram account  She has the most beautiful and tasty looking meal preps.  And it looks so easy and doable, but trust me, all is not what it seems.

I remember the first time I saw delicious, healthy foods all in a row.  If that’s how you lose weight, I can definitely do that.  It seemed so easy. I can cook, put food in containers, and line it up in a row.  I surely can be healthy and fit too! 
Even better, I would get all of my weekly cooking out of the way.  My kitchen would be effortlessly clean all week (except for a few pesky containers to wash).  This seriously seemed like a perfect solution.
Well, long story short, none of it worked out like that. You can read about my first experiences learning to meal prep here [Misadventures in Meal Prepping].  But needless to say, ready to go meals is not the style of meal prep that works for me.
I threw individual-portioned meals out the window when I embraced the buffet-style meal prep.  But, my fiance and I had been talking about how great those Meal Prep Delivery services would be.  So I thought, wait, I can make those myself for about a quarter what the companies charge.  Let’s give this a try again (because apparently I am a glutton for punishment).

8 HOURS LATER….here is what I managed:

meal prep

The above photo includes: Breakfast – (9) services of egg bake, a batch of granola, and prepped berries; Lunch – (5) chicken tenders, potato/cauliflower mash, corn, and (5) pollo verde, grilled veggies, refried beach, and Spanish rice; Dinner – (2) pasta bakes and assorted leftover sides.

A few disclaimers.

I did not rush through this and I absolutely could have been more efficient. I also did dishes and kept the kitchen clean as I went which took some time. 

These are also fairly elaborate meals that have multiple side dishes and lots of ingredients. You could definitely simplify and streamline. However, the 8 hours did not include my recipe research or grocery list prep.
I can’t help but be proud when I look at these perfectly portioned and coordinated meals all lined up ready to go in the fridge. But 8 hours…ain’t nobody got time for that.
unrealistic meal prep

Since I seem to have forgotten the reasons why these meal preps are probably pretty unrealistic for the majority of people, here are the four reasons why this might not be realistic for you either.

1. Time Commitment.

As mentioned, these meals are pretty developed and time intensive.  But even if you were to replicate this on a simpler scale, it would take you at least 2-4 hours.  Even 3 hours is a completely unrealistic amount of time to devote to curating individual meals.
If you have children, a demanding job, or are in school, I bet you have a hard time cobbling together an hour to go to the gym.  Let alone a huge chunk of time on your day off, to cook and clean.
These meal preps look easy but are incredibly deceptive!
unrealistic meal prep

2. The amount of food.

If you are trying to cook a week’s worth of meals for one person, it’s a total of 21 meals.  Which is a lot but manageable.  If you are trying to cook a week’s worth of meals for more than one person, we are talking 42+ meals which is pretty unwieldy.
The sheer amount of food you are cooking is massive. Since it’s just the two of us, I really only have one or two large pots and pans.   So when i tried to make double or triple portion of some dishes, I had to wait for other things to finish to use the pot or pan.

There was just a lot of ingredients, a lot of food, and a lot that would go to waste if something was messed up or didn’t end up tasting good.

3. THE CONTAINERS, my goodness, the containers.

Seriously, so many containers.  And I thought I had a ton of unnecessary containers, boy was I wrong.  I was short a few and even had to triage the leftovers already in my fridge to rustle up a few more to make sure I could hold everything.
I go back to the 21 number, that’s how many meals you’re prepping. So you need 21 or more containers to hold all of your meals.  And at some point will then have to clean 21 containers and 21 lids.  I’m sure you get the point.

4. Dishes and cleaning Up.

As I mentioned in my disclaimers I made sure to clean as I went, and did my dishes while things were cooking.  If I had not taken that precaution, I’m pretty sure I would still be trying to get my dishes done.
I used every pot, pan, Crockpot, and cooking vessel I owned to make this meal prep happen. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t put very much in my dishwasher (actually I don’t use it at all, story for another time).
If I had started it at the end I would have never finished. Instead all those pots and pans would be stacked up on my stove and counter for a week, completely defeating the purpose of getting all the cooking done at one time.
unrealistic meal prep

5. Meal prep is just leftovers.

I anticipated this problem and still hit it head on.  We had an option of two different breakfasts and lunches for the week.  And I was still unsatisfied by day four.  It’s terrible, I know, but something about being forced to choose one thing makes me turn into a toddler and not want it.  
Also, not all of this food kept very well by day 4 and day 5.  We froze a few of these to ensure they were still okay to eat and they did not survive.  Not to mention, some things were runny, soggy, and unappetizing after being reheated.  
Over all leftovers are just not my favorite.  And that’s really what meal preps are, just fancy named leftovers.