Meal prepping is the simple act of preparing a meal to be able to use for a later time. It is also a beneficial way to maintain portion control and stick to dietary restrictions.
Many people do small forms of meal planning and meal prepping such as making their lunches ahead for work. Yet, true meal prepping involves preparing your meals for anywhere from 3 to 7 days at one time.
The Benefits of Meal Prepping
There are many benefits to learning how to meal prep both for your wallet and for your health. Some of the best benefits of meal prepping include:
- Staying on your routine – Whether you follow nutrition goals for muscle growth, weight loss, or portion control-related to health concerns, meal preparing can make it easier to stay on track and reduce the temptation.
- Reducing the amount of preparation – While the initial prep of your weekly meals may seem like a significant amount of time, you are saving hours by not having to plan and prep your meals each night. You will also likely reduce emergency trips to the store for missing ingredients.
- Staying on a budget – When you plan your meals in advance you will be less tempted to buy things you don’t need or will not use throughout the week. Additionally, you will be able to take advantage of bulk purchasing and buying larger quantities of items when they are on sale.
What Foods Are Best for Meal Prep?
Meal prep is almost no different than storing leftovers. So a good rule of thumb is, if you don’t keep it as a leftover, it might not be the best for meal prep.
That being said there are definitely foods that are better choices for meal prep.
Some of the best choices include:
- Roasted vegetables
- Raw vegetables such as carrots, peas, and peppers
- Fruits such as apples and oranges
- Dips such as hummus and salsa
Foods that do not last so well for meal prep include soft or cut fruits and vegetables and foods that are supposed to be crunchy such as crackers and chips. There are some option to include these items such as individual packaging.
What Do You Need to Start?
Before learning how to meal prep, you will need to gather the items necessary to make your prep as easy as possible.
To make prepping most effective, the primary items you will need are containers. The best types of containers are ones that are dishwasher and microwave safe and are able to go into the freezer.
Consider investing in some high quality separated containers to keep a whole meal in one place. Buy multiple sizes of resealable bags for ingredients that need to be separated out.
You will now want to get together items you will need to cook your meals. Gather baking dishes, pots and pans, and even crock pots and steamers to be able to get as many items preparing as you can.
There are a few steps you need to take to begin. It is important to remember that proper planning is the key to successful meal prep.
Pick Your Method
Determining your method will largely depend on what the goals of your meal prep are. There are four primary prep methods to choose from including:
- Make-ahead meals – These meals are completely cooked before they are stored and then reheated when it is time to eat. This is a good option for those who want to keep to a diet or have home-cooked meals with little preparation.
- Batch cooking and freeze storing – In this method, batches of food are cooked. Then they are portioned out and frozen to be used for meals later. This is a good option for recipes that are easy to make larger and ones that reheat well.
- Pre-portioned meals – This is the best option for those with a strict diet or specified nutrient needs. When you prepare this way, you will be creating a grab and go meals that take the guesswork out of portioning and calorie counting.
Create Your Meal Plan
After determining your type, you will need to create your menu and a meal plan.
- Decide which meals you want to prep.
- Determine your menu, making sure to plan around seasonal options.
- Schedule your designated time making sure you will have plenty of time to get everything done.
Once your menu is planned, it is time to get the ingredients you will need. Make sure that your kitchen is stocked with most of the staples that the recipes call for including spices and other seasonings.
Next, you will want to create a detailed grocery list, organizing it by grocery department. This will not only reduce the amount of time you have to spend in the store but also help you remember everything you need.
Begin Prepping and Storing
Now that you have everything, it is time to get cooking. Cooking your meals will largely depend on what recipes you use, but always look for ways to be effective such as baking two dishes that cook at the same temperature together.
Follow these few easy tips below.
- Use your time wisely – Try to plan your time as efficiently as possible making sure to start cooking items that will take the longest. For recipes that call for the same ingredients, prep those meals at the same time, dividing the ingredients as you need. You can also save time cleaning your cutting board by cutting all of your raw meats first.
- 2. Keep storage in mind – You don’t want all of your hard work to be for nothing. Make sure that you know the prep methods to keep items as long as possible and only prep out as long as the ingredients will stay fresh.
- 3. Freeze properly – Freezing can be a great way to get ahead on meals and make sure they stay fresh longer. Making sure your foods are properly prepped and packaged to freeze properly is important. For example, you should always leave an inch on top of containers or bags for foods to expand while they freeze. Also, make sure to properly label and date everything, so you never wonder how old or what something is.
Now that you have successfully learned how to meal prep all that is left to do is sit back, relax, and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Consider meal prepping when you are on a budget or just need a quick way to prepare meals throughout the week. Also, meal prepping is the ideal choice for those maintaining specific portion control or dietary requirements to stay on track and avoid temptation.