Have you ever left for work starving since you have not had the time or energy to shop, let alone cook? A busy schedule is the most common reason that people have for being inclined toward ordering fast food or restaurant meals. These meals cost a lot, lack nutrients, and contribute to rising obesity trends and health issues.
Suppose you could have healthy meals in a matter of minutes. Wouldn’t that be so much better? During your busy life and hectic work routine, meal planning or meal prep can benefit you.
Meal prep ensures that you have healthy meals at all times. Meal prep is also great for maintaining your calorie count if you plan to eat healthily.
Any type of meal prep requires you to have everything planned out. Moreover, no one can say that there is a specific method that is correct.
The entire meal planning is based on your own food preferences, cooking ability, routine, and goals you have set the meal prep for.
What Is a Meal Prep?
Meal prep is a name for preparing whole dishes or healthy meals beforehand. Knowing how to meal prep is for everyone but best for people with a busy lifestyle.
Also, it is good, especially for those trying to eat healthier despite their busy schedules.
A pre-portioned, prepped meal ensures you get a proper meal containing all the nutrients you need. It will also allow you to reach your nutritional goals and avoid unhealthy eating.
Meal prep strategies are not something that you can follow over the top of your head. It takes time to plan a meal, dedicate time to spend hours making it, and stick to it.
People avoid meal prep since it takes a lot of time and may take up the entire weekend. Knowing what you are required to do makes the process much easier.
Benefits of a Meal Prep
- Helps you save money
- Saves time in the long run
- Helps you keep a calorie count
- Ensures that you always have a meal at home
Why People Should Meal Prep
Meal prep will save time, reduce food waste and lessen the likelihood of you eating something unhealthy. You would not need to spend another dime on a meal when you have a prepared meal at home. Meal prep gives you entire control of your food budget and diet.
You get to decide what to eat, how, and when to eat it. It makes it easier for you not to overeat and maintain a balance in your food intake.
Meal prepping will also ensure you eat well, feel full, and do not end up hungry all the time. One meal prep should have enough food portions to give you energy throughout the day.
If people have a nice healthy meal prep waiting for them at home, they will not lean towards ordering in or going out to eat something unhealthy.
To get all the benefits of meal prep, you must make the meal plan yourself. You can add or remove ingredients and make healthy meal prep recipes as per your liking.
Can Everyone Do a Meal Prep?
Meal prep is not something that you can associate with just a single person. It can be for anyone; it depends on what you want to achieve in your meal prep.
Every situation depends from person to person, and there are no set rules to having a meal plan.
Preparing all the meals ahead of time would be good for someone who has no time to cook on the weekdays. Planning your meal prep should sit well with your schedule and not further cause you stress.
One can meal prep even if they are a student or someone working multiple jobs and do not have enough time to cook. An intense schedule and insufficient cooking time will make you inclined to order fast food.
However, eating unhealthy food will take a toll on your health. You can start meal prep with the right healthy meal prep recipes to ensure this does not happen.
These healthy recipes will not only be good for your health, but you will also save time and money and enjoy homemade meals.
If you are a working mother, taking care of your children while working will be hard. If your children are going to school, you must get up early to make their breakfasts and lunches.
To ensure they still eat healthily, you must assemble fresh meals in the morning. This is where prepared foods come in handy. Prepared foods like English muffins, smoothie bowls, or overnight oats are a great way to start their day. You only need to heat them up or serve them as they are.
However, you must ensure that there is variety in the foods you prepare to avoid your kids getting bored of the same meals. Children must eat nutritious and fresh food daily. Eating overnight oats with fresh fruits in the morning will be healthy enough for a balanced meal.
As a busy mother, you might find meal prep helpful. Since you have taken care of breakfast and lunch, at least the start of your day will not be as hectic.
The slow cooker is something that can up your game in the kitchen. You can have something in your slow cooker while running errands or work.
With this, you will be able to give your children full meals, giving them a healthy diet amidst your busy schedule.
Know Your Food Preferences When Planning Meals
Knowing your eating preferences, you may be unable to eat the same thing repeatedly. You may also have some specific dietary needs like protein and calcium that you need to have in your system. So, you may prepare foods that contain these two nutrients when you meal prep.
Do not go for too many recipes initially. Pick your favorite recipes and see how it fares for you.
Meal prep is different for everyone. Something that works for someone else may not work for you, so try a few things before deciding what works for you and what does not.
Meal prep is not just a food trend you must follow. And it is an approach to ensure that you eat healthy and delicious meals every day without spending all your weekends or evenings cooking.
A good meal prep does not require a lot of complicated meal planning. Hence, we will guide you through the most important steps in meal prepping.
Steps When Moving Towards Meal Prep
Meal prep may seem like a tedious task that will take most of your day off.
To ensure this does not happen, we will give you multiple styles through which you can prepare your meal. You will not need to be standing next to the stove for hours and hours.
Cooking the Entire Meal in Advance
If you want a proper healthy meal when you return home from work, you should cook the meal beforehand. So, when you come home exhausted, you will have a pre-cooked, pre-portioned, healthy meal waiting for you.
