Meal prepping. It can sound overwhelming when we think of people that spend hours on a Sunday getting all their breakfast, lunch, and dinner organized for the week. But meal prepping is actually a way to simplify our lives. Knowing what we’re going to cook for the week and preparing much of it ahead of time can save us time during busy weeks.
This can improve your health and wellness by making it more likely that you’ll eat healthy, nutritious food during the week. No more missing ingredients or empty shelves leading to takeaways or unhealthy snacks grabbed on the go. You’ll have healthy meals ready to go. This can be a great way to reach your healthy weight goals sooner, as convenience foods generally don’t have the same nutritional content as what we would cook for ourselves.
It can also help de-stress your life. I don’t think there’s anything worse than trying to decide what to cook for dinner when I come home from a long day, tired and hungry. Especially if I have ingredients missing from my cupboard. Knowing that I don’t have to waste time and energy thinking about what to cook, that I can just start cooking means that my meals are on the table sooner. And I can eat! Having cooked meals ready to go at all times really helps with healthy eating.
Whether you’re choosing to batch cook all your dinners for the week or get your breakfast organized into on-the-go containers, meal prep looks different for everyone. Here are some of the best meal prep tips, for both beginners and pros.
Best Meal Prep Tips
Even small instances of meal prepping can impact your life by saving you time and money. Rather than heading to the grocery store to purchase and prep your entire week’s worth of food, it’s far more sustainable, to build up healthy habits over time. Pick a meal or a snack that you’re going to begin with. It could be chopping up veggies to have them on hand as a snack with hummus during long study sessions. Or use a slow cooker or an instant pot to make a large batch of chilli to have in the freezer. Don’t overwhelm yourself by going too big and you’ll be more likely to stick with this new habit. You can also just prepare certain ingredients, and then mix and match those ingredients throughout the week to create different meals (which also minimized food waste and supports your healthy eating).
Like any new habit, you’ll want to do some research before you begin meal prepping. Know what you’re going to cook, what freezes or keeps well, what meals you actually like. Spending a little bit of time researching, trying a few different meal prep methods, seeing what works in your lifestyle is important to make sure that this new, healthy habit is sustainable over the long term. Find out if you need an instant pot to make a cooked meal, or you can do it in the oven – knowing which cooking appliances you’ll need is also a part of being organized.
When you’re prepping your meals for the week, you probably want containers that are better quality than the ones your takeaways were delivered in. Those aren’t designed for multi-use, so although they’ll hold together for a while, you’re risking leaks or cracked containers. Invest in good food storage and it will help you save money in the long run. If you’re prepping foods that need to be heated, get some that can go from the fridge into the microwave for ease of use and less time cleaning up multiple plates and bowls.
Shopping With a List
Getting yourself prepared with a set of recipes is the first step. Then you want to check what you have on hand while you’re writing your shopping list. Going to the grocery store is a great way to reduce waste as you won’t be buying things you don’t need. Extra veggies can seem like a great idea, but if you end up with too many in your fridge they can just end up wilting away. It can help stop you from picking up a few extra treats while you’re grocery shopping as well, which also leads to eating healthier. A grocery list is the first part of ingredient prep.
One of my favorite things to meal prep is my starch for the week. This saves time at dinnertime. I’ll often cook up a large pot of brown rice and roast some vegetables like sweet potatoes on a Sunday then portion out into containers in my fridge. Then I create stir-fries with vegetables, chicken strips to add to the rice or a piece of fish, and some greens to add to the roast sweet potatoes. This is a great way to create a meal plan that is a mix of prepped ahead of time and still fresh each night. You can mix and match different ingredients you batch cooked ahead, to make interesting dishes. This also minimizes food waste, as you can use one ingredient in multiple dishes. It’s also great for healthy eating!
Friends with Benefits
No, this isn’t as exciting as it sounds. Instead, find some friends that are interested in partnering with you to prepare food and make cooked meals to go with healthy eating. You could shop and cook together, especially if you’re living together. Sharing resources in this way can help reduce the costs as you can buy items in bulk.
Alternatively, you and your friends could all batch cook freezer meals and then swap meals with each other. This makes it easier to eat different meals all the time, rather than having to eat the same thing all week. Make a plan about what you’ll each cook for the week and make sure you don’t end up with a freezer full of soup!
Spice Up Your Life
There’s nothing worse than bland food. Buying a few different spices or spice mixes will take your cooking to the next level. If you’re not sure what spices to start with, then spice mixes that will give your food flavor are a great place to start. Maybe you know that you love Mexican or Cajun food. Or that you want to nail a good curry. Look for spice mixes and try a few out. Or, pick a new recipe each week an invest in the spice you need for that.
Stock Your Pantry
The great thing about meal prepping is you can plan to use up all of something. Cooking for one can lead to a lot of waste as you measure out small proportions of things. Cooking in larger amounts can lead to going through your pantry faster, so there are certain staples you want to make sure you always have on hand. For me, it’s spices like Everything Bagel Seasoning as I use this on a lot of my meals. If you’re vegetarian, it might be keeping lots of tins of beans or dried versions in stock.