For those who like calm and order, meal prepping can be very effective. It helps to set up the week, leaving little up in the air to figure out on the spot. However, for those who find meal prepping stress inducing, it can be a little daunting to think about. All those containers and preplanning that needs to happen; the decisions that have to be made; the recipes that need to be found.
It can be challenging for some people and that is okay. However, there are ways to meal prep for the week that do not require methodical preparation and can even be enjoyable. There are ways to efficiently set yourself and your kitchen up for successful meals. It takes some effort, but it can be done.
Why is Meal Prepping Beneficial?
There are a few advantages to prepping meals ahead of time. Not only are you mindfully setting yourself up for a week’s worth of nutritious food, but you are creating a habit that will stick long term. Prepping ahead of time can:
- Cut down on overall prep time. If you wash and chop all the ingredients you commonly use during the week at once, such as garlic and onions, you get to save time over the course of the week. You only have to wash a knife and cutting board once and since you are already there at the counter chopping away, what’s a few more cloves, right?
- Save money. If you are only buying the things you need for the recipes you will prepare, then chances are last-minute splurges won’t make the cut. Money won’t be spent on the little extras that happen to make their way into your cart. Knowing how much to buy will also save money, since only the amount needed for the recipe will be purchased.
- More conscious shopping. Since you have a plan on what you are buying, you only buy what you need. Products won’t spoil as often since everything you are buying has a use. That head of lettuce in the fridge? There to make a salad. Those mushrooms sitting in the back? For the stir-fry. The avocado half all by itself? It’s for tomorrow’s breakfast. No more “what am I going to make with this bag of asparagus I bought” situations.
How to Meal Prep
It can be overwhelming in the beginning as you find your footing. Just remember, you do not have to be perfect. You can meal prep one week and skip the rest of the month; or you can meal prep only one meal (lunch perhaps?) to start with and ease into it. Do not let the challenges get you down. It takes time to find the right rhythm so be patient. There are so many different ways to meal prep and the only right way is the one that works for you. Some things to consider:
- Get inspired. Find recipes online, sift through old cookbooks, ask people for their faves. The sky is the limit, but the more inspo you can get the better, because it will grow your arsenal of meals to prepare.
- Write it down. Jot down what you are going to make. Not only will this help to ensure all the ingredients are purchased and ready to go (standing in the kitchen ready to cook when one ingredient is missing is such a pain), but it also helps to make sure the meal is balanced. You may not notice until you see it written down that there is very little fat on your menu, or that you are missing vegetables from Tuesday’s lunch. Putting pen to paper can help paint the picture in a better way.
- Choose ingredients that are versatile. Picking products that can be used in a variety of ways makes for less redundancy throughout the week. Ground beef can be made into meatballs, burger patties, or breakfast sausage. Cauliflower can be chopped into salads, riced as the bed of a stir fry, or roasted as a side dish. Having the option to use an ingredient in a multitude of ways can make it easier to use.
- Divide into make ahead and day of. Figure out what can be made ahead (sauces, soups, casseroles, etc.) and what needs to be made day of (fish entrees, anything that needs to be crispy or crunchy). Not only will this help make meals prepping easier, but also more flavorful.
- Set aside time. A week’s worth of meals can take about 2-4 hours of prep time. That does not mean it has to happen in one chunk. It is very reasonable to break it down into sections and spread it out throughout the day or even days. There is no rule that a whole week’s worth of food has to be prepared at once. If prepping in three-day increments works better for you then so be it. There are no set rules.
Have equipment ready to go. Make sure utensils, pots, pans, appliances are clean and in working condition. You do not want to stop in the middle of cooking when you find out you do not have a clean stockpot to make soup in or your vegetable peeler is MIA. Taking an extra five minutes to locate the equipment needed can save time in the long run.