Meal prepping can be a wonderful way to have your homemade food ready to go all week. You may see others doing food and meal prep and find it daunting, but in reality, it is fairly straightforward and simple.
Below is a meal prep guide that can help you learn what you need to know to make healthy meals and ways to make sure your food is stored safely.
What is Meal Prep?
As the name implies, meal prep is preparing meals ahead of time to use later. Meal prep comes in different shapes and forms, but the most common practices are making meal plans or preparing ingredients ahead of time to make dishes a lot faster (pre-cutting vegetables and meats).
Meal prep definitions depend on dietary restrictions, personal tastes, and availability of time. So, your meal prep may take longer, or shorter, amounts of time to complete each week.
Some other meal prep examples are:
- Personal one-serving meals: These are single serving meals that are divided out into single containers and stored for quick meals through the week.
- Full pre-made meals- Meals are made, in full, ahead of time then divided out into portions and either frozen or stored until needed.
- Ingredient preparation- Preparing all your meats, veggies, sauces, and mixes before storing them for later use to make a dish quickly.
Containers to Use for Meal Prep
The benefits of buying containers specifically for meal prep is that they may allow you to:
- Save money
- Store food fresh longer
- Store healthy meals in bulk
- Mitigate waste from single use containers
- Keep food ready to eat or heat
Not to mention most meal prep containers come designed to be compact and easily stackable, which can save you valuable space in your fridge for other things.
Plus, if you opt for the glass meal prep containers, then you are not only saving the planet from one more plastic thing, but it is possible to run them through the dishwasher for extra sterilization.
When looking for good meal prep containers you should consider a few factors:
- Integrity: How well does the container hold liquids and does the lid seal properly?
- Durability: How strong is the container and can it handle the microwave safely?
- Utility: How many compartments does it have and how many are needed to suit your needs?
- Cleaning: Can it be put in a dishwasher and if not how easy is it to handwash the container?
Recommendations: when buying anything, it is always wise to look at the reviews and do a little research.
Foods to Use for Meal Prepping
It is important to note that pretty much any food can be used for meal prep just as long as it holds up well after being in the fridge or freezer for a few days. Good base recipes for meal prep usually include foods like meat (cooked), soups, nuts, vegetables (cooked, roasted, raw), and various sauces.
However, not all food is created equally. There are certain foods that do not hold up well at all to meal prep. The fridge will only make the following foods become softer, less enjoyable and less appetizing to eat:
- Cut fruit
- Soft vegetables
If you are just coming into the world of meal prep you may not think about how you are going to warm up your food. At home this may not be a big issue, however, for those taking their meals to work or on the go there may be no access to a microwave or stove.
So, it may be best to plan with your meal prep for this and prepare meals accordingly. Whatever you decide, the main thing is to use food you like and have no problem eating a few times in a row, so food is not wasted.
How to Meal Prep
When you’re first starting out, do not prepare meals for every meal. Just pick one and start simple.
Pick a meal: breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Then, only prep for that one meal. This can save you a lot of time and energy. Most people end up picking whichever meal they usually skip as the meal they prep for.
Pick a day to do your meal prepping. Most people like to use one of their off days to do the meal prepping as they have the time. Most often this is the weekend.
A good starting point would be to prep three days of meals. This is to make sure you can eat the same food for a few days in a row.
Many people when starting out find it difficult to eat the exact same thing for multiple days. So, starting off small is a good way to make sure this is something you would like.
Other good investments to consider when meal prepping are a meal planner app and a cookbook. You can use the meal planner to help make grocery lists and keep track of your meals.
Popular Foods for Meal Prepping
There are many delicious foods that handle meal prep well, like:
- Lean protein- canned or cooked chicken, fish, beef, pork, and turkey.
- Whole grains- buckwheat, barley, oats, and quinoa.
- Whole fruits- apples, oranges, bananas, whatever is in season.
- Seeds and Nuts- almonds, walnuts, cashews, pumpkin, and flax seed.
- (Stiff) fresh vegetables – celery, bell peppers, and crunchy vegetables.
- Frozen vegetables- freezer stored and at the ready.
Avoid Meal Prep Mistakes
The point of meal prep is to keep mealtimes easy and efficient. That’s why the key is starting out simple. You can make meals that are basic, but delicious.
The fastest way to burn out on meal prep is to try to make too many meals for too many days. A good tip is to pick one, make the meal, and plan to make enough to have for several days in a row.
For example, plan to make enchiladas, rice and beans for dinner. Make enough that there will be leftovers so you can have leftovers for your lunch the next day.