Your Guide to Meal Prep Success
Are you curious about meal prepping, but not sure of all the logistics? Read on for some tips to make your next meal prep a success.
Meal Prepping simply means creating a meal plan for a number of days by preparing or grouping ingredients together ahead of time is referred to as meal prepping. Let’s take a look at some of the amazing benefits of meal prepping:
Preparing components or whole meals ahead saves time during the week. Each week, Americans who cook at home spend more than seven hours preparing food and cleaning up afterward. By following the meal prep method, you can cook a week’s worth of meal in a couple of speedy 1-4 hour slots.
With meal prepping, it is easier to portion control and select healthy recipes. In general, it can contribute to a more nutritionally balanced diet, assist with weight control, and help you achieve your fitness goals.
It’s much cheaper to prepare a week’s worth of breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and even healthy snacks at home than to buy something in the store during the week. Or spending even more money on going out or ordering in.
Easy to Add Variety
Choosing your Meal Prep Recipes upfront helps you plan your meals for the week ahead. As a result, variety is easier to add to your meals.
By taking the guesswork out of what the meal will be, meal preparation reduces stress. After meal prep is finished, you will have a fridge full of ready-to-eat ingredients or dishes.
Meal prep simplifies your grocery list (you know exactly what you need and how much). By doing this, you avoid making unnecessary purchases at the grocery store and reduce food waste.
As you can see there are many benefits to meal prepping. But how do you best accomplish this task? Follow this guide and you’ll be on your way to a full fridge and a full belly:
Containers of Good Quality
Food storage containers that are airtight and freezer-friendly are essential for successful meal preparation. Choose a glass or stainless storage container that is airtight. Avoid storing food in plastic whenever possible, and avoid microwaving plastics because they contain chemicals that can leach into your food (especially if they are heated). It’s a good idea to buy stackable containers that will help you optimize your storage space.
Fix a Time and Day for Meal Prep
Set aside one to two days per week for meal planning and preparation. You can spend a whole day on it or spread it out over a few nights, depending on what you are preparing. Choose a meal prep schedule that works for you.
Plan Your Meals, Recipes, and Shopping
Decide how many meals you want to prepare (recipes), and how much food you will need before you start cooking. In order to do this, start by writing out dinners, followed by breakfast and lunches, and then pick out some healthy snacks. Find some easy meal prep combinations or recipes and write them down. Then make a shopping list based on what you need for your chosen recipes and any essentials you’re missing (such as spices). It will ensure you have everything you need to begin meal prepping.
While meal prepping, you should think about how you’re going to keep everything fresh and organized. Consult the FDA’s guidelines on storing prepared foods in the fridge and freezer, and pack food with common sense to prolong its shelf life. Clearly label all prepped items with a date so that you can track when to use them.
Consider Tools to Optimize Meal Prep
Most of the time, you do not need any special equipment for meal prep. Even so, slow cookers, multi-function cookers, electric pressure cookers, and rice cookers are a great time-saver and can help save more time and effort. For batch cooking, you may need baking sheets and pans in addition to large pots and pans.
Now that you have your meal plan and the groceries, it’s time to prepare your meals. There are a few ways to go about it:
Make a big batch of something and eat it throughout the week. For example, you can make several meals from a large batch of protein.
Buffet-style Meal Prep
In this way, protein, carbs, and veggies can be prepped ahead for easy meals later. This works particularly well on tacos, salads, and the like.
Assemble Meals (Don’t Cook)
You can do this with frozen meals, but you can do it with refrigerator meals as well. When it comes time to cook, you simply need to place your assembled meals in a slow cooker or Instant Pot (e.g. marinated chicken breast).
If you are pressed for time, this is a good option. Simply grab them from the fridge, reheat if necessary, and enjoy (e.g. egg muffins for breakfast or any dinner that can be reheated).
Portion Things Out
Portioning out your meal is one of the most important steps, regardless if it is the whole meal or just a component. It means you can grab a meal or snack on the go (such as trail mix or overnight oats).
A typical flow of meal prepping will look something like this: review the recipes, measure and cook starches and legumes, chop vegetables and measure ingredients, start a pressure cooker or slow cooker meal, cook protein and vegetables, make sauces, assemble mixed dishes, cook, portion and store.
Meal prepping encourages healthy eating habits, saves time and money, and helps you meet your overall health goals. It only takes a meal plan, some meal prep containers, and some dedicated time to cook and portion your meals to reap all the benefits of meal prep. Even an hour can make a visible impact on your week. There may be some trial and error involved, but finding a routine that suits your lifestyle is the key to meal prepping.