Meal prep is the perfect method to prepare delectable meals ahead of time. It’s especially well-liked by time-pressed individuals since it helps in saving time. Having ready-to-eat meals might help you stay on track with your dietary objectives by reducing portion sizes.
You don’t need any tools to achieve stunning results with meal prep. Time and effort will suffice. In this article, we’ll go into details on how to meal prep to help you get started.
What Is Meal Prep?
Meal prep is a straightforward concept in which you prepare full meals or portions of meals in advance. Although prepping single-serve meals is the most popular method, numerous options are available depending on your routine, preferences, and dietary requirements.
Some of the widely used methods of meal prep are:
- Make-ahead meals. Here, you will prepare complete meals ahead of time and put them in a refrigerator so you can warm them at mealtimes. The method is preferred for dinner meals.
- Batch cooking. You will prepare a particular recipe in huge batches, then divide it into separate servings to be frozen and consumed over the ensuing few months. It’s a common choice for a warm lunch.
- Separately portioned meals. In this method, you will prepare fresh meals, divide them into separate grab-and-go servings and refrigerate them so you can consume them for the next few days. It’s particularly popular for quick lunches.
- Ready-to-cook ingredients. The method entails preparing the necessary ingredients for various meals in advance to save time in the kitchen.
The best method for you will depend on your objectives and schedule. For example, make-ahead breakfasts may be a perfect option if you’re seeking to simplify your morning routine. When you’re short on time in the evening, having a freezer full of pre-cooked dinners may be a lifesaver.
Multiple meal-prepping methods can potentially work together based on your situation. Once you’ve picked a method that appeals to you, you can experiment with others to find the one that works best for you over time.
What Will I Get From Meal Prep?
Adopting the practice will save time, money, and minimize food waste. Furthermore, the method will allow you complete control over what gets into your diet instead of ordering takeaway, making it ideal for everybody trying to stick to their health objectives.
Additionally, it’s simpler to control servings and concentrate on nutritious dishes. You will also avoid those midweek slumps when ordering a pizza. No doubt, meal prep is more appealing than preparing a home-cooked meal using ingredients from your most recent grocery visit.
You do not require any unique tool for successful meal prep. Besides a few pots and pans, the only extra thing you should consider purchasing is a nice set of food storage containers.
Is Meal Prep Ideal for Everybody?
Whether you’re seeking to save time in the kitchen or a bodybuilder following a ketogenic diet, meal prep can benefit you. Nevertheless, not everybody might be a good candidate for some types of meal prep.
Before you begin meal prep, figure out which meals you want to prioritize and which method works best for your schedule. Look at your calendar and see how many meals you’ll require for the coming week. Ensure to factor in other occasions you might eat out, such as dates, brunches with buddies, and client dinners.
Meal prep doesn’t limit what types of ingredients you can use. Starches such as grains and beans make ideal alternatives for meal prep. However, avoid using root vegetables such as beets, carrots, and potatoes. Grains are simple to make in large quantities and will retain their quality even after a few days in the refrigerator. Additionally, they are affordable and satisfying.
As they’re more delicate, lettuce and avocados will soon wilt or brown when sliced or dressed. With that in mind, you can wash and prepare them ahead of time, but wait to cut or dress them until shortly before dining.
Most proteins hold up well after they’ve been cooked. And whereas it’s good to cook meat thoroughly, you do not want to overcook it and risk ending up with dry, chewy items after reheating.
Concerned about refrigerator fermentation and a potential histamine reaction? Avoid histamine-rich foods and see if the method works for you. Think about meal prep for a shorter period or prepping individual ingredients rather than complete meals.
It’s better to start with a handful of dishes you’ve already tried and tested, as it will make the adjustment to meal planning easier for you. As long as you enjoy the meal you’re preparing, you’ll be much more likely to succeed.
Another rule of thumb is to avoid sticking with a single recipe for the entire week. The absence of variety can make you bored and won’t give your body what it needs to stay healthy.
Your food’s safety will largely depend on how you store and package it and the quality of your products. Begin by following the FDA’s requirements for refrigerator and freezer storage, and then use logical thinking when packing food to ensure it lasts longer.
How to Get Started with Meal Prep
Now that you understand what meal prep means, here’s a brief guide on how to get started with the approach.
1. Buy Good Food Storage Containers
Use high-quality food storage containers to ensure your meals remain hot or cold. Typically, airtight and leak-proof thermal stainless steel containers are the best option for preserving food’s temperature. Additionally, they are available in different sizes, so you can choose the container depending on your family size.
Before adding cold or hot meals, you may refrigerate your stainless steel containers in advance. Remember to warm the containers with boiling water to extend their shelf life. It is safest to use glass containers if you intend to keep the food at a cool temperature.
