Meal prepping is the act of preparing a meal or recipe and portioning out grab-and-go meals for later.
Benefits: Saves time, money and reduces waste. Reduces temptation to eat out. Prevents over or undereating. Reduces stress with mealtimes. Helps stay on track with nutrition goals and eliminates impulsive food choices.
You can prep just essential items like proteins or prep every meal and snack and label it all for a week. You can make meals ahead, batch cook and freeze, or prep ingredients required for specific meals like chopped vegetables or cook proteins.
What do you like? Make a list of ten meals or types of foods you or your family like
Work from the food you already have… Explore your pantry fridge and freezer and inventory everything you have-meals can be created from those items. Use perishable items first.
Similarly, what foods are in season right now? Often these foods are also cost effective and accessible.
Create meals with balanced Macronutrients. Protein, Fat and Carbs. Example: steak, sweet potatoes, broccoli
KEEP IT SIMPLE
What is happening in your life this week? Let that dictate what type of meals you might need. Late worknights or weekend plans or travel or kids’ soccer games?
Calculate meals needed per day x number of people to figure out how much of each item you need to purchase(servings). In general, 4 oz of meat per person is good, one cup of digestible starch or carbs, and 1 cup veggies (Unless its salad then 3 cups). For example, for dinners my family goes thru about 7 lbs of meat per week. Lunches we go thru another 7 lbs. (Which is why I buy in bulk!) After a while you will learn what you need more or less and what you can freeze
Any food allergies or food items people cannot have or don’t love?
Bulk purchase veggies, meats and perishables when you can: farmers markets, Costco etc
Browse recipes throughout the week and save in ONE place so when you meal prep you don’t have to look for ideas they are all right there.
Schedule the day you will meal plan, grocery shop, cook, and clean up. These can be split between 1, 2, 3, or even 4 days. Usually doing it all in one day can be overwhelming.
Focus on a core group of ingredients. 5 basic protein sources, 5 carbohydrates, some basic seasonings and spices, and fruits and veggies and maybe a few snacks. Use crossover ingredients.
Batch cook for efficiency and leftovers.
Choose a specific day and time frame to meal prep each week if you can.
Post a menu on the fridge or your phone or somewhere accessible.
Use a crock pot where you can just dump ingredients and use your time for other things.
Make a grocery list. Organize what you need into categories based on how the store is organized: produce, meats, canned goods, frozen, etc. Try to shop the perimeter of the store. Try to do all your shopping on one day to save time so you aren’t running to the store daily for food.
Whether you have a paper or electronic list, CHECK OFF as you buy items so you don’t buy twice or forget something. Efficiency and limiting your trips to the store to once a week ideally are key. We often so one major trip on Fridays and a “mini” trip for salad greens and produce on Tuesday
When you get home from shopping, wash items and put away RIGHT AWAY. Remove packaging to make most efficient use and visibility of items
I love to cook LARGE batches of protein, unseasoned. Ex: grilled chicken, ground beef, pulled pork.
Safety: Keep raw meat separate from other items, wash fruits and vegetables, thaw meat in the fridge vs on the counter (thaws too fast or can get too warm and accumulate bacteria). Reheat leftovers to 165 degrees or higher.
MEAL PREP PROCESS:
Clear and clean surfaces. Start with a clean kitchen, dishwasher and sink
Make sure you are fed
Turn on some music!
Make sure you’ve purchased storage containers ahead of time and they are ready
Make sure you have a beverage handy (Water, wine, coffee, whatever does it for you)
Have your recipes handy. Get out all ingredients (make sure you have them all)
Make items that take the longest first
Decide what can be made in advance (like spaghetti sauce) vs what cannot (stir fry but veggies could be chopped). Also, what I often do is make my Mon-Wed meals on Sunday and freeze my Thurs-Sat meals. Baked goods freeze well, soups and sauces. The entire meal does not need to be made ahead-you can brown meat or grill chicken ahead, for example. Veggies can be chopped ahead (I always do this) and kept in fridge for easy snacking and sautés. Vegetables with less water content store best. Cucumbers, for example should not be cut up too far ahead.
Storage: Most items will last 3-4 days in fridge otherwise you can freeze them.
Keep Moving Forward 😊 Sarah