Let’s be honest, we all look for the best ways to eat healthily every day and the big winner will always be home-cooked food. The biggest obstacle in doing this, though, is that we live busy lives and most of the time we do not have enough time to prepare and cook food at home. It is time to change that with meal-prep! If you are interested in learning how to save time in the kitchen, being able to make healthy or even healthier meals or simply enjoying relaxed weekly mealtimes, you need to try meal-prepping!
What is meal-prep and why it is useful?
Meal prepping is the act of making time on 1 or 2 specific days of the week to prepare meals or batch-cook ingredients in advance to ensure you eat healthier foods more often, and make feeding yourself and your family easier each day.
- It saves you time throughout the week because it helps you feel more in control of what you and your family are eating and how you are spending your time. It increases the ease of making the right choices!
- It makes it possible to have prepared meals on the ready while only cooking once or twice a week. It is a stress-reducer!
- It eliminates those dreaded moments of standing in front of the pantry and the fridge wondering what to make for dinner. It incorporates meal planning, which is a time saver!
- It also comes with a big bonus: it saves you money that you can then spend on an activity you can do
in yourfree time – grocery shopping is much cheaper than getting meals delivered!
- You do not have to eat the same thing over and over again. By preparing five to ten different foods in bulk, you can easily mix and match meals that can last you for a week, depending on your schedule. It helps you be flexible and creative!
Determine the best prep method for you
- Ready-to-cook ingredients: if you prefer to cook meals right before serving, prepping ingredients cuts down on kitchen time.
- Batch cooking/freezing: preparing multiple batches of a recipe to be portioned out and frozen for meals in the weeks to come.
- Mix-and-Match whole foods: prepare a few components that can be turned into a variety of meals during the week. This approach gives you flexibility and is a great option when you do not enjoy repeating meals.
- Make-ahead meals: cooking complete meals in advance to be reheated at mealtimes.
- Individually portioned meals: prepare foods and portion them into individual servings.
Choose what works best for you and it will make it easier for you to eat well during the week. You can combine the different techniques to make your meals more varied!
Make a plan:
Choose meals to prepare depending on your needs:
- Do you want to feel more in control?
- Do you want to eat healthily and with more freedom?
- Do you want to save money?
- Do you want to get dinner on the table as fast as possible?
- Are you preparing for a family, a single person or two people?
The idea is to plan out your weekly meal-prep either for breakfast, lunch or dinner as a starter. This helps you organize how many meals you are going to prepare and how they fit into your weekly schedule.
Pick your biggest priority or need and focus on it
Write down your menu
Try to rely on some tried recipes that you have cooked before and
Follow these simple details to pick the best recipes for your needs
- It requires prep work before cooking: recipes that call for chopping, slicing, and dicing make great candidates.
- It is easy to scale up or down: big-batch recipes are an advantage for meal prep.
- It has a distinct make-ahead moment: stick with recipes that can be partially or fully made in advance.
- It will keep well in the fridge or freezer: it is essential it can last for at least a few days.
- It reheats well: if it makes tasty leftovers, it is a fantastic choice.
*You can also write out theme days, which is a fantastic way to come up with ideas and be able to repeat the successful ones.
*Write down the ingredients that you need beside the menu to make up your shopping list. Google Calendar is a great way to help you organize the whole process and keep track of what happens every single day. You have it on your computer, phone, iPad, everywhere, and it even comes with notifications!
Schedule your prep
Sunday and Wednesday seem to be the chosen days for more experienced meal preppers to cook and prepare meals ahead for the week. It is also a good idea to split the meal-prepping into two days because in the beginning it is recommendable to start off by preparing no more than three meals in a row. The meal-prep day or days can fluctuate from week to week.
The key is finding the day/days that is/are easiest to block off a chunk of time for meal-prep.
I recommend blocking off at least 30 minutes of your time, with 1 to 2 hours being the sweet spot.
Use proper storage containers
Containers that are airtight with divided sections, and clear and similar-sized containers are the optimal choice because they make for better, fresher, crispier tasting meals. They should be BPA free, freezer safe, dishwasher safe, stackable and reusable.
Here are three options:
Take stock and shop
Before rushing to the grocery store, take inventory of your kitchen. A great way to simplify meal prepping is to see what you usually use for cooking and then to stock your pantry with a variety of reliable goods.
Next, build a flexible shopping list with possible add-ons and keep a running inventory of foods you frequently use during weekly prep. You can add new items on the go to make your meals more varied on certain occasions. Make sure to check the kind of ingredients they use for preservation and what the expiry date is.
Also, buy fresh groceries that you are going to use in the next 4-6 days. This way you eat food that still provides you with the necessary vitamins, minerals
Make a plan of action for your cooking time
Write down an ordered list of exactly what it is you plan to accomplish. This helps you identify which foods take the longest to cook and the ingredients you will need. If two recipes call for the same ingredient, prep it for both dishes at the same
To save the step of needing to wash your cutting board between tasks, cut produce that will be eaten raw first, followed by produce to be cooked. Always remember to use a clean cutting board and utensils after preparing raw proteins. Mainly, a plan of action keeps you organized and minimizes your time in the kitchen.
Make the most of your time: learn to multitask
Remember that you can cook lots of different things at the same time. There is also no right or wrong answer about just how much time you should block off. It is a good idea though, to set aside a specific amount of time so your attention can be totally focused on your prep session.
Start with a clean stove, sink, kitchen utensils
Be mindful of shelf life
Cut vegetables will keep for 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator if stored in airtight containers. Berries, starchier vegetables, and tubers will keep for at least 4-5 days. Lettuce, fresh herbs and greens that have been washed with water and vinegar, dried and kept in the refrigerator can stay fresh for up to a week. Cooked vegetables, grains and dishes containing animal products should be consumed within 3 to 4 days. Be sure to reheat these to 75°C when ready to serve.
Freeze properly for best quality
Foods like soups, cooked grains and legumes and casseroles are easily frozen for future meals. For soups and cooked grains, cool to room temperature (within 2 hours) and store in BPA free plastic containers. Leave some space at the top of containers for food to expand as it freezes. Label and date containers, and set reminders to consume frozen foods within 3 to 6 months. Be sure to reheat to a cooking temperature of 75°C when ready to serve.
The best way to develop a meal prep strategy that meets your needs is by simply doing it and then learning as you go.
Meal prepping can be one of the easiest ways for you to move towards a healthier lifestyle. Having already prepared all these nutrient-packed, varied, , natural, whole ingredients or meals that are in your refrigerator will enable you to eat more nourishing meals , and keep your mental and emotional states on a calmer and more relaxed level: you have magnificent time management and more free time to spend however you wish. Keeping meals planned, scheduled and organized allows you to concentrate on other important things in your life and dedicate the “daily kitchen time” to different activities you want to do, which can even mean spending more time with your loved ones at the table. It is uncomplicated, you are not going to cook every day, and it is totally flexible!