Updated: Nov 26, 2020
Interested in meal prep but don’t know where to start? Well, you are in the right place!
I know the feeling of coming back from work or university, tired and exhausted, and the last thing you want to do is be in the kitchen to cook. So you end up throwing any food item (usually not the most nutritious) in the microwave or ordering food. We’ve all been there. Here is where meal prep comes in.
When it comes to healthy eating, failing to plan is planning to fail.
Meal prep is more than a food trend. It is such an invaluable approach that you can use to make delicious, homemade food you’ll want to eat every day. Meal prep doesn’t require complicated planning or tools. All you really need is time (+ some effort).
In this guide, we will walk you through the basics of meal prep so you can meal prep confidently and effectively!
What is meal prep?
Meal prep the simple act of taking some time to plan your meals for a coming period of time like a few days or even a week.
Meal prep means different things to different people, but in the end, it is whichever way you choose to plan your meals for a period of time ahead. For example, for you, it might mean creating a food shopping list, batch cook one or two dishes, or making a week’s worth of meals prepped, labelled and ready to go. Whatever way you choose to meal prep is entirely up to you, as always, there is no one size fits all approach.
It might take you a few trial and error situations to figure out the system that works best for you, but once you do, it’ll do wonders for you!
Why should you meal prep?
1. Saves time
Although you can spend some time during meal prep, think of it as an investment. In the long-run meal prepping will actually save you hours in the kitchen.
If you are able to invest a couple of hours on a Sunday (or Saturday), it will make your weekday mornings, your packed lunches and your evening dinners go much smoother with less time spent thinking about what to buy or what to cook.
Practical tip: identify where you need a time-saver, and plan your meals to save yourself the time you need. For example, pick your busiest days in the week, and have those meals prepared ahead to help you later on.
2. Optimises your health
When your meals are planned and prepared in advance, you are less likely to grab the nearest (+ not so healthy) convenient food. Meal prep will ensure that your breakfasts, lunches, and dinners are healthy options that are readily on standby.
Meal prep gives you total control over what goes into your food.
3. Saves money
The more lunches you prep, the less money you will spend on unsatisfying salad options from shops. In addition, food shopping without a plan forces you to grab random items you may, or may not, need, which can go unused and thrown out later.
How to meal prep?
Just start off simple and you will be amazed at how much impact even a little bit of meal prep can have. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just start.
1. Start small
You can start by picking one meal that gives you the most grief. Focus on that meal. Having too many recipes can overcomplicate your meal prep, and you may not want to do it again if it was hard the first time. Try making just one recipe ahead of time, then meal prep additional dishes when you get comfortable.
2. Make your meal plan
3. Schedule time for meal prep
You can’t meal prep without prep time, so it’s important to schedule one or two days per week to prep your meals. How much meal prep you need to do might vary from week to week, but remember even a little bit goes a long way.
4. Plan your shopping list
Take stock of what you need for the recipes, plus any missing essentials you need and make your food shopping list.
5. Start meal prepping
Now that you have your meal plan and you have your food shop, you can start meal prepping! Remember to pick one meal and focus on that to start with.
The whole point of a meal prep is to not start from zero every morning and night.
Different meal prep strategies
Multitasking is your friend. Remember that you can cook lots of different things at the same time. You can use your oven and your stove at the same time, and even cook multiple items at once. For example, you can easily roast sweet potatoes and vegetables, while you bake chicken, cook quinoa, boil eggs and pack containers of nuts.
Batch cook carbohydrates in large batches, such as quinoa, brown rice, bulgur, and sweet potatoes. They can all be prepared at the same time and split over a few days.
Roast a tray of your favourite vegetables with herbs and spices such as broccoli, courgettes, and carrots ready to mix into your meals.
Make a large batch of soup or stews to enjoy throughout the week and maybe freeze some to save it for the following week.
Boil eggs for a few days ahead to eat throughout the week as a healthy snack or an addition in your lunch box.
Roast or grill chicken breasts, allow to cool and store in the fridge. You can add that to your pre-prepared quinoa and pre-roasted vegetables.
Double up your recipes. For example, make 8 chicken breasts instead of 4 or make two batches of stew instead of one. The more work you can do upfront, the less work you will need to do in the long run.
Portion overnight oats in separate jars/containers to grab and go in the morning.
You can freeze multiple recipes ahead of time. Then, defrost one or two containers in the refrigerator every day so you can enjoy different dishes throughout the week.
The benefits of meal prep are so worth the effort. You will save yourself time, money and you will feel less stress whilst eating healthy!