You get back home from work and you already feel like you’ve lost the energy, and still, there’s a lot of things to do. Making dinner, eating your dinner and then finally cleaning up, and by the time you head for your bed you are tired and exhausted and prepping food wouldn’t feel like it’s fun in such a situation now, isn’t it? so it’s time for you to venture into the world of meal prepping. A concept, very modern, and won’t make you scurry through a 30 step recipe book. If you’re a person who is blessed with an extremely busy and hectic schedule, you’ll definitely want to give this a try. You prep whole meals for yourself or your loved ones, but you’re one step ahead because you will be preparing them ahead of schedule. Next up you’re free to sit relaxed and chill out.
Prepping meals will also reduce the portion size, which in turn narrows down your food preference to the nutritive components you need for your body, in addition to that, budget-conscious people are very particular about how much they’re spending on their groceries each month, so if you follow a strict budget you may want to learn about how to meal prep. If you’re a health-conscious person, you will not have to opt for options such as takeaway if you follow a meal prep plan plus prepping meals ahead of time will help you consider the healthy meal options in the long run.
You will not have to spend an entire Saturday evening just by cooking dishes so that they can suffice for the days to come. You can opt out for a variety of ways to meal prep and select the options that are best meant for you.
If you are the kind of person who likes to save time while cooking and being in the kitchen or if you want to have relaxing mealtime and make healthy food choices you definitely should say yes to meal prepping.
Meal prep is not a stagnant concept, it can range from preparing a glass of juice packed with healthy nutrients for a fresh morning start to cooking dinners ahead of time.
Trying to find the ‘right way’ to meal prep? you should probably stop since there’s no such thing as ‘the right way’ to meal prepping. There is no one right way or method to meal prep since what works the best for you might be someone else’s nightmare. You probably won’t want to spend your entire weekend in the kitchen, so this convenient method of meal prepping will obviously feel like a blessing to you, spending as much as 20 minutes for systematically planning and prepping meals will help you manage your time efficiently.
Going through this step by step guide will definitely help you with starting up your meal prep journey.
First of all, let’s get to know what exactly meal prepping is.
Meal prepping can describe dozens of different food preparation methods but it is actually about simply organizing yourself in terms of cooking so you can have an easier time at the kitchen, whether it is for breakfast, lunch or dinner. You cannot find anyone way to do it but the following are some types of meal prep that might interest you:
Batch making is an efficient choice for popular lunch and dinner meal prep methods. First, make big batches of recipes at once. Like on the weekends, then divide your dishes up into individual portion sizes. Store your meals in your freezer and eat them without any hassle for the weeks to come.
Prepare fully cooked meals ahead of time and refrigerate them so that you just have to take them out, reheat and have your fill during mealtime. This method comes in handy when you get back home and do not want to go straight to the kitchen after your hectic schedule.
Individually Portioned Meals
Divide up the portions into several portions and store them up in containers. Refrigerate them so that you can eat them for the days to come. In this way when you are in a hurry you can just grab one and get on the go instead of wasting time in the kitchen. This method is particularly efficient for small breaks and lunch
Ready to Cook Ingredients
Prepare the ingredients beforehand to cook the dishes that you plan to make ahead of time. Chopping your vegetables, peeling, roasting and slicing ahead of time can help you prepare your meals later on in a jiffy.
Benefits of meal prepping
The biggest benefit of meal prepping that we can ever point out is that meal prepping saves your time and saves up money and helps you eat healthily. You are literally preparing healthy home-cooked dishes beforehand and saving them up for the upcoming days. Meal prepping helps in eating healthy food since you can set the ingredients that you plan to put into your meal ahead of time. Many individuals prepare their meals by shopping for ingredients and cooking their dishes beforehand. This works better for your daily schedule than rather having to spend time in the kitchen every day for hours. You won’t opt for dining out at joints that serve unhealthy foods or depending upon takeaways if you prep your meals at home.
Ways to Meal Prep
Before you start with anything you will first have to keep in mind that you need something to stock up your dishes and ingredients. For this purpose, you need to get airtight containers for storing food. Why airtight? the reason is simply because airtight containers helps your meals stay fresh by keeping nasty odour away and locking up the good bacteria inside which increases the shelf life of stored up food so that you can reuse them for later. You will find airtight containers of different sizes and materials in the market and you can buy whatever you prefer.
Now let’s get to the next part.
How do your pick your recipe?
- Choose the kind of meal that you want to prepare: check your mealtimes and keep in mind which meal you usually skip. You can make your lunch, dinner or breakfast accordingly.
- Pick on a day to prep your meal: choose the weekdays or the weekends, whatever makes it easy for you and what goes in accordance to your schedule.
- Determine the amount or the quantity that you want to prep beforehand: experiment with different methods and ingredients and make a choice on how you want to do it. You will probably not want to keep eating the same dishes the entire week.
