If you want to tackle your busy days with optimal efficiency, then you need to be one step ahead and give your body the nutrition to support that. Eating nourishing food and well balanced meals everyday can be quite challenging if not properly planned and managed.
Meal prepping is basically the act of preparing meals or meal components ahead of time, and storing them in the refrigerator or freezer. By planning and putting in the effort ahead of time, this makes getting healthy meals on the table simple and efficient later on when you may be short on time. Personally, meal prep is VITAL for me to eat healthy during the week while keeping up with my busy schedule.
Some ways of meal prepping:
- Ready to reheat meals- fully cooked meals that you simply need to reheat.
- Assemble ahead meals – assemble ingredients ahead (don’t cook), then freeze for later. For example: pizza or calzone.
- Ingredients prep – simply chopping and portioning things out, no cooking.
- Buffet style- prep ingredients separately and mix and match when needed to create different meal combinations.
- Batch prep – cook a single ingredient ahead and base several meals around it like cooking a whole chicken. Or you can even batch cook a soup and then freeze it into several portions. If you’re not used to batch cooking, start with prepping one or two days’ worth of meals at a time.
Does it sound like it takes a lot of time? It very well could! But, meal prepping can be quick if you pick up a few of these kitchen hacks.
Step 1. Start with your schedule
Plan your cooking day according to your schedule during the week. Like, do you finish work late on certain days? Do you go to the gym on Monday evening? Do members of your family have certain activities during the week that will make cooking at home difficult? Remember to be flexible and try to adjust according to different situations. For example, if you have a big event on your calendar on a specific day, just try to make an easy-to-prepare meal at home that day.
Step 2. Work on your recipes
Start by doing a grocery inventory, look into your actual stock at home and try to work out your recipes based on what you already have as far as possible. This simple act of yours will help reduce food waste and shorten your grocery list. Think through your meal plan for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Don’t overcomplicate it. Do consider using leftovers when possible.
Additionally, try to add healthier alternatives in your recipes and snack choices:
- Substitute carrots or cucumber sticks for chips.
- Opt for baked potato wedges from fresh potato instead of using frozen French fries.
- Choose whole grain bread and pasta.
- Snack on nuts instead of candy.
- Substitute avocado or olive oil for butter.
- Use lower-calorie condiments such as mustard instead of mayo.
- Use balsamic vinegar and oil instead of cream-based salad dressing.
- Serve sauteed vegetables instead of mashed potatoes, or a side salad instead of a fried side dish.
Step 3: Make your grocery list
Now that you have your meal plan for the week, it’s time to make a grocery list of those ingredients that are missing for you to be able to implement your meal plan. When writing down your shopping list, think of ways to be resourceful. Can you make a double portion of a recipe and freeze half to use on a busy weeknight later in the month?
Step 4: It’s shopping time
Stick to your shopping list as much as you can.
Step 5: Start prepping
Once you have your ingredients, decide how much meal prepping your schedule allows and determine when you want to meal prep. Do you prefer to block off an afternoon on the weekend to wash and chop your produce and cook certain ingredients in advance to use in recipes throughout the week? For example, you can grill a large batch of chicken breasts to use during the week, and freeze some for later use.
What are the benefits of meal prep?
- Budget friendly- When you meal prep in advance, you’re definitely not wasting ingredients and it makes it possible for you to have prepared meals on the ready while only cooking once or twice a week. You will buy out less often. Eating out is obviously expensive.
- Time saver – prepping components or whole meals ahead means less time cooking during the week and thus less dishes to do.
- Stress-free – one less thing for you to worry about all week
- Eat healthier – when you meal prep, you’ll be eating more nutritious food in healthier portions, than if you were eating out for these meals.
Four basic tips for food prep beginners:
- Keep it simple- like we discussed above, just picking one meal that pains you and focussing on that will prevent you from getting overwhelmed, and you will still feel the benefits of meal prepping!
- Schedule it – write it on your calendar. Block off time. Make it as difficult as possible to make excuses.
- Use reliable recipes- it might not be the right time to try a crazy new recipe. Using recipes you know are easy and tasty is a great base to start off of. If you need help, do check my newly launched cookbook here.
- Have fun and reward yourself – you can have some olives or dark chocolate with your favourite wine 😉
The benefits of meal prep are so worth the effort. You will save yourself time and money. You will feel less stress. You will eat healthier.