Food prep is one of the most necessary components of staying on your nutrition plan. It can also seem like one of the most overwhelming. I've already talked about keeping things simple. You don't have to turn into Martha Stewart for every meal. The fact is though that unless you have the funds to pay for a private chef, there IS a time commitment you will have to make. Grocery shopping is one of those necessary time-sucking evils. The good news is that there ARE a few ways to keep it from getting in the way of your success:
1.) Make a list: Taking a few minutes to make a list will save more time than trying to figure things out on the fly at the store. Going in without a plan is not only a good way to end up wandering aimlessly into the Doritos aisle but you may also end up having to make multiple trips to pick up the things you forgot about. Take a second and review your list before going into the store. Commit to the plan. Execute the plan. No wandering.
2.) Use your technology: There are tons of apps, and many of them free, available on the smartphone you're already carrying around everywhere. Not sure what you want to make and you're already at work? Epicurious can find a recipe for you based on ingredients you know that you already have on hand or want to include. It can also automatically generate a shopping list from a recipe you choose. If you're using a recipe from another source, they have also put out a list of grocery apps that can help with everything from simple lists to store specific shopping. If you share grocery shopping with a spouse, partner, roommate, etc., OurGroceries is another list app that users in your household can access to see which items have been purchased, what you still need, and to make additions when necessary. The paid version also allows photos to be uploaded if an item might be confusing for the person shopping or if you want to be clear that no substitutions are allowed. Explore what is out there and you'll find one that fits your needs.
3.) Shop during off-peak hours: Ask the manager of your favorite store for advice on the best time to shop. Whenever possible, hit those off-peak times and you'll save time parking, getting through aisles, and checking out.
4.) Use delivery or curbside pickup: If your schedule doesn't allow flexibility, there are still other options to cut down on time spent at the grocery store. Some larger cities offer grocery delivery services. Many CSAs are also willing to deliver. In other areas, stores such as Kroger and Meijer allow you to select your items online and pick them up at a predetermined time of your choosing without ever having to get out of the car. This can be a great way to keep stocked up on staples so a quick trip to the Farmer's Market, butcher, or other preferred source (if any) is all you need otherwise. The time you save not having to go into the store usually more than justifies the fee for the service.
Food prep takes time but with a little planning (and help from technology) you may find it is more do-able than you think.