The idea behind meal prepping is to make some of your meals ahead of time so that you’ll always have healthy delicious, home-cooked food on hand when it’s time to eat. This is especially useful when you’re tired, hungry, and is short of time to cook. Rather than munching on less satiating snacks or processed foods, you can just quickly reheat your already prepared meal. Once you get a good meal prep routine going, it can save you time in the kitchen and help you eat healthier overall.
Here are a few simple tips to help you get started.
1. Set goals. Decide how many meals you’d like to make.
I find it helpful to first decide which meals you’re going to prepare and how many of them. For starters, it might be overwhelming to try to make all your meals for an entire week. This also depends on whether you’re just cooking for yourself, 1-2 people, or an entire family and what fits best to your daily routine or lifestyle. For some, it might be easier to start with just prepping a 3-4 choices of lunch/dinner for the week. Alternatively, you might want to prepare 1-2 choices of breakfast and 1-2 choices of lunch/dinner for a few days.
2. Make a plan. Choose recipes and make shopping lists.
That leads to choosing recipes, making shopping lists, and scheduling time for groceries and meal prepping in the kitchen. I personally like to pick two days a week to prepare meals so that I’m making enough meals for about 2-3 days at a time. I work with about 4 recipes at a time, split between breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Some of the recipes work for any meal, because who says you can’t have breakfast for dinner.
One thing to keep in mind while choosing recipes is to keep it simple. Start with easy to make, fool-proof recipes using basic ingredients. This is probably not the time to test out that recipe that uses over 20 ingredients, half of which are specific to the recipe, and you’d probably not use again anytime soon. Instead, keep it simple. One strategy I often use to find fresh spices for sale to elevate the dishes. Find a few seasoning or spice blends you like. In my spice rack you’d often find some sort of Italian seasoning, sriracha lime blend, five spice powder, curry powder, and bbq seasoning. Incorporate them in your meats and vegetables, and you’re pretty much making a different meal.
3. Execute the plan. Cook food. Store food. Eat food.
Once you’ve decided on your recipes and purchased your ingredients, the final step is to cook the food. Over time, as you work with familiar recipes and create your routine, the meal prep process won’t take as long. Reflect on how much time you’re allocating for meal prepping. Are you setting aside time for active meal prep? Are you working with too many ingredients? This is also where making certain dishes like baked casseroles, or using slow cookers can come in handy.
Once you’ve cooked all the food, you’d need to make space in your fridge to store them. You can decide if you want your meals individually portioned and packaged beforehand, or if you’d just have the meals in large containers and portion them out when it’s time to eat. In any case, I’d recommend using containers that are air-tight, reusable, freezer safe, microwaveable, dishwasher safe, space efficient, and stacks nicely in the fridge.