Cookbooks help: if you’re not into inventing new recipes and want to make it quicker, a cookbook is all you need. Cookbooks can probably to you an uncountable number of recipes to choose from.
A meal prep planner: a meal prep planner will help you to organize your thoughts and set your plans right by inspiring you to follow a rough plan.
Planning to follow your own mind? you’re free to think up recipes on your own so that you won’t have to take the help of a recipe book.
You can also opt for frozen and canned varieties of food sources since they can remain preserved for a long time.
What method is going to work best for you depends entirely on your schedule and the time you can contribute to preparing your meals.
If you want a hassle free morning schedule preparing your food ahead of time is the best suited method for you. For those people who can only contribute a limited time in the evenings, batch making should be the right choice of meal prep. The variations of meal prep methods can also be done on a mix and match basis based on your convenience and circumstances. Start by selecting the most efficient method that you can find for yourself and experiment with other methods on the go to find what’s best for your schedule and lifestyle.
Best food sources for meal prepping
Wondering about what are the best ingredients to prep your meals?
Here are some of them :
Frozen and starchy vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, parsnip, peas, green beans, cassava, Brussels sprouts, yuca, riced vegetables, taro, veggie pasta, sweet potatoes etc, whole grains such as quinoa, sorghum, oats, buckwheat, barley etc, fresh vegetables such as radish, cabbage, carrots, bell papers, celery etc, leafy sturdy vegetables like leaves used for salad dressings, romaine etc, lean proteins such as seafood that are frozen or canned, greek yoghurt (unsweetened), cottage cheese with reduced levels of salt in them, eggs, tofu, lean chicken cuts, etc, pulses such as peas, beans, chickpeas and lentils, fruits such as oranges, bananas, plums, apples, peaches. Pears etc and nuts and seeds like walnuts, cashew nuts, almonds etc.
Picking the right variety and number of dishes for meal prep
When you are to figure out what to prepare and for how many will it suffice, things may start to get a little tricky. The best way suited for you, in this case, is to figure out the best plan for yourself ahead of time so that you can concentrate upon which meals you’d like to focus upon and which meal prepping method suits you best. Next up, check your calendar to decide upon how many days of lunch, dinner and breakfast you’re going to prepare ahead of time.
Check out the number of times you’re going to eat out at restaurants or bars or inns or when you have to eat out at a brunch with friends or family or when you’re gonna go on a date or client luncheons or dinners etc.
While selecting what means to prepare you will probably want to select which meals to prepare, the best way is to start with the ones that you are already familiar with. This will help you to plan your meals easily.
Also, you cannot just go on picking up one dish throughout the week, so you need a variety for yourself so that you won’t get bored and your body will get all the nutritive components it needs. You can try picking meals that contain different vegetables and proteins and have an assortment of complex carbs such as sweet potatoes or brown rice. Integrate as many nutritive components in your meals as possible.
Steps to Meal Prepping
Now let’s get to the main part i.e. steps to prepping your meal.
- Start with something simple
Start with something small and simple. Imagine playing a new game and going for the most difficult dungeon boss right from the start. Game over, isn’t it? If you have just entered the world of meal prepping the same rules will follow. Start with something simplified and easy to prepare first. Do not try to cook the entire week’s food just in one day or on the first attempt.
Take your time. Sit and chill, learn about meal prepping and recipes before you start and check out ways to save up money for a better planned out budget. You probably would not want to waste your time and your money on the foods or ingredients that you won’t be enjoying to your heart’s content.
- Make learning a part of your schedule
You grow as you learn. You gain experience while you learn and then you become keen on your job. When you’re starting to meal prep, learn what’s good for you first, try them, you’re free to experiment with whatever you want and then only will you understand what you need and what is not necessary.
- Determine the best prep methods for you
In accordance with your budget and what kind of meal prep you will prefer you can go for ready to make meals, batch cooking or batch freezing individually portioned meals or make ahead meals.
- Decide which meals you want to start prepping for?
Is it going to be dinner or lunch or breakfast? before starting to prep your meals, plan on what you’re going to need to start with.
- Stick to a schedule
Sticking to a consistent schedule will help you in every way possible. Since you know when you want to shop for groceries and when you would like to prep your meals, it will all help you remain true to your routine. You can reserve a weekend or a weekday for shopping for groceries and meal prep the next day. The schedule is entirely up to your preference and should be able to fix your daily routine. Pick up specific time periods when you can devote your time to meal prep and you can stay out of your kitchen on the other days. Timing your meal prep also simplifies meal prepping and your decision making.
- Stock up and shop effectively
Storing a variety of ingredients in your pantry like herbs and spices and whole grains, brown rice, eggs, sausages, low sodium preserved broth and canned beans, etc can be a reliable and efficient method to meal prepping. This way, preserved and canned ingredients can be transformed into fresh foods in no time.
