Meal prepping is all the rage these days, and for good reason! Meal preps can help you save money, help with eating healthy, and help you have more control over your food. But where do you start?
This article will give you all the information to start meal prepping like a pro! We'll cover everything from basics to more advanced tips. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced meal prepper, there's something for everyone here.
What Is Meal Prep?
Meal prep can be as simple or complicated as you want – there's no right or wrong way to do it! Meal prep is simply the process of preparing meals in advance.
Prepping meals in advance can mean anything from cooking a big batch of food on the weekends to prepping individual ingredients.
Meal planning is an excellent alternative to eating restaurant meals, and you can still enjoy locally prepared foods. You can cook a week's worth of the same thing or cook various meals.
Meal prep is great for living a healthy lifestyle and learning to make healthy recipes. It also streamlines grocery shopping since you don't need as many ingredients.
Why Is Meal Prepping Beneficial?
Firstly, you can save money. Cooking in bulk and portioning out meals ahead of time means you won't eat out or order takeout as often.
Also, meal prep can lead to a healthier diet too. With healthy meals prepped and ready to go, you're less likely to reach for snacks or convenience foods. Finally, meal prep gives you more control. You can tailor your meals to your dietary preferences and stop relying on others for your food needs.
Different Ways to Meal Prep
There are many different ways to meal prep. If you're short on time, you might want to focus on quick and easy recipes you can make in advance.
If you're looking to save money, cooking in bulk might be the way to go. If you have specific dietary restrictions, you'll want to plan for those too.
Here are a few ways to meal prep:
This involves cooking meals ahead of time and then storing them in the fridge or freezer until you're ready to eat. Storing food is an excellent option if you want quick and easy meals on hand that require minimal assembly.
Batch cooking means cooking a big batch of food at once and then portioning it into individual servings. Portioning is an excellent option if you're short on time during the week but still want to cook most of your meals from scratch.
Ready To Cook Ingredients:
This involves prepping all ingredients for a recipe ahead of time but not actually cooking the meal. Having ready-to-cook ingredients is a great choice if you like to cook but don't always have the time.
Meal kits take all the guesswork out of meal prep by providing everything you need to make a complete meal. You have to follow the instructions, and voila – dinner is ready!
Individually Portioned Meals:
This involves portioning out individual servings ahead of time. This works well if you're always on your feet and need something quick and easy to grab and go.
Picking the Right Number and Variety of Your Meal Prep Recipes
How many meals do you need? If you're prepping for one, you'll need fewer meals than if you're prepping for a family. As far as variety goes, it's essential to balance having enough variety to keep things interesting but not having too much that it becomes overwhelming. Start with a few simple recipes that you know you'll enjoy, and go from there. You can always add more variety later on!
How To Cut Down on Cooking Time
One of the biggest deterrents to meal prep is the time it can take to cook your meals. Here are a few ways to cut down cooking time.
Choose the Right Combination of Recipes
Some recipes are just naturally quicker to cook than others. When meal prepping, try to choose quick and easy recipes that will help you get dinner on the table quickly.
Having a variety of cooking methods will help you save time and energy. Also, avoid cooking recipes that all use the same appliance. For example, if you're using the oven for cooking one recipe, choose a stovetop recipe or a no-cook recipe for your other recipes.
Stick to a Consistent Cooking Schedule
Another way is to be regular with when you cook. Try to cook all of your meals simultaneously each week. Having a plan will help you get into a routine and make meal prep faster and easier.
If you're really pressed for time, there are always shortcuts! Pre-cut vegetables, use pre-cooked meats, and choose recipes that require no prep work.
Organize Your Preparation and Cooking Times
Once you've chosen your recipes, it's time to start planning your prep and cooking times. Things can get tricky, but don't worry – we've got you covered!
First, take a look at the recipes you've chosen and list all the ingredients you'll need.
Then, group those ingredients together based on when they need preparation.
For example, all of the ingredients that need chopping would go together, the components that need cooking, etc.
Then, once you have your ingredients grouped, it's time to plan your prep and cooking times. Make sure to allow enough time for each step and be realistic about how long each recipe will take to cook.
It's also a good idea to list all the equipment you'll need for each recipe. Listing equipment ensures you have everything you need before the cook.
And last but not least, don't forget to factor in clean-up time! Allow enough time to wash the dishes and put everything away. No one likes doing dishes, but it's an essential part of meal prepping.
