Meal Prep 101: Top tips and tricks for simplifying your meal prep
Just getting into 2018, many of us are motivated to try out new things to improve our lives. One of the things that has made the biggest difference to my life the past 3 years is meal prep!
I started out 2015 hopeful...but frustrated. I loved cooking good and healthy (or healthyish) meals for my boyfriend and myself, but too often we would get home from work exhausted and reaching for quick and easy dishes like pasta or pre-made convenience foods like frozen pizza. I had tried planning out menus for us, but a lot of times this just ended up with some of the meals made and the rest thrown out after it went bad. This was definitely not the lifestyle I wanted for us.
I had started getting into reading blogs the year before and had seen some of them talk about meal prepping. I knew that this could be an option to help us get on track. I jumped right in...which definitely lead to some mistakes and some exhausting days in the kitchen. But there has been a lot of learning over the past few years! :-) Now I want to share what I have learned with you, so here is my meal prep 101 to get you started!
Meal Prep 101
My top tips and tricks for simplifying your meal prep
Reasons to Meal Prep:
Convenient. Yes, there is a time-investment, both on the day you plan and the day you prep. But that time is much less than cooking each meal fresh when you eat it!
Healthier. If desired, you can make sure that every food you prep is healthy, or in line with your desired diet. When you already have delicious, healthy food made, it lessens the temptation to go with frozen pizza!
Saves money. You can prepare your grocery list based on your meal prepping menu. This saves so much! Not only does this lessen impulse buys when you are doing your grocery shopping, it also helps prevent those "Oh no, we are out of this ingredient I need for dinner!" trips to the store!
Lowers stress. Ok, this might just be me, but the whole "What's for dinner?" thing can be stressful. I have enough going on that I don't want to worry about what I want to eat, how long it takes to cook, etc. And I don't even have kids! I know there are tons of people out there that are busier than me, meaning that they would benefit even more!
Healthier. Yup, I needed to say this one again! Meal prepping has made such a huge difference on my fitness journey! Quite possibly more than any other individual thing.
Plan, plan, plan. Set aside some time prior to the day you plan on prepping to make your grocery list and plan out how much food you will need for the week. Also take this time to decide what meals and/or snacks you are prepping. I use Wednesday of each week to lay out my recipes, check what ingredients I currently have, and write my grocery list. I like doing this a few days prior to actual shopping, so if I forgot anything I have a few days to think about it.
Containers. Check how many containers you currently have and will need on average. It is incredibly frustrating to finish cooking and then be scrambling to figure out how to put it away. My favorites are mason jars for my salads and Pyrex!
Space. Along that same line, make sure you have enough room in your fridge and freezer to put your food away!
Time. Plan for more time than you think you will need. This is especially true for the first couple months that you are prepping. The first few times I prepped I felt like I had spent the whole day in the kitchen and was exhausted! But even then it was well worth it. Now, even with prepping all of our meals and snacks, it only takes 4-6 active hours, and sometimes only 2-3. (Please, please keep in mind I prep a lot of food. You don't have to spend nearly that long!)
Tips and Tricks:
Batch process your veggies! If you have a bunch of veggies needed for different dishes, cut them all up at the same time! This cuts time getting supplies out repeatedly.
Know how your food is being cooked! I suggest varying cooking methods. Having everything needing to be in the oven or on the stove is difficult. And once I planned for 3 dishes needing a slow cooker! Granted, I have two, but this was still an unexpected difficulty. Now I try to pick a variety of cooking methods each week.
Multi-task! While something is simmering you can be chopping veggies. The same rule goes for just about anything else. That being said, pace yourself. It can be very stressful if you try to do too many dishes at once.
Clean as you go! This is especially true if you are planning a longer prep session. I usually find 2 points while I'm cooking that are good "pause points" that I can use to clean up, load and start the dishwasher, handwash things, etc. This makes things so much easier and less stressful! I will admit, this took me a few months to figure out and a few more to put into regular practice!
Do you meal prep or are you just starting? If you do, what is your favorite thing or part of prepping? I would love to hear your thoughts, so please leave me a comment below!
Want to get more in-depth? You can sign up for my email list and be the first to know when my upcoming “Meal Prep - A Beginner’s Guide” ebook will be coming out! It will be released in early March and even have some worksheets to help you plan and get organized!