A shopping list will help you save up money by shopping for those ingredients that u need. Check up on the cookbooks and find what you need. List your ingredients out. Check out what food you eat frequently and which ingredients you use rarely. You can stock up ingredients like brown rice, oil products, onions and potatoes if necessary.
Check out how many containers you need. To stock up on your ingredients you need a good amount of containers and you also need to keep in mind that they’re serving their purpose in keeping the food and ingredients fresh. Buy containers that are made of plastic or glass or stainless steel that have leads on them or the ones that come with a zip-top. You can even use freezer bags. You can even pack lunches in them.
- Pick the right combination for your ingredients:
To effectively prepare your meals, you need the right combination of ingredients. You can save your time by selecting the right combination of recipes and cooking methods. If you prepare too many recipes that require the same utensils to cook them, for example, this will limit the number of recipes you can prepare at once. This factor is especially to be looked upon when selecting batch cooking or making meals ahead of time. You can stick to one meal that requires an oven and two meals that will require the stove, for example, stir-fried vegetables or a choice of soup, brown rice or bread and roasted chicken. Or you can add meals such as sandwiches that are very simple and easy to make.
- Organize your prep time
Working while knowing the time you’ll take to complete prepping your dishes helps a lot. You can start by starting to cook the recipe with the longest time to prep and ending with the recipe that can be cooked in a few minutes. The longest prep time taken can be in case of recipes such as soups or oven dishes should come first. Once you’re finished with the dishes start focusing on the next ones. You can keep the cold meals for the end since they can be easily prepared and do not need much cooking time. Double-check all your ingredients before starting your meal prep. This can account for extra time saving. In this way, if you require two recipes for two dishes to be prepared you can chop the right quantity up. Automated kitchen appliances such as slow cookers or air fryers or rice cookers can further smoothen out your cooking experience.
- Prep and store effectively
Be careful about your ingredients shelf life. Chopped up vegetables like onions and bell peppers if stored in airtight containers will stay fresh for two or three days when stocked up inside a refrigerator. Hard vegetables like chopped up carrots will stay fresh for four days or more. Leafy vegetables that have been cleaned, dried and stored away can stay fresh for uptill weeks. Cooked veggies and dishes containing lean protein such as chicken, eggs, seafood etc can stay fresh upto three or four days. You should make sure to refrigerate them and heat them up before consumption. Recipes such as casseroles or soups and cooked grains and lentils can be stored up in the refrigerator to be consumed for later. Labelling and dating the containers can efficiently help you by preventing you from getting confused. Be sure to consume the cooked foods before they get stale.
- Enjoy the food you prepare by yourself
This is the most important part. Enjoy what you have prepared. Enjoy what you spent time to cook. After a few days of practicing meal prepping you can discover your own ways to prepare your meals. Whether you are going to prepare your ingredients beforehand, batch cook your food, prepare your lunch to take on the go etc, any amount of time spent in cooking your meals, be it an hour or four will result in great returns and valuable time and saved up money for you. For daily motivation and menu inspirations, you can always go through a number of cookbooks or say hi to google, you can also opt this variable out as your hobby. In any case, find what’s best for you and get on with it!
Are there any disadvantages of meal prepping?
You must be wondering by now if there is any downsides to meal prepping since it’s been said that everything has its own limitations. Well, actually there are some. Meal prepping sometimes can involve preparing and cooking the same kind of recipe over and over again and this may wither you out or make you bored. Meal prepping is not for people who prioritize ultra fresh meals since the ingredients are stored up for a few days and the cooked food can be consumed for up to a week. To avoid any kind of monotony, one can use different ingredients, spices, dressings and herbs or make the same dish in a variety of ways.
You can refrigerate frozen foods for a period of two to five days to three to four months depending on if or not the ingredients are perishable. To avoid food from perishing fast or to prevent any kind of foodborne diseases you should avoid keeping food in damp or moist places to prevent fungi infestation or to avoid flies and insects to sit atop your food. Always keep in mind to seal food in airtight jars or containers or zip lock packagings to keep harmful agents out of the way and to protect and lock in the flavours, keeping the moisture inside the food restored and to prevent the food from getting stale. Meal prepping is the best possible method of cooking to save time and be efficient. It is suited for people who do not like spending too much time working in the kitchen or for people who want to save up time. Meal prep even promotes ingredients and dishes rich in nutritive values such as carbs. Proteins, vitamins and minerals and discourage less nutritious food options like takeouts. Everything eventually depends on your preferences, goals and the kind of food you like to consume. Meal prepping involves a variety of ideas like stocking dishes up beforehand in the process of batch making, preparing full meals that you can consume for days to come by refrigerating them effectively and efficiently so that they won’t get stale or combine ingredients as per your choice and prepare your own dishes. Pick a day or two when you are free to be in the kitchen and a day when you can buy your groceries to stack up in your pantry and you’re all done.