So, you’re ready to give meal prepping a try. And why shouldn’t you? It saves you time, money and energy, plus it helps you stay on track of your diet and fitness goals. No more last-minute pizza deliveries or sugary late-night snacks. But, where do you start and how can you optimise your meal prepping? Here are some hacks that beginners and even the more experienced meal preppers should remember.
Get the right containers
Instagram is showing you all these meal preps in cute bowls and fun-looking mason jars, but storing your meals in the right containers is important. You want something that will keep everything sealed and fresh, survive the cold of the freezer, easy to store in your fridge and transport in your lunch bag, and be microwave-friendly too. Glass and silicone containers are your best bet. Using plastic containers creates unwanted waste–for the environment and your wallet since you have to keep buying again after you trash them. Plus, microwaving flimsy plastic containers is an absolute no-no.
Cook once a week
Schedule one day out of your week, say Sunday afternoon, to do the bulk of your meal prepping. This means all the chopping, slicing, dicing, roasting, boiling and other major kitchen tasks that you need to do. That allows you to only cook once and clean your kitchen once when you follow meal prepping.
Remember each food’s timeline
You may love avocados, but they may not love you as much to stay fresh for long. The same goes for leafy greens and berries. If a recipe calls for a sauce or dressing, set it aside instead of mixing it in right away. This will keep salads crisp. When you’re ready to eat, that’s when you mix them together. For certain fruits, like avocados and apples, only cut them up when you’re ready to eat them.
Your weekly formula
When you’re at the supermarket, are you feeling stumped on how much to get of what? Try this formula for each week: two proteins, four vegetables and one starch. Make one of your proteins plant-based, such as tofu or beans. You can mix up your vegetables with greens and raw or roasted vegetables. For starch, go with whole grains or potatoes.
Keep it frozen
Frozen produce and your freezer will be some of your best friends when it comes to meal prepping. You might think freshly harvested fruits and veggies are better than the frozen kind, but they’re just as nutritious when frozen. In fact, they’ve found to be higher in antioxidants than their fresh counterparts. Meanwhile, you can store meals for longer in your freezer. Did you know that cooked meat can last from two to six months in a freezer? Just make sure to note the dates.
Don’t forget snacks
Snacking is probably when we’re most vulnerable to making less than healthy food choices. So, remember to include mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks in your meal plan. Resist the urge to buy single-serving packs of nuts and dried fruits. They may save you time, but not money. For healthy snacks, try yoghurt, cheese, baby carrots and bell pepper slices.
Spice it up
Bored of the same ingredients? Sauces, spices, oils and marinades are where you can experiment with different flavours to keep things interesting. Easy seasoning options include curry paste, tandoori sauce, garlic sauce and miso.
One pan it
To save even more time, you can cook all your meals at once. One-pan meals allow you to cook your proteins, starches and vegetables in one pan. Toss your ingredients in a pan, drizzle some olive oil and seasoning and roast it all together.