Learning how to meal prep is a great way to commit to your healthy eating plan. Here’s everything you need to know to get started.
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In this article:
A Basic Step-By-Step Guide on How to Meal Prep
What is Meal Prepping?
Meal prepping involves preparing your meals ahead of time. The idea is to set aside a specific day where you can cook a week’s worth of food all at once, with the goal of saving time, effort, and money.
What makes meal prepping so effective is the fact that it’s much easier to stick to your clean eating program. With majority of prep work done, you don’t have to worry about your eating habits in the middle of the busy workweek.
The three most common types of meal prepping include:
- Fully Prepared Meals: These are single-portion meals that you can cook in advance and store with ease. They are the simplest type of meals to prepare and are ideal for beginners. All you need to do is reheat when ready to eat.
- Divided Batch Meals: Cook large dishes like soups, stews, and casseroles that have multiple servings and portion them into separate meal containers. This is perfect for home cooks with large families who are adept at cooking large-portioned dishes at a time and can freeze portions for later.
- Ingredient Prepping: Some recipes appear difficult because of the time-consuming prep work. For example, stir-fry foods only take a few minutes to cook. But you might have to allot 20 to 30 minutes for the prep work alone. What you can do to make things easier is to prepare the ingredients, like chopping vegetables and mixing up sauces or dressings, in advance.
How to Meal Prep for the Week
Step 1: Set Aside a Cooking Day
Depending on the complexity of the recipes you want to cook, you could end up spending the better part of your day in the kitchen. So the first thing you need to do is to make time to cook your meals.
For most people, they find it easier to do their cooking on Saturday or Sunday. But if your weekends aren’t free, you don’t have to force yourself.
Tip: Struggling to make time for all that cooking? Rather than preparing a week’s worth of food right away, you can start off with a few days’ worth of food first. After you get the hang of meal prepping, you can opt to increase the number of meals you cook.
Step 2: Get an Idea of What You Want to Cook
Once you know when the best day to do your cooking is, it’s time to create a meal plan. The most effective way is to observe your eating habits and preferences.
Do you love breakfast and want to maximize the most important meal of the day, without wasting too much time over the stove? Consider storing cooked pancakes and waffles, egg cups, or breakfast sandwiches in the freezer and reheating in a jiffy. If you’re always in a rush to get out the door, individual overnight oats in mason jars and some cold-brew coffee in the fridge are classics.
For packed lunches, consider if your office has a fridge you can keep your lunch in before microwaving later on. If not, you can plan meals that can be eaten cold (like mason jar salads and wraps).
If you find your schedule has you rushing to get dinner on the table most nights, think of hearty batch-cooked meals that can be pulled out of the freezer and warmed without much effort.
The beauty of meal prepping is you can make it work for you and your family’s lifestyle.
Step 3: Make a Shopping List
Once you come up with a meal plan, it’s time to prepare the ingredients.
Firstly, list out all the meals you plan to eat for the week. Look for their recipes online and see what ingredients you need to source.
Secondly, make a separate list of the ingredients you need to buy. Make sure you only use healthy ingredients that align with your diet plan.
Lastly, head over to the grocery store and buy the ingredients you need. Keep on the lookout for ingredients that are cheaper to purchase in bulk so you can save more money.
Tip: If you don’t have meal containers yet, now would be a great time to get a few. Buy at least a dozen or more so you don’t run out of containers to use in the middle of the week. Also, don’t forget to invest in good kitchenware.
Step 4: Cook Your Meals
After preparing the meal plan, ingredients, and containers, it’s time to cook your meals.
Different recipes have varying levels of difficulty, and beginners should start off with something that’s easy to cook and doesn’t spoil quickly. You can opt to explore more complex dishes once you hone your cooking skills.
Start by chopping fruits and vegetables first, or making some pasta sauces or chili you can freeze. These are basic meal prepping ideas that always prove helpful.
Step 5: Store Them Properly
The trick here is to place them in air-tight containers and store them in the refrigerator. Research if your food items should be wrapped in foil or wax paper first, how long they can keep chilled or frozen, and make sure to label accordingly.
After all, keeping your meals sealed in air-tight packaging is the key to extending their lifespan. This especially applies to foods that spoil easily such as milk, tomatoes, berries, and avocados.
Also, do not mix wet and dry ingredients. For example, let’s say you’re making a bowl of mixed berries. Separate the berries from any liquids or juices that you plan to immerse them in.
RELATED: Wise Food Storage: Vacuum Sealing Food
Common Meal Prep Mistakes
Avoid these common meal prep mistakes most first-timers commit when learning how to meal prep for weight loss and fitness:
1. Not Getting Enough Food Containers
The key to extending your meals’ lifespans is by keeping them in an airtight meal container. Make sure you have enough to individually pack your meals.
If not, the meals you prepared might get contaminated by oxygen, bacteria, or your saliva. When that happens, your meals will go bad and you won’t be able to eat them anymore.
2. Cooking Too Much or Too Few Foods
Figuring out how much food to cook and portion per meal is very tricky. Cook too much and you’ll consume more calories than you’re supposed to. Prepare too few and you won’t get the nutrients your body needs to function.
Perhaps the only way to find out how much food to cook is through trial and error. Keep track of how much you put in every day, count your calories, and measure each meal’s nutrient value.
3. Making Things Too Complicated
Try to keep your meal plan as simple and doable as possible. Otherwise, you might end up with a complex, well-calculated meal plan that you don’t actually follow.
Learning how to meal prep is just the first step to building a healthy diet plan that’ll keep you in shape and stress-free. To maximize its benefits, you have to actually commit to your program, no excuses!
Learn these easy meal prep ideas for the week in this video from Goodful:
If you find yourself getting bored of eating the same meals daily, opt to explore other healthy meals and dishes. There are hundreds of meal prepping recipes for you to try so there’s no need to limit yourself to just a handful of options.
Do you have any other questions on how to meal prep? Post them in the comments section below!
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