Meal prep is a great way to have healthy meals on hand. It can help reduce food impulsivity and save time and money. You can prep entire recipes ahead of time or simply prepare ingredients on your meal prep day. The best meal prep recipes are easy to assemble and can be customized based on your preferences.
1. Plan ahead
The best way to get started with meal prep is by planning ahead. This will help you to figure out what recipes or ingredients you want to cook, and how much of each ingredient to prepare. Then, you can make a list of all the items that you need and go shopping for them. This is especially helpful if you are a new meal prep eater, as it can help to reduce food waste and keep you on track with your goals.
It’s also a good idea to have a few emergency meals on hand for those nights when you don’t feel like cooking, such as cauliflower pizza from the freezer or hummus and veggies on toasted bread from the fridge. This will help you to avoid impulsive eating, which can be hard on both your wallet and your diet.
It’s also a good idea to invest in some sealed, reusable containers to store your prepped food. This can help to reduce plastic waste, which is bad for the environment and your health. You can find many great options online or at your local grocery store.
2. Take inventory of your pantry
Having the right pantry staples makes meal delivery much easier. Having things like rice, quinoa, brown sugar, flour, spices, salt and canned low-sodium beans can help you create many meals from scratch using just a few ingredients.
Once you’ve taken stock of the items you have, try to group similar items together like veggies and fruits, canned foods, grains and rice and soups and broth. Doing this can make taking inventory a lot quicker going forward. It also helps to label your containers, so you know what they contain and when it was prepped. This can help you avoid wasting food by not using up a dish before its expiration date, or misplacing the sloppy joe sauce that was meant to go with the ground beef and tomato paste.
Keep an updated inventory on hand, whether on paper in a page protector hanging in the fridge or freezer, in your kitchen calendar, or on a digital spreadsheet so you can quickly add it to your shopping list. This will cut down on food waste and help you navigate the grocery store more efficiently.
3. Cook in bulk
Cooking in bulk for meal prep is a great way to save time on weekly cooking. It also allows you to make large quantities of food and store them in the refrigerator or freezer for later use. Having meals already prepared will make it easier to stick to your diet plan and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
The best foods to meal prep in bulk are those that freeze and reheat well. Investing in good quality freezer-safe containers is key to ensuring that your foods do not spoil or develop freezer burn. Recipes like cooked meat, roasted vegetables, soups and sauces are ideal for meal prep in bulk. However, some ingredients can be better left fresh, such as leafy greens, which will quickly wilt or turn slimy if stored in the fridge.
Try starting with simple recipes, such as slow cooker shredded chicken or a chicken tetrazzini, and then building out your menu with “kitchen-sink” meals – dishes that let you use up all the black beans you have leftover from those entrees, for example.
4. Make a shopping list
Whether you’re new to meal prep or an experienced cook, having a plan for each week is the key to success. This will ensure that you have all the ingredients for your healthy meals and prevent you from wasting food.
First, look through your pantry and freezer to see what you have on hand, then make a list of the items that you need to purchase. Doing this before going to the grocery store will help you avoid overbuying and will also keep you from buying things that you already have in your kitchen.
When shopping, choose versatile and long-lasting foods that can be prepared in a variety of ways. For example, roasted vegetables can be added to salads, thrown on top of whole grains for quick meals, or wrapped in tortillas for easy lunches. It’s also a good idea to stock up on fridge staples like chicken, fish, beans, eggs, yogurt, and cheese, as these are items that can easily be used in multiple dishes.
5. Prep your food
There are a few things you’ll need to have on hand to meal prep effectively. Palinski-Wade recommends taking inventory of your pantry on a regular basis and keeping a running list of staples to buy as needed. This will prevent you from overbuying foods you already have and also help cut down on food waste.
She also suggests stocking up on shelf-stable ingredients like cooked and seasoned lean protein (chicken, fish, pork or beef), whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, oats) and dried beans or legumes; healthy fats (like avocados, olive oil or coconut oil); and jarred sauces.
Meal prepping can be a great way to get your meals together, especially if you have a busy schedule and want to stay on track with your nutrition goals. It can also help you avoid food impulsivity by giving you an array of ready-to-eat healthy meals that are based on recipes and foods you enjoy. If you’re new to meal prepping, it’s best to start small and prepare only one week’s worth of meals to give yourself time to master the process.