Modern times have ushered in chaotic schedules that often require us to balance and fit in a multitude of tasks. Between dropping the kids off at school, getting work done at the office, and fitting in our daily exercise routines, getting dinner on the table can seem like the impossible some evenings. