We can all agree that making healthy choices when eating out, or eating out everyday in general, can get pricey very quickly. But with meal prepping, you are free to choose and eat foods that suit your health goals, without having to leave a dent in your wallet.
But before you get into the healthy practice of meal prepping, here are some things you must know.
1. Know why you want to meal prep
Meal prepping is the practice of cooking food in advance to last you throughout a span of time, usually a week. It’s a great way for busy bees to choose healthy, homemade meals while saving time and money. There are many reasons to meal prep, but by far the most popular are the following:
- To achieve fitness goals (gaining muscle, losing weight, or both)
- To cut down on expenses by budgeting meals
- To save time and not have to think about what to eat all the time
Knowing your own personal reason for opting to meal prep will make it easier to commit to the process in the long run!
2. Don’t try to meal prep for the whole week on your first try
Does the thought of meal prepping suddenly make your palms sweaty? Slow your roll. As a start, prepare just one or two day’s worth of meals. The first time is always the most challenging, but just keep at it and soon you’ll be able to do this in your sleep.
3. There’s no shame in pre-cooked/pre-cut ingredients
Who’s got the time to prepare, marinate and bake chicken from scratch? If you’re short on time, just go for a store-bought option for meats, and maybe even include pre-washed and pre-cut vegetables. Stocking up on these grocery items saves you a considerable amount of prep time. Supermarket rotisserie chicken, salad greens, and frozen fruits are all just as good.
4. Know that not all meals need to be cooked
Prepping a meal doesn’t mean that every single dish needs to go into an oven or over a stove. A simple leafy salad for lunch or dinner, or having fruit as a snack still falls under the umbrella of meal prepping. Even granola is readily available and comes in different flavors, so that already solves your breakfast and snack woes.
5. Invest in high quality airtight containers
Since meal prepping involves storing food for several days, the quality of your food containers is a crucial factor. You will require containers that are similar in size to your meals, and some smaller containers for snacks. Expensive food containers are not your only option, but if your budget allows for them, you should definitely go for a high quality brand like Rubbermade. Having said that, any container that can keep your meals fresh will do. Just make sure that they’re microwave-safe and easy to clean.
6. Create a list of dishes you want to prep
Make your life easier by organizing your meal prep routine and schedule in advance. The first step is to try to identify your personal goals. If you’re trying to lose weight, build muscle or save money, look for recipes that fit your daily caloric and nutritional requirements.
Also ask yourself questions like ‘how much time do I have to meal prep?’ and ‘Which ingredients are readily available in my local supermarket?’ This will make it easier to create and stick to a shopping list for grocery day.
7. Remember, simplicity is key
Meal prepping is not a competition — you don’t necessarily have to recreate the fancy dishes you see on someone else’s Instagram account. If you have the confidence, time, and ability to prepare restaurant-worthy meals, then by all means, let your skills loose! But for those of us who can only manage the basics, having entry-level meal prep ability is in no way a cause for concern.
To make your preparation even easier, use similar ingredients on all or most of the dishes. A favorite ingredient for meal preppers is roasted chicken, as this can be added to salads, sandwiches, or even as the main dish. Get creative by using different recipes and spices to prevent meals from getting too boring.
7. Set a day to shop and prep
To start off on the right foot with meal prepping, set a specific date — preferably a weekend — to do your grocery shopping and cooking. Just don’t stress yourself out! Meal prepping veterans usually suggest Sundays, as you will have ample time to focus on meal prepping without work and other responsibilities getting in the way.
8. Invest in a slow cooker
Slow cookers are the perfect equipment for people who are too impatient to stand by the stove and wait for their food to be done. These culinary bad boys are super easy to use: you just have to dump all the ingredients in the slow cooker pot and then set the timer and temperature. In just a few hours, you will have a steaming hot meal ready with little to no effort. If this idea tickles your pickle, then investing in a slow cooker will be a smart move.
9. Stay inspired through blogs and YouTube
There are so many fitness gurus online who love sharing new and exciting meal prepping recipes. And if you have specific dietary requirements, you can also find Youtubers that focus entirely on specific diets such as vegan, gluten-free, ketogenic, and many others — so whatever type of diet you are following, you are sure to find dishes that will be right for you.