Have a Grocery List Prepared
Now that you know what you're going to make, it's time to gather your ingredients for the week ahead. Creating a list will help you have everything you need to start cooking.
When writing up your shopping list, be sure to group your ingredients based on their location in the store. This will save you time and energy when you're shopping. If possible, try to do all of your shopping in one trip, saving you more time.
The Right Meal Prep Containers
Storage containers are vital for meal prepping because they keep your food fresh and delicious.
The best containers are made of glass or stainless steel. They're durable, dishwasher-safe, and easy to clean. Plus, they won't absorb flavors or odors from your food. Get a variety of container sizes. This way, you can store different types of food and make sure everything fits nicely in your fridge.
Last but not least, make sure your containers have tight-fitting lids! Tight-fitting lids prevent spills and keep your food fresh for longer.
Here are some recommendations for containers:
- Freezer-Safe Containers. These are great for chilling food you plan to eat later. Just label them with the date, so you know when you made them.
- Microwavable Containers. These are perfect for storing food that you plan to reheat. Just be sure to get containers that are microwave-safe.
- Airtight Containers. These are for your ready-to-cook ingredients. They help keep your food fresh and prevent it from drying out.
- Leak-proof containers with compartments. These are ideal for storing food that you plan to eat on the go. Plus, they help keep your food from getting soggy.
Using stackable containers will also help maximize space in your refrigerator.
How To Cook, Store, and Reheat Safely
Now that you know what to make and have all of your ingredients, it's time to start cooking! But before you start, there are a few things you need to know about cooking, storing, and reheating your food.
- Make sure you cook at the right temperature. Undercooked food can be dangerous, so follow the recipe closely.
- Chill foods as quickly as possible after purchasing or eating. Bacteria can grow rapidly on food left out at room temperature, so it's essential to store food properly.
- Set your fridge to the proper temperature. The FDA recommends setting your fridge to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below and your freezer to 0 degrees or below.
- Keep storage times in mind when it comes to fresh meat or fish. You can only store raw meat and fish in the fridge for a few days, so be sure to use them before they spoil.
- Reheat foods only once. Reheating food more than once can increase the risk of food poisoning.
- When reheating food, make sure it's piping hot all the way through. Use a meat thermometer to check that the food has reached a safe temperature.
- Thaw foods safely. The best way to thaw food is in the fridge or in cold water. Never thaw food at room temperature.
- Date your foods when you put them in the refrigerator. Dating foods will help you track how long they've been in storage.
- Eat all foods within the correct period. You can only store most cooked food in the fridge for three to four days.
Staple Foods for a Healthy Meal Prep
- Brown rice: Brown rice is a complex carbohydrate that provides lasting energy. It's also a good source of fiber, magnesium, and vitamins B and E.
- Olive oil: Olive oil is a healthy source of fat. It's also high in antioxidants and has numerous health benefits.
- Your favorite veggies: Choose a variety of fresh or frozen vegetables. Some good options include broccoli, kale, carrots, and tomatoes.
- Sweet potato: Sweet potatoes are a good source of fiber, vitamins A and C, potassium, and iron. They're also low on the glycemic index, making them an excellent choice for people with diabetes.
- Rotisserie chicken or chicken breast: Chicken is a quick and easy way to add protein to your meal. Just be sure to remove the skin before eating.
- Overnight oats: Oats are complex carbohydrates that provide lasting energy. They're also high in fiber and linked to numerous health benefits.
- Ground turkey: Ground turkey is a lean source of protein. It's also low in fat and calories, making it an excellent choice for those watching their weight.
- Bell peppers: Bell peppers are a good source of vitamins A and C. They're also low in calories and fat.
- Butternut squash: Butternut squash is a good source of fiber, vitamins A and C, potassium, and magnesium. It's also low on the glycemic index, making it an excellent choice for people with diabetes.
- Brussels sprouts: Brussels sprouts are a good source of fiber, vitamins C and K, and folate. They're also low in calories and fat.
- Black beans: Black beans are a good source of fiber, protein, and iron. They're also low in calories and fat.
Meal prepping is a great way to save time, money, and energy. But if you've never done it before, it can appear daunting. However, once meal prep becomes part of your everyday routine, you'll find it a breeze.
If you're looking to cut down on your grocery bill or want to save time in the kitchen, give meal prepping a try! With a bit of planning and preparation, you'll soon be a pro.