In a world where it feels like everyone wants to eat healthier, but just as many people are pushed for time, meal prep has become a buzzword. It will not have escaped your attention just how many services have sprung up around the world, promising the perfect meal plan and the right amount of ingredients delivered directly to your door. However, you’re paying for labour just as you might expect and can end up paying takeout prices for home-cooked food. Meal prep is the DIY version, and a great way to ensure that your nutritional balance is taken care of while taking up time on your own terms.
Getting started with meal prep is not difficult – you make meals today and eat them later in the week – but there can be plenty of trial and error involved in finding what works best for you. With our 10 meal prep tips, we aim to cut down on the trial and all but eliminate the error, ensuring that you are meal prepping like a pro right from the outset.
1. Start the Prep Session with Inventory
Effective meal prep aims to cut down on waste – both of time and food. Assuming you are prepping weekly and have set enough time aside, this can be the ideal opportunity to take stock of what is in the cupboard. Take the time to throw out anything that is out of date or never to be used and use what remains as the basis for your meal plan for the week.
2. Get the Shopping Done
Anything missing from your prep list needs to be acquired from the shop. Most people do their meal prep on a Sunday, so Saturday is the ideal day for picking up ingredients. Fruits, vegetables and other fresh items will be in ideal condition for preparation and storage for the week ahead, and the plan will be fresh in your mind when the prep takes place.
3. Make at Least One Meal that can be Frozen
Think of one or more frozen meals as the backup plan. Anything stored in a cupboard or fridge will deteriorate over time and will not be as good when the time comes to eat it as when you prepared it. No domestic technique locks in flavour and texture like freezing and it is reassuring to know that you have something ready to go in perfect condition, even when truly pushed for time.
4. Be Realistic with your Time
Meal prep revolves around allocating time that you can spare on one day to save it later in the week. It being time that you can spare is crucial to the whole concept and it is important to set aside an hour or 2, depending on the complexity of your meals, to get things done to a good standard. If you have difficulty imagining sectioning off such a block of your Sunday, the thought of the future time saved can be an excellent motivator.
5. Fit Related Tasks in Beforehand
If you do want to cut down the length of the dedicated time block, then there is no harm in doing small tasks as and when. Washing fresh vegetables takes 5 minutes at most, but you can take that out of the meal prep block by doing it as soon as you get home with your shopping. Slicing, pre-cooking, seasoning and other tasks can also be achieved in just a couple of minutes beforehand and it all helps.
6. Prepare your Kitchen
Your kitchen is going to work harder on meal prep day than any other day of the week, and it deserves to be treated well in return. Clean surfaces and all washing up put away will put you in the right mindset for getting the meal prep done and you will thank yourself later as it will be a lot easier to clean the kitchen from a clear start than adding to an existing mess.
7. Store Your Prepped Meals in a Coherent Manner
Much of your prepped food will need to be refrigerated, while some can go in the cupboard and the rest will be frozen. Obviously, you will look to put each meal where it is most appropriate but considering daily plans and what you will need when will save time throughout the week and enable you to grab and go.
8. Adjust your Meal Plan for Time
Once you have chosen a meal prep day, you will need to stick to it as otherwise you will run out of prepared meals. Life happens and you will not always have as much time as you might hope to get the prep done, and there is no harm in simplifying the plan to accommodate. Meals involving pasta, salads and raw produce tend to be the simplest of all and focusing on them when pushed for time will ensure that you still have a worthwhile week’s worth of food to look forward to.
9. Refrigerate any Food that will be Frozen First
If you are not accustomed to storing cooked food, some of the more obvious tips may help. Food that has just been cooked can be transferred to the fridge without issues. Frozen meals are a little trickier and you want to take the time to cool them before freezing. Freezing straight away increases the risk of freezer burn and this leads to food that, while edible, is not as good as it potentially could be.
10. Work in Order
Assuming you have made everything that you are prepping before, you will have an idea of how long it takes – or can at least refer to the recipe. Make efficient use of your time – meal prep is about timesaving after all – and start the meals that take the longest first. When they reach a point where they are cooking away and require minimal attention, you can shift your focus to the next meal.