You will only need to reheat and eat it. With meal prep, there is no extra work required.
Cooking Large Batches
After figuring out how long you want to eat the same dish repeatedly, you can cook a big batch of your chosen meal prep recipe. This way, meal prep will reduce the time and effort you may have to invest if you try to cook a healthy meal every day.
You can only cook for a week ahead of time. Moreover, you can portion the dish out or cook it for longer than that.
You would have to freeze the portions and reheat them at lunch or dinner. You can even eat cold meals, whichever you prefer.
Prep Your Ingredients
This one’s for you if you are not a fan of having the same food daily. Knowing which foods are important for your body, you can have the required ingredients prepared beforehand. Having meal prep ideas will allow you to have a healthy meal all the time.
Since all the required ingredients will be prepped in advance, all you need is to arrange them in batches. It would also allow you to reduce the time you will have to spend in the kitchen preparing the ingredients.
Why Do These Three Points Matter In Meal Planning?
These three points make you aware of how you can get started with meal prep. You can pick the method which suits you the best.
You can prepare your meals in advance if you have a hectic schedule. Also, you will not have to worry about what to eat after a long day at work.
If you need to meal prep a specific meal, like breakfast, you can make the meal the evening before. Most of us have very busy mornings, and even if you want to prepare breakfast, it would be almost impossible.
Hence, making your breakfast the night before ensures you have a healthy meal in the morning. You can do the required prep once and use the ingredients for your morning meals.
Food Safety Guidelines That You Should Follow When Meal Prepping
The process of cooking, storing, and reheating food is important in meal planning. Following these guidelines will reduce your chances of getting food poisoning from eating these prepped meals.
These guidelines will add to your knowledge and ensure that you know all there is to cooking, storing, and reheating.
You should know at which temperature the food needs to be kept. Ensure your food does not go bad and your prepared meal is not wasted.
While some foods may require you to freeze them, some may be good with just being refrigerated.
You should refrigerate the foods you have to keep in the fridge within two hours of their purchase and about three hours after cooking. Since you plan on refrigerating your foods for some time and reheating frozen meals, you should be vigilant in this case.
Ensure that the food is in the refrigerator before it spoils. It means you must cook the food fresh and quick if they are to be stored for a long time. Vegetables, if stored properly, can be cooked within two to three days.
Reheat the food stored in your refrigerator only once. It means that you will have to portion your food properly.
Your portion should have enough food that you are filled after the meal. Moreover, your portion should not be too big that the food ends up wasted.
Eat foods that you have stored before they go bad. It means you will be required to eat your frozen prep meals in a little over a month and your refrigerated prepared meals for a whole week.
So, if you are meal prepping for four to five days, you can refrigerate your meals. But if you prepare your meal plan for over a week, you will have to freeze them.
If you have good recipe ideas, you can make a shopping list while keeping all recipes in mind. Doing so will make batch cooking easier.
Should You Meal Prep If You Do Not Enjoy Eating The Same Food Repeatedly?
Preparing a single meal may take up a lot of your time. But, if you get bored eating just one thing, you might have to make a few changes.
Preparing a single thing and making small changes in the recipe will not make it that boring for you.
For instance, if you are preparing chicken, you can have different sauces, seasonings, dressings, and sides. Knowing how to meal prep will ensure that you continue to eat the prepped meal and that your food tastes good every time.
Common Mistakes to Avoid and Reduce Cooking Time
You will have to spend considerable time in the kitchen during meal prep. Not a lot of people look forward to doing that.
It would help if you planned everything accordingly so that this does not happen.
The entire point of meal prep is to reduce the time a person spends standing next to the stove.
Following the methods mentioned below will help you make the meal prep process quick and easy:
Make a Set Schedule for Yourself for Prepping Meals Ahead of Time
When starting meal prep, setting a schedule for yourself is the best way to make sure that meal prep works. It will ensure that you know when to shop for the groceries and cook, which will help you form a good routine.
For example, you can plan to go grocery shopping on Saturday with a complete shopping list. Then, you can prep your meals on Sunday evening.
You know your routine the best, and adjusting your schedule according to your convenience should not be an issue for you.
It is highly suggested that you stick to the routine that you have decided for yourself. This act will simplify many of the troubles people face when they start to meal prep.
Thinking about meal prep might seem like a difficult task at first, but the convenience outweighs the cons. You will be eating homemade meals with the things you like and be healthy at the same time.
Decide How You Will Cook The Meals While Meal Prepping
Meal prep is best done in batches, requiring you to pick the right meal prep recipe. You can pick delicious recipes for the oven, instant pot, cooker, or pan.
If you pick a meal prep recipe cooked in a pan, you will be required to spend a lot of time in the cooking process.
As opposed to that, a meal cooked in a pressure cooker will take less time to cook. You will also be cooking a big batch at once.
This step makes a big difference when you prepare meals and make big batches of what you want to eat. You should meal plan in a way where you should only use two stove tops simultaneously.
For instance, make baked potatoes, soup, or some stir fry. Then add sandwiches or salads, which do not require as much cooking time.
Properly Organize Your Meal Prepping and Cooking Ahead of Time
When you properly organize your cooking and prepping time, you will notice that you will easily sail through the entire process.
