Meal prep is the practice of preparing food in advance. This can be cooking complete meals that reheat well or simply prepping ingredients like chopping veggies or marinating meat. It is often done to save time, but can also be helpful for people who struggle with food prep or are adjusting to a new diet. The key is to start small and work your way up!
Plan Your Meals
Meal prep is becoming popular as a way to save time, maintain a healthy diet and avoid relying on processed or restaurant food. However, it’s important to find the right meal prep method for your needs. Here are some meal prep tips and ideas to help you get started. Decide which meals you want to prepare ahead of time. It’s helpful to pick a few full recipes that you know well, especially when you’re first starting out. But don’t pick only one recipe for the whole week — that can get boring and won’t give you enough variety to meet your nutrient goals.
On your prep day, focus on preparing foods that take the longest to cook (proteins like chicken and fish; whole grains like brown rice, quinoa or farro); canned or dried beans; and fresh fruit and vegetables. It’s also a good idea to stock your fridge and freezer with shelf-stable ingredients like broth, tamari sauce, jarred salad dressings and spices so you have them on hand for quick meals during the week.
Shop Your Pantry
Keeping an easy pantry meal stash in your back pocket is a lifesaver in case you can’t make it to the grocery store for a few days. It’s also a practical way to cut your grocery budget. Storing ingredients in airtight containers keeps them fresher longer. You can purchase dedicated pantry storage jars or any glass or plastic container with a lid that screws on (Talenti, mason jars and old plastic meal prep containers all work well).
Stock the items that you use frequently. Focus on shelf-stable foods like pasta, rice, quinoa, beans, canned fruits and veggies, eggs, milk and oils (like olive, coconut, avocado and red/white wine vinegar). Try shopping for these ingredients in bulk when they’re on sale to reduce your grocery bill. Cooklist Pantry is a great tool to help you do this – it learns your buying habits and can recommend the best recipes and products for you. You can even connect your loyalty card to Cooklist to automatically create a reusable grocery list that matches real-time pricing at your local stores!
Prep Your Meals
Meal prepping is all about making it easier for you to eat healthy meals at home, whether that’s cutting back on drive-thru trips or cooking enough dinner to have leftovers for lunch the next day. But there’s no one right meal prep method; it all depends on what works best for your schedule and budget. Many people prefer to prep their entire week’s worth of meals on just one day, such as Sunday. This helps them get used to the routine and gives them a sense of accomplishment after completing their meal prep for the week.
On your meal prep day, make a list of all the dishes you plan on making for the week and choose recipes that can be easily reheated. Also, be sure to label your containers clearly with ingredients and dates so you’ll know what’s in each one when you’re ready to use it. Sturdy foods that keep well in the fridge, like cooked proteins, roasted vegetables, soups and salads, are perfect for meal prep.
Store Your Meals
When it comes to meal prep containers, invest in high-quality plastic and glass ones that are durable. You also want to make sure your containers are airtight. This will help keep food fresh and free from spoilage and bacteria growth. Label your meals with the date they were made, contents and reheating instructions. This will help you avoid using old or frozen meals, and it can be a lifesaver if you forget what day you made something. We like to use thin dry erase markers, which work great on most types of food containers and can be wiped off easily.
When it comes to storage, remember to follow the First-In, First-Out (FIFO) system. This means that you should always use your most recently prepared meals or ingredients first, and save older foods for later in the week. This will prevent foods from going bad, as they can enter the “danger zone” in as little as three days.
In conclusion, meal prep is a game-changer for anyone seeking a more efficient, healthier, and stress-free approach to eating. By implementing these meal prep tips and ideas, individuals can save time, money, and effort while enjoying delicious and nutritious meals throughout the week.
How can meal prep benefit my busy lifestyle? Meal prep allows you to plan and prepare meals in advance, saving valuable time on busy days. By having ready-to-eat or easy-to-cook meals on hand, you can avoid last-minute unhealthy food choices and maintain a balanced diet even during hectic schedules. Can meal prep help with portion control and weight management?
Absolutely! Meal prep enables you to portion out your meals in advance, helping you control calorie intake and manage portion sizes. This disciplined approach can contribute to weight management and a healthier overall lifestyle.