It’s almost bedding time after you get home from work, make dinner, eat it, and clean up. No time to relax or entertain after a hard-working day. Here is the solution: entering meal prepping, a cooking method that simplifies the process and tailors it to your schedule, so you don’t have to rush through a 15-step recipe when all you want to do is just lying on your sofa and enjoy Netflix.
Why meal prep?
If you’re looking to save time and reduce stress, meal prepping can do the trick. Not only does it save you time and money (you are usually tempted to get takeout on the weekends, I know, we are all!), it allows you to start off with delicious, wholesome meals. If you meal prep, you’ll always have a nice selection of healthy, unprocessed foods on hand that are ready to eat whenever you want. You also can have a variety of dishes available to you, instead of a single flavour for dinner. Here’s how to meal prep for a week so you can save time and money without sacrificing your healthy eating habits.
How to get started?
As a general rule of thumb, only shop the ingredients you know you will use. Sometimes the items you want aren’t available in all your stores. Make a list of the foods you’re going to need in advance (leaving room for a few weekend splurges), write down items in order of importance, and only buy food in that order. Grocery shopping should take no more than one hour. If you grocery shop as a family, include everyone in the grocery shopping so that you buy foods you all like and eat. Before the shopping trip begins, label everything so everyone knows what’s in the cart, and where to look for each item on your list. Prepare to pack the groceries into your car for easy transportation.
Meal prep strategies
What should you do to meal prep if you can’t cook the entire meal from start to finish? Choose the number of recipes you want to prep and build a week’s worth of meals. Include enough time for defrosting and slow-cooking meals. Have some meals ready to reheat, microwave, or steam. Be realistic and let yourself do small batches. You don’t have to commit to making all your meals on the same day, you can split it up. Also, find yourself some motivation to start meal prepping for the week. For example, you wanna lose some weight, you’re less likely to choose a not-so-great option when you’ve already had a healthy dinner ready to go.
Common recipes for meal prep
You can always do meal prep from your favourite cookbooks or magazines – most of the time you’ll save money by buying pre-cut, pre-chopped ingredients you already know you’ll use. Draw out your calendar: instead of doing daily meal prep, you can decide what you’ll prepare for the week, and have it ready in advance. Common categories for meal prep are Hot Dishes, Cold Dishes, Soups, Wraps & Pitas. Here are some inspirations for you:
- Hot Dishes: honey sesame chicken bowls, maple ginger chicken bowls, satay beef bowls
- Cold Dishes: turkey taco bowls, Caprese chicken salad, sesame noodles with spiralized vegetables, chopped chickpea salad
- Soups: hearty vegetable soup, butternut squash soup, broccoli cheese soup
- Wraps & Pitas: white bean & spinach quesadillas, pesto chicken pita, Greek pita bento box
You can even get more creative by making homemade versions of go-to weeknight dinners like spaghetti squash with ricotta, or pan-fried tilapia with salad and lemon.
Tips for success
To get started, meal prepping in some way is essential for you to eat healthily, and it’s important to make a well-balanced meal so you can achieve your health goals. If you’re going to do it, start small. Focus on just one or two items a week for now. It’s better to buy that can of tuna and a can of green beans than a whole package of deli ham and an entire rack of lamb, which will take you longer to finish. Make meal prep as convenient as possible for yourself. Get your freezer organized. Make two or three meals that can be frozen in smaller batches. Make a shopping list before you leave home so you don’t forget anything. Make the meals ahead of time, or at least a few days before. Use smaller plates for more frequent portions, which will keep you feeling full.
You have a lot on your plate. Is meal prepping really the right thing for you? If you’ve been missing the beautiful time spent making and eating a meal, meal prepping can be a welcome break and still save you time. This method of cooking requires some time to get familiar with, and I highly suggest taking it slow and starting with recipes that are fun to make or don’t take too long to prepare. Additionally, take the necessary time to properly label and store the food. You don’t want to find out you’re out of soup after 6 pm and can’t just throw a last-minute frozen meal together. That’s all, friends. Have a great week, eat healthily and enjoy some extra free time!