Meal prepping has become a popular trend in recent years, especially among busy individuals who want to maintain a healthy diet despite their hectic schedules. Meal prepping involves preparing and cooking meals in advance and storing them for later consumption. By doing so, you can save time, money, and effort while ensuring that you have nutritious meals ready to go throughout the week.
In this article, we will share tips and tricks on how to meal prep like a pro, even if you’re a beginner. We’ll cover everything from planning and preparation to cooking, storage, and serving. Whether you’re a student, a busy professional, or a parent with a hectic schedule, these tips will help you save time and eat healthy meals every day.
A lot of the time saved in meal prepping comes from planning ahead of time so you’re not scrambling during the cooking and storing process. This involves assessing your needs and goals, choosing recipes, creating a grocery list, and scheduling your prep day.
Consider your dietary preferences, any food allergies or restrictions, and your health goals. Are you looking to lose weight, gain muscle, or simply maintain a healthy diet? Once you have a clear idea of your needs and goals, you can choose recipes that are aligned with them.
When choosing recipes, look for meals that are easy to prepare in bulk and can be stored for several days. Consider meals that can be cooked in one pot, like soups or stews, or meals that can be easily reheated, like roasted vegetables or grilled chicken. Choose a variety of meals to avoid boredom and ensure a balanced diet.
Creating a grocery list is essential to ensure that you have all the ingredients you need on hand. Take inventory of what you already have and make a list of what you need. Shop for fresh produce and ingredients that can be stored for longer periods, such as canned or frozen foods. Consider the space you have for storing things like meats and other proteins. If you buy food like this in bulk it will need to be frozen. Ask yourself how much freezer space you have. Can you buy an entire month’s worth of frozen food and have enough room to store it?
Scheduling your prep day is also important. Choose a day when you have a few hours to spare, such as a Sunday afternoon. Set aside time to prepare and cook your meals, and make sure you have all the necessary equipment and utensils. By planning ahead, you’ll be able to streamline the meal-prepping process and make the most of your time.
The next step in meal prepping like a pro is preparation. This involves grocery shopping, gathering essential kitchen tools, selecting storage containers, and using time-saving techniques.
When grocery shopping, keep in mind the meals you have planned to make and purchase ingredients accordingly. Choose fresh produce and protein sources, and opt for healthy, whole foods whenever possible. You can also save time by shopping in bulk or buying pre-cut produce.
Gathering essential kitchen tools is crucial to successful meal prepping. Invest in quality kitchen utensils, such as a sharp chef’s knife, cutting board, and measuring cups and spoons. At Carnivorous Life, Ron Scott recommends acquiring at least a chef’s knife and a long serrated bread knife. This will cover most of your cooking needs. You’ll also need pots and pans of various sizes, a baking sheet, and a slow cooker or pressure cooker, depending on your recipe choices.
Selecting storage containers might be the most forgotten but crucial part of the meal-prepping process. Choose containers that are durable, microwave-safe, and freezer-friendly. Glass containers are a good choice as they are non-toxic and can withstand extreme temperatures. Using storage containers with different sizes will help you store different-sized meals. Alternatively, you can use reusable silicone bags or mason jars. Another thing to consider is how much space your storage containers take. If you’re tight on room then acquiring stackable storage containers is a must.
Finally, use time-saving techniques to make the most of your meal-prepping session. For example, wash and chop vegetables in advance, preheat the oven, and cook several meals at once. You can also prepare ingredients in batches, such as cooking a large pot of brown rice or quinoa, to use in multiple meals throughout the week. By preparing in advance and using time-saving techniques, you’ll save time and make the most of your meal-prepping session.
The entire point of meal prepping is to save your time and energy and cooking is the part that people tend to dread the most. We’ve found that cooking in bulk makes the most sense for most people. We’ll go over that plus batch cooking, and utilizing kitchen appliances.
Batch cooking involves preparing several servings of the same recipe at once. This saves time and ensures that you have enough meals for the week. For example, you can make a large batch of chili or soup and portion it out into containers for later consumption.
Cooking in bulk is another time-saving technique. This involves cooking a large amount of a particular ingredient, such as chicken or roasted vegetables, that can be used in multiple meals throughout the week. For example, you can grill a large batch of chicken breasts and use them in salads, stir-fries, or wraps.
You can also take advantage of kitchen appliances to make meal prep easier and more efficient. A slow cooker or pressure cooker can be used to cook large batches of stews, soups, and casseroles, while a food processor can be used to chop vegetables quickly and easily. An air fryer or oven can be used to cook proteins and vegetables with minimal oil.
Storage and Serving
The next step is storage and serving which involves properly storing your prepared meals, reheating them, and serving them in a way that makes mealtime enjoyable and stress-free.
Proper storage is important to ensure that your meals stay fresh and safe to eat. Allow your meals to cool completely before storing them in airtight containers in the refrigerator or freezer. Label your containers with the date and contents to avoid confusion. If you’re storing in the freezer, consider using freezer-safe containers and leave enough space for the food to expand as it freezes.
Reheating your meals is another thing to consider. For best results, use a microwave or oven to reheat your meals. If using a microwave, be sure to stir your food to ensure even heating. Use a food thermometer to check that your meals reach a safe internal temperature of 165°F (74°C).
Serving your meals should be simple and stress-free as well. Consider pre-portioning your meals into containers or using bento boxes for easy grab-and-go options. You can also use a slow cooker or instant pot to keep your meals warm and ready to eat throughout the day.
Common Meal-Prepping Issues
Even with the best planning and preparation, there may be times when meal prepping doesn’t go as smoothly as expected. Here are some common troubleshooting tips to help you overcome potential obstacles:
- Not enough time – If you find yourself running out of time to meal prep, try simplifying your recipes or cooking in larger batches. You can also consider using time-saving techniques like pre-cutting vegetables or using a slow cooker.
- Food spoilage – If your food goes bad before you have a chance to eat it, make sure you’re storing it properly in airtight containers in the fridge or freezer. Double-check that your fridge is set to the correct temperature and that your containers are freezer-safe.
- Boredom – If you’re getting bored with your meal prep routine, try switching up your recipes or experimenting with new flavors and ingredients. You can also try meal-prepping with a friend to make the process more fun and collaborative.
- Overcooking or undercooking – If you’re struggling with overcooking or undercooking your meals, invest in a food thermometer to ensure that your meals reach a safe internal temperature. You can also experiment with different cooking methods and techniques to find what works best for you.
- Lack of variety – If you’re finding that your meals are becoming repetitive, try planning your meals around different themes or cuisines. You can also experiment with different cooking techniques and ingredients to add variety to your meals.