Meal Prepping Tips and Tricks
I’ve heard it said that if you fail to prepare then you are preparing to fail. In most situations I will agree this is true! Meal prepping has become a bit of a buzz term these days, a social media hashtag and perhaps a mystery of magical feats to those who have not yet ventured into Meal prepping. Meal prep is something we have been doing in my house for many many years and we got started mainly out necessity. Running a household with small kids and being a female bread winner with a non culinary inclined spouse left very little time to get meals on the table and keep everyone fed. As the years have passed our meal prep has evolved to be more health focussed and refined to help us meet our goals for training in the gym, working and living well. There are days when I leave the house with a large cooler bag packed with all three meals and snacks to carry me 12-16 hours before I will cross my doorstep again. And I assure you it can be done! With just a little planning and a desire to fuel yourself well you too can meal prep like a boss!
Begin with a plan.
I usually start each Saturday morning with a cup of coffee, my meal chart and my phone. I have a simple grid that puts the meal headings Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner / Snacks along the top and the days of the week along the side. I start by filling in some meal ideas, Maybe I know I want to do green smoothies for breakfast this week, Salad and chicken for lunch, and Tuesday I’m out with the girls, I fill all that in. Then I go to my phone and reference all the saved links I keep. You know when you are scrolling through social and somebody posts something yummy and you save it, or those tasty videos on Facebook! And I pick something I might want to try this week. Once I have everything filled in I make my shopping list. I reference each meal, compare to what I already have on hand and then make a list by ‘area’ in the grocery store, Breads / Dairy / Fruit & Veg / Meats / Misc. Saving the chart for meals and groceries as a blank template is helpful. I print out a half dozen at a time and always have them on hand to plan.
I try to pick a ‘staple’ or two each week to work from. Chicken and Rice are common ones for me to work outward from. So I base my planning around a few staples but plan to customize to keep meals interesting. I always consider seasonal fruits and vegetables, hearty soups, stews and curries and stir frys are great to clean up the little bits of veg you have left from other recipes. Prepping can really be not only a time saver but a budget saver as well. The most common resistance I hear from people is they don’t want to eat the same thing everyday, realistically you don’t have to. For time saving and convenience we set aside some time on Sunday and do our prep. As an example, on a Sunday I might make a large pot of rice in the instant pot, and then grill or bake 10 chicken breasts with minimal seasoning. I’ll dice and season a few sweet potatoes and roast them in the oven, then scramble a dozen eggs. This all takes very little time but now I can put together a meal plan that looks like this:
Invest in good supplies.
The next part is portioning everything out into containers. We have some nice dishwasher friendly three section containers from Amazon like these ones that make it possible to transport things without them getting jumbled or soggy. And we also have a nice set of Glass ones like this for reheating items away from home. I have a fantastic cooler bag that wipes clean on the inside but is large and flexible. We have several ice packs always ready in the freezer to pop in to our bags and keep things fresh through the day. I also keep a small set of salt and pepper, wet wipes and cutlery in my cooler bag.
The important thing is to start realistic and with food you love. Don’t try to plan a week of all new meals you have never tried before. Pick a few good staples, batch cook and find ways to plan some delicious meals around those common ingredients. Pack up your meals in containers in the fridge ready to go and in the morning you can just pop some containers in your cooler bag with an ice pack and hit the road without needing to hit up fast food multiple times in a week. And when you get home you have all the staples on hand to make great meals and half the prep is already done! There are lots of meal preppers out there, try searching hashtags and have fun with it!