If you have social media, especially Instagram, you've at least heard the term "meal prep" or "meal prepping." Basically it just means prepping your meals ahead of time. This can help you stay on track with your nutrition goals, and save time and money in the long run. Sounds simple enough right? The first time you try preparing a weeks worth of food you may find it wasn't as easy as you thought it might be. Or perhaps you didn't anticipate spending 8 hours cooking rice, chopping veggies, roasting a chicken and sauteing kale. Here are some tips to follow to make your meal prep fun and easy!
1) Identify Your Goal
Are you trying to save money? Increase your vegetable intake? Feel more energized through out the day? Go gluten free? Put on size? Before you can do anything else, you have to figure out your why. What are you trying to achieve here? From there you can figure out what your meal prep is going to look like.
2) Pick A Day (s):
I like to prepare my meals on a Sunday so that they are fresh for the week. Everyone's schedules are different. Find what day works well for you. Decide whether you're going to do one large prep or break it up into 2-3 different days. People that have limited fridge/freezer space might need to break their meal prepping up into two days. If you plan to do one large meal prep, you are going to need to freeze the later half of the week.
3) Have A Game Plan/Make A Shopping List:
What is your plan for the week? Do you have certain recipes you know you want to try out? Do you plan on prepping one time on Sunday or twice a week? Do you know what ingredients you have vs. what ingredients you need? Make a list of what meals you plan to cook and write down a grocery list before you head to the store.
4) Be Prepared:
Did anyone else think of Scar and the Hyenas??? No? Just me? Okay cool….Most people will likely have your basic kitchen items; knives, pots/pans, cutting board etc. But if you're new to packing lunch or preparing multiple meals, you may need to pick up some things. Do you have all of the following?
1) Enough Tupperware/containers, various sizes
2) Ziplock baggies
3) Measuring cups / food scale (if applicable)
4) Aluminum foil
5) Cooking spray
6) Cutting boards
8) Pots, pans
9) Can opener
10) Vegetable peeler
11) A cooler or lunch box
5) Multitask / Time Savers:
A big complaint I hear is that meal prepping takes too much time. Yes it might take some time while your preparing, but during the week you'll be able to grab and go. The more often you meal prep, the better and faster you get. Multitask safely. For example you can hard boil eggs on the stove while you bake chicken or roast vegetables in the oven. Try some of these tricks to save time.
1) Chopped onions
2) Spiralized zucchini
3) Pre-cut butternut squash / sweet potato
4) Frozen cut veggies
5) Individual pouches of nuts (Trader Joe's Just a Handful)
6) Hard boiled eggs (although I much prefer cooking my own)
7) Rotisserie chicken
6) Clean As You Go:
If you have a tiny Manhattan kitchen, you don't have much of a choice but to clean as you go. Even if you have more than 2 ft of counter space, don't leave a massive mess for yourself. Load your dishwasher or clean different bowls/utensils as you finish using them.
7) Have A System:
Labeling containers can be a great way to keep track of which containers are which. If you use similar ingredients in different meals, it can be hard to tell what's what. If you prepared food for an entire week, I would highly recommend freezing half of your meals. If you don't, you'll likely be eating mush by Friday. Organize your fridge and freezer so you can easily see where everything is.
8) Pack Your Meals:
Pack your meals in a lunch bag or cooler the night before. Pull what you plan to eat for breakfast to the front of the fridge. This is supposed to save you time in the long run. You don't want to be rummaging through the depths of your refrigerator at 6:15 in the morning now do you?
9) Pat Yourself On The Back:
Give yourself some credit. You took time out of your busy schedule to make time for your health and well being.