Meal Prep 101
Meal prepping is truly one of the most useful nutrition and healthy eating tips I can offer you! Our lives are busy and finding the time for an entire day of healthy eating can be a challenge. Not only that, but even if we did have the time to cook a big meal each night, who wants to spend that much time in the kitchen?? With meal prepping, it becomes so easy to have a delicious meal on the table quickly without sacrificing time, nutrients or money.
Meal prepping looks different for everyone, depending on how prepared you want to be and what you're eating styles or habits are. Some people may like pre-portioning out each individual meal eaten during the day in individual containers and sticking to these pre-determined meals each day. Other people like to cook a few recipes and eat the leftovers throughout the week. I find it most convenient to prepare a variety of separate foods items and then pick and choose during the week how I want to combine them into a meal. This is the most efficient way for me, saves the most time and still offers an intuitive style of eating that allows for choice and variety each day. No particular way of meal prepping is right or wrong, I encourage you to find what works for you best. The basic premise around any styles of meal prepping however is eating healthfully with minimal time spent in the kitchen making food everyday.
Benefits of meal prepping:
Spend less time in the kitchen
Eat healthful and delicious meals all week long
Stay on track with nutrition and health goals
Limit decision making when it comes to meals
So, I am going to give you some tips on meal prepping today and keeping things easy in the kitchen all week long.
1. Allow some time – Make sure that you set aside adequate time during the week that you can meal prep. Usually I spend about one to two hours in the kitchen putting together food for the week. In the grand scheme of things, this time is so worthwhile spent because it means time saved during the week when hours are more valuable. It doesn’t have to be a weekend day either, but most people find this is when they have the most time to dedicate in the kitchen.
2. Stock up – Obviously having your ingredients for a recipe and food to make is a great idea! Take it a step further and write out a grocery list of everything you plan on making that week so you won’t get sidetracked in the store. Buy a variety of vegetables, maybe even some you’ve never had but would like to try. Expand your nutrient profile. Navigating around the perimeter of the grocery store where the fresh food is will lend you the healthiest variety of foods.
3. Get out the tools – Inevitably, my kitchen becomes somewhat of a disaster area when I prep food for the week. Don’t be afraid to get out all the kitchen tools: the food processor, cutting boards, knives, pots, pans, blenders…whatever it takes to get the job done. Having good and useful kitchen tools--and not being afraid to use them-- is so important when it comes to cooking and making your own food. Build your collection slowly if you’re just beginning to learn how to cook. During the week it seems almost too demanding to use the food processor to make dinner if you’re short on time and patience. But during a meal prep session, when you’ve specifically set aside time for cooking, it becomes easier and more reasonable, giving you some excellent motivation to make healthy and delicious meals.
4. Chop everything – Vegetables, herbs, meats, fruits…pre-chop it all! I can tell you with certainty that many people buy vegetable with good intent to eat them up, then let it sit in the fridge to wilt because they don’t have the energy or time to chop and dice them during the week when hungry and staring in the fridge looking for a quick source of food. Of course you won’t choose the whole cucumber that involves time and work to eat. However, a storage container of sliced cucumber is easy to eat and lot more appealing than the whole version. This is a huge factor when it comes to eating more vegetables, I have found. Adding chopped herbs to meals during the week is easy too when it’s ready to go and easily accessible. Same with meats and fruits too, easy access and convenience is what you’re aiming for.
5. Double your recipe – Even if you’re only cooking for yourself, doubling the recipe can save some serious time at a later date when you’re looking for a healthy meal. Using the freezer is a great way to store leftovers. Make sure you pre-portion out the meals ahead of time, you don’t want a solid block of frozen food when you’re looking for a quick dinner one night. My general tip is to defrost the meal or food in the same way that cooked it. For example, if you baked a spaghetti squash casserole in the oven, using the toaster oven on the bake setting is a great way to defrost it again quickly.
6. Invest in some glass containers – If you’re chopping all this food, you’ll need someplace to store it all without it going bad during the week. Ziplock bags work for some food items, but in the long run this will cost you more and a lot of water rich vegetables and foods (think cucumbers and watermelon) will get soggy real quick. Investing in some high quality glass containers with lids is an excellent solution. I tend to avoid plastic containers because I don’t like the harmful toxins that can leach into food, especially when microwaved. I would recommend something like these Pyrex containers, which have snap lids that won’t leak or fall off. They’re microwave safe and won’t absorb food odors either.
7. Roast vegetables – Roasting vegetables on a large sheet pan with some olive oil and spices is my favorite way to eat them. Not only is roasting very easy, but it brings out a lot of flavor in many foods. Chop up a potato, drizzle on some olive or coconut oil, sprinkle salt, pepper and garlic powder and roast at 375 degrees for twenty to thirty minutes. You’ll have nice, crispy potatoes that you can save to add to a variety of meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner all week long. This is a great base food that goes well with a lot of different protein types and other flavors, making it a staple in my food prep routine.
8. Experiment – As with many things in the kitchen, meal prepping can take some experimentation and exploration before finding a way and pattern that works best for you. Experiment with different foods, ways of cooking and food quantities as well. Learn what will save the longest in the fridge and what goes bad right away. Learn how much food you eat in a week and plan accordingly the next week. It will take some trial and error, but in the end, meal prep saves so much time and is well worth the effort.
Hope you guys find these tips helpful, and let me know if you have any meal prepping tips in the kitchen! Thanks for reading!