Over the years, our lifestyles have become fast and busy, leaving us little time to think about our meals. This often leads to fast food and delivery services, both unhealthy and expensive.
Luckily, if you wish to spend less time and money on food and avoid thinking about cooking every day, meal prep could help you with that.
But, if you’re unsure where to start, these meal prep tips will teach you everything you need to get started, so read on!
Getting Started — How To Meal Prep
First, we need to clarify: What is meal prep?
Simply said, meal prep is the idea of preparing whole meals or ingredients in advance.
By dedicating a block of time to batch-cook meals or prepare ingredients for the entire week, people make feeding themselves and their families much easier.
This requires simple planning and tools. Just follow a meal prep system that includes making a food plan, pre-arranging food containers for storage, and dedicating some time to prepare and portion your meals.
While you may think that planning and preparing so much food at once is overwhelming, this article will convince you otherwise.
Why You Should Meal Prep
Following this method comes with numerous benefits:
- It’s affordable since it allows you to use the same ingredients for different meals, and it significantly cuts down on food waste.
- You have control over what goes into your meals, so it helps you take care of your health.
- It allows you to reduce portion size and meet your daily nutrition goals at the same time.
- It can help you change your diet habits long-term and makes it easier to follow your food scheduling plan.
- It makes your busy schedule stress-free without constantly thinking about your next meal.
Different Ways To Meal Prep
There’s no right or best way to meal prep, and everyone can choose what works best for them.
The most widespread forms of meal-prep include:
Batch cooking means cooking meals in large batches, dividing them into smaller portions, and freezing. All you have to do is reheat them when the time comes.
This method is excellent for both lunches and dinners, and it usually includes meals such as soups, chili, or mashed sweet potatoes.
Individually portioned meals
With this method, you prepare one entire meal, then portion into smaller containers that you eat throughout the week. This usually includes a protein source (beans, lentils, tofu, etc.), veggies, and carbs and grains.
You can find many ideas online to get inspired.
Having to chop your ingredients often is the reason why people give up on home cooking. This method requires chopping and preparing the ingredients, rather than full meals.
These tips for meal prepping include preparing your spices, and chopping, peeling, and slicing your veggies.
This will significantly cut down on cooking time if you’re still not ready to devote an entire day to meal prep.
Steps for a Successful Food Prep
If you are new at this and need some meal prep tips for beginners, these are just a few steps that will help you with your organization.
Step 1 — Choose a day
You should choose whatever day works best for you and when you’re least busy.
Whatever day you pick, it’s essential to be consistent since this could help you create a habit instead of just looking at meal prep as a stressful obligation.
Step 2 — Make a meal plan
This includes the amount of food you will make and the recipes you want to cook. Think about the number of people and the number of days you’ll need food, as well as your nutrition goals.
At first, you may not be able to cover all the meals for the entire day, so you should set priorities. If you want to spend the least money and time on preparing your dinners, let your dinner meals become the first thing to try meal prepping.
Step 3 — Choose recipes and make a shopping list
If you’re a beginner, start with a couple of recipes you’re already familiar with to avoid frustration. However, avoid opting just for one recipe for the whole week, but choose a few.
The essential thing is to choose meals that contain more or less the same ingredients and avoid having to deal with leftovers that may end up in the trash.
You can start by looking at what you already have in your fridge or pantry, explore some meal prep ideas, and make a grocery list with everything that’s missing.
Step 4 — Get food storage containers and select your portions
You need different containers for various types of meals and multiple portions. From plastic and glass containers with firm lids to freezer bags and jars, you should carefully explore your kitchen cabinets and see what you need.
The right container is definitely worth the money since it will keep your meals fresh for a longer time and keep them cold and hot, depending on your needs.
When it comes to portioning your meals, research has shown that people eat more food when offered bigger portions, so portioning your meals may benefit you on your weight loss journey.
Step 5 — It’s prep time!
Now that you’ve covered all the steps and learned how to meal prep, the exciting part can begin!
Before you start preparing, ensure your sink and dishwasher are clean and all the containers are prepped. Then, create a cheerful atmosphere by putting on some music, and the cooking can begin!
Meal Prepping Tips & Food Ideas
Here are our final thoughts and tips on making sure your meal prep goes smoothly:
- Carefully combine your recipes to save resources and time. Choose meals that require the same appliances and ingredients for preparation.
- Meals that take longer to cook should be done first. Once you put something to bake or boil, find something else to do, like chop veggies or prepare ingredients for your next meal.
- Best recipes for meal prepping are those that keep well in the fridge or freezer and reheat well.
- Some foods that are good for food prepping are frozen, starchy, and fresh vegetables, sturdy greens like kale and spinach, whole grains, nuts and seeds, lean protein, and whole fruits.
- If you can, use automated gadgets such as a rice cooker or slow cooker that can further simplify the preparation.
- Invest in a good cookbook and use Pinterest or other food blogs for inspiration.
- If you need to save up some money, you can organize your meals based on the ingredients you have coupons for or those on sale that week.
Safety Food Prep Tips
The critical part of meal prep is the risk of meals causing food poisoning. As per some statistics, nearly 48 million people in the US experience some type of food poisoning every year.
These are some of the main safety guidelines:
- Prepare your meals at the proper temperatures, and then ensure you keep them at the suitable fridge or freezer temperatures.
- Put fresh foods and meals in the fridge within a couple of hours of purchase or cooking.
- Avoid defrosting foods or meals on your countertop. Do it in your fridge.
- Reheat foods one time only and at the right temperature.
- Label each container with a date to determine whether they’re safe to consume.
Now that we’ve seen all the pros of meal prepping and the things you should pay close attention to when cooking the food in advance, all is left for you to pick your own best ways to meal prep, follow the steps and enjoy tasty, healthy and stress-free meals each day during the week.
How do you successfully meal prep?
Good organization is the key to successful meal prep, so everyone can easily become a pro in meal prepping by following several steps.
Some steps include choosing one day a week to cook the meals, making meal plans and shopping lists, and purchasing food storage containers.
How long can you keep meal prep food in the fridge?
In general, prepared food goes bad after 3-5 days. This is why it is sometimes better to opt for a method in which you prepare ingredients for quick cooking or decide to freeze your food after cooking.
What are the 3 meal prep strategies?
- Batch cooking — This strategy involves preparing whole meals in advance and putting them into the fridge or freezer to reheat them during the week.
- Individually portioned meals — Preparing grab-and-go meals that are divided into single-serving containers enough to last for several days.
- Prepared ingredients for quick cooking — Preparing the ingredients for a recipe in advance, thus reducing cooking time.