If feasible, avoiding re-usable plastic containers and bags is advisable. Besides the carcinogenic BPA, BPA-free plastics may also contain estrogenic compounds that seep into food and cause hormonal imbalance.
In addition, microwave heating of certain plastics may result in the release of chemicals into your meal. Therefore, knowing what you are storing and heating your food in is essential.
Aside from making it easier to swiftly clean up after eating your pre-made meals, having more dishwasher-safe products can also help you save time in the long run.
2. Pick Recipes and Create Your Menu
With essential recipes in hand, plan your weekly menu and mealtimes. Gather all the ingredients needed to cook those meals and any missing basics and create a shopping list.
A shopping list has the extra benefit of speeding up and streamlining your visit to the market by placing an online order.
3. Plan Out Your Meal Prep Time
Preparation time is essential to meal prep. You can set one to two days every week for preparation. You may save even more time using your oven and cooktop to prepare several meals simultaneously.
Using a sheet pan to roast large batches of food may also shorten the cooking. There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to meal planning. If it’s more convenient for you to cook on Monday and Thursday, do so. What works for one person may not work for another.
Consider using a spreadsheet for your planning if you’re proficient. That will make it simple to reuse plans you liked and modify ones that didn’t work out well. It will also make the entire process seem less daunting and more manageable.
Minimizing Meal Prep Prevalent Mistakes
You’ll soon become a meal prep expert. As an expert, you will always have a supply of delectable, wholesome meals in your refrigerator. You may not get it right the first time, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying again. If you’re having trouble, consider the steps below and keep trying.
1. Keep It Simple
The key to quick and easy meal prep is to start with the simplest ingredients. Prepare one-pot meals or stick to a single. Resist the urge to devote an entire day to preparing fancy meals.
Excess recipes can quickly complicate meal prep, and if it’s too difficult the first time, you might not want to attempt it again.
Try meal prepping only one recipe at first, adding more as you feel more confident. Make sure to take your time and don’t try to meal prep for each day of the week. You may find it challenging even if you’ve done this many times before, and it’s an easy way to get overloaded.
2. Prepare Nutritious Meals
Consider your dietary and health goals while planning meals. Preparing a large bowl of chili for lunch is simple, but it is hardly a balanced meal.
To ensure that your macronutrients are well-balanced, eat from various food groups. Quality fats, a small amount of protein, and few carbohydrates make a well-balanced keto diet meal.
3. Prepare What You Want to Try Out
It’s fine to stay inside your comfort zone as long as you’re preparing nutritionally sound meals. For novices, stick to tried-and-true recipes and avoid anything less as it may lead to wasted food. Once you’ve gotten the hang of meal prep, you’ll have several more go-to recipes.
4. Prepare Adequate Meals
Even though it sounds simple, ensure you prepare adequate food to fit your plan. Be mindful of your timetable. Don’t forget that celebrations and corporate luncheons can ruin mealtime.
You can get sufficient protein and healthy fats for several meals from a big batch of cooked grass-fed ground beef. On the other hand, you do not want to deal with the issue of leftover food. Therefore, consider your timetable and portion sizes when doing meal planning.
Frequently Asked Questions
It’s hard to master how to meal prep, especially if you are a beginner. Here are the most common questions from people seeking to meal prep for the first time.
How can I ensure that I stay on course with meal prepping?
Start small and work your way up. After you’ve gotten past the first few days of getting used to the transition, meal prep will become a regular part of your routine.
How can I keep from being bored with the same old meals?
Although food is essential for survival, it should also be tasty and pleasant to consume. Eating the same dish for five days in a row can grow boring.
If you can eat the same dish daily without tiring, you were designed for meal prep and should find it quite simple. For the others, mixing things up a bit each day can be beneficial.
How long does meal prep take?
It will depend on the number of meals you’re preparing at once and the complexity of every recipe. But, a week’s worth of meals takes anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours on average.
Do I have to keep track of my calories?
No, not always. Individuals with body composition or weight loss objectives can benefit from monitoring their food consumption and caloric intake. However, meal prep doesn’t have to be this way for it to be effective.
How do I shop for groceries for meal prep?
Buying groceries for meal prep necessitates some forethought and preparation. Before you go grocery shopping, you ought to know how much food you’ll need and what recipes you’ll be preparing.
Individuals who wish to spend less time in the kitchen can benefit from meal prep. Additionally, it can encourage nutrient-dense, healthful meals and discourage less nutritional fast food alternatives.
Contingent on your objectives, time, and meal choices, meal prep may require preparing large quantities to be frozen, whole meals to be refrigerated, or pre-made ingredients to be mixed as needed.
Although meal prep can be difficult for newbies, it’s a straightforward method that anyone can follow. Pick a method suitable for you and designate one day weekly for meal planning, grocery shopping, and cooking. We hope this guide has helped answer all your questions on how to meal prep.