Start with a healthy recipe, which will require you to spend the longest time cooking. It may require you to use a pressure cooker, instant pot, slow cooker, or an oven meal.
Once those ingredients are in the cooking process, you may start on the elements that will not take as much time. This way, you can be done with your cooking as soon as the first recipe is done cooking.
In addition to this, when planning to make meals, make sure that you have gone through the recipes properly. By doing this, you will know how many ingredients you need to prepare for the dishes.
If two recipes require you to have chopped veggies like onions or tomatoes, chop them for both recipes at once.
Know Which Meal Prep Containers To Use
One of the issues with meal prepping is the storage of the different foods. It would be best if you had a detailed understanding of why you should use a specific meal prep container.
If you are looking for a meal prep container to store ready-to-cook ingredients, you should go for airtight glass containers or washable and reusable zip lock bags. These containers will ensure that your ingredients stay crisp and fresh throughout the storage.
If you want to store the foods that need reheating, go for the microwaveable meal prep containers. Doing so will reduce the number of containers that you will have in the washer.
Store your food and reheat them in the best meal prep containers. It will ensure that the healthy food does not go bad.
If you make meal preps for longer than a week, you will have to store your food in the freezer. Make sure to use freezer-safe meal prep containers. It will ensure that the nutrients stay within the food.
It would help if you did not fill the meal prep containers with food to the brim since the food can expand when it freezes. Frozen food needs some headspace between the food and the container’s lid.
You can store different ingredients in a single box. You can do this with multiple ingredients that need to be mixed at the last minute.
It would help if you went for leak-proof compartmentalized meal prep containers like a lunch box or stainless steel containers. It will keep all your ingredients in a single box, making it easy for you to mix them when required.
You should pick the meal prep containers in a simple and similar shape so you can stack them properly.
You can use freezer bags or lunch bags as well. Moreover, it helps keep your refrigerator contents clean and easy to manage.
Know Which Meal Prep Recipes You Can Go For In the Beginning
Healthy meal prep recipes are not limited. You can try many recipes, which will make your weekly meal prep ideas more creative over time.
Your meal prepping can include other meals made from olive oil. It is one ingredient that you can add to all the recipes.
Rotisserie chicken is a favorite for people who meal prep. It is a delicious source of protein.
You can have cooked quinoa, roasted vegetables like bell peppers, potatoes, zucchini, and broccoli with a dash of olive oil.
You can also use brown rice, cauliflower rice, and almond butter if you plan to lose weight.
What Will Make A Meal Plan Easy For You?
Figuring out your goals and intentions with the meal plan and making meals ahead always works.
These initial steps make meal prep easy for you. You will know what you want and must do for that to happen.
Plan Your Meal Prep Properly
Start with picking a meal you want to focus on during your meal prep. For example, if you hardly ever have lunch at home, prepping your lunches will not do you any good.
Once you have figured this out, preparing a meal for a whole week or a few days should be easy. You can change the meal prep and try multiple meals till you find the ones that work for you.
When starting meal prep, a smart move will be to stick to the recipes you are comfortable with making and enjoy eating. It will make the start of your meal prep journey easy as your comfort will play a key role here.
You will not be required to learn a new meal prep recipe or experiment with different foods from the beginning.
Once you have developed the habit of preparing your meals and it does not seem like a tedious task for you, you can kick it up a notch.
Remember, any change you make should be within your comfort zone since the meal prep is for you and no one else.
If it is not something you are okay with, either cooking or eating, you may not look forward to the outcome.
If preparing the meal for longer than a week, go for different meal prep recipes. Picking a single meal prep recipe will make the food boring.
It is a common mistake and may make the meal prep less enjoyable. You may even start to question your decision of ever having decided to meal prep.
Pick meals that contain different vegetables, meats, and carbs. Keep changing the variety of foods that you have in your meal prep. It will keep the food exciting, and you will enjoy it as more than a basic, quickly made meal.
Conclusion- How Should You Meal Prep?
People meal prep for different reasons. Meal prepping is a great way to save time for those who wish to spend less time in the kitchen daily.
Knowing how to meal prep ensures that you have the prep meals rich in nutrients.
Further, you will be less inclined to order fast food or go out for meals since you have a nice meal prepared at home.
Your goals with the meal prepping will determine what steps you are required to take. Proper meal prep will ensure that you reach your health goals.
As you continue doing it, you will understand that the basic purpose of meal prepping is to ensure that you stay healthy and lose weight while at it.
Meal prepping saves time and money, reduces waste, and ensures that you eat the food your body needs.
Knowing how to meal prep encourages you to develop better eating habits and makes your life easier. It helps you stay healthy and still lose weight by reducing the amount of junk food you eat.
With the right ingredients, a little patience, and enough storage space, you can create healthy recipes which will be nourishing and delicious.
You can start meal prepping with some healthy oils, water, a bunch of vegetables, fruits, grains, and healthy proteins. With it, you can watch your calorie count, eat healthily, and always have a homemade meal ready for you at home.
It may seem tough to manage initially, but it will be extremely beneficial in the long run.