Meal prepping is key to creating nutritious and healthy food without sacrificing time, nutrients or money. Our lives are busy and finding time to shop, prep, and cook can be exhausting.
Effective meal prepping depends on how organized you are and how it fits with your lifestyle and eating habits. Do you prefer to pre-portion each individual meal eaten during the day in containers, or do you whip up a few recipes during the week and eat the leftovers throughout the week? You may find it convenient to prepare a variety of separate food items during the week and then combine those items into a meal. There is no right or wrong in meal prepping. Rather, you need to find what works for you and your lifestyle. The basic premise for any style of meal prepping however, is eating healthy with minimal time spent in the kitchen.
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
- Save money!
Here are some tips when it comes to meal prepping and keeping life easy in the kitchen all week long:
1. Allow some time – Set aside adequate time during the weekend (or weekdays) that you can spend in the kitchen. One to two hours in the kitchen putting together food for the week is a great place to start. This may seem like a big commitment at first, but in the long run, this time investment is worthwhile because it means time saved during the week when hours are more valuable.
2. Stock up – Obviously, having your ingredients for a recipe is a great idea. Take it a step further and draft a grocery list for everything you plan to prepare that week so you won’t get sidetracked at the store. Buy a variety of vegetables and experiment with new ones. Expand your nutrient profile. Navigate the perimeter of the grocery store, where you will find the healthiest variety of foods.
3. Get out the tools – Inevitably, the kitchen can become a disaster area when prepping food! Don’t be afraid to use all of the kitchen tools: the food processor, cutting boards, knives, pots, pans, blenders…whatever it takes to get the job done. Having useful kitchen tools–and not being afraid to use them–is key to creating and cooking your own food. Build your collection slowly if you’re just beginning to learn how to cook. During the week it may seem too time consuming to use the food processor if you are short on time and patience. But during a meal prep session, when you’ve specifically set aside time for cooking, it becomes easier to produce healthy and delicious meals using the right tools.
4. Chop – Vegetables, herbs, meats, fruits…pre-chop it all! It’s easy to buy vegetables with the intent to indulge on healthy snacks. But often the vegetables wilt because it takes time to slice and dice and prep these snacks. As a result, many of us give in to unhealthy snacks that don’t require any prep. Also, adding chopped herbs to meals during the week is easy when it’s prepped and easily accessible. Ditto for meats and fruits. Aim for easy access and convenience by planning and prepping healthy snacks.
5. Double your recipe – When cooking for only one or two, doubling the recipe can save some serious time. Using the freezer is a great way to store leftovers, but pre-portion the meals ahead of time to prevent heating a solid block of frozen food when you’re looking for a quick dinner. Defrost the meal using the same method you used to cook 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 quickly.
6. Invest in some glass containers – After chopping the food, you’ll need someplace to store it. Ziplock bags work for some food items, but in the long run this will cost more, and water-rich vegetables and foods (think cucumbers and zucchini) will turn soggy. Investing in high quality glass containers with lids is an excellent solution. Avoid plastic containers as much as possible due to the harmful toxins that can leach into food, especially when heated. These glass Pyrex containers are great, and have snap lids that won’t leak or fall off in a lunch box. They are also microwave safe and won’t absorb food odors.
7. Roast vegetables – Roasting vegetables on a large sheet pan with some avocado oil and spices is a great way to prepare vegetables ahead of time. Roasting is easy and it brings out a lot of flavor in many foods. Chop up a potato or Brussels sprouts, drizzle on some ghee or avocado oil, sprinkle pink salt, pepper and garlic powder, and roast at 375 degrees for twenty to thirty minutes. You’ll have delicious, crispy veggies that you can save to add to a variety of meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner all week long.
8. Experiment – As with many things in the kitchen, meal prepping can take some experimentation and exploration before finding the pattern that works best for you. Experiment with different foods, ways of cooking, and food quantities as well. Learn what will stay fresh in the fridge and what goes bad right away. Learn how much food you or your family eat in a week and plan accordingly. 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 find these tips helpful. Please send us your favorite meal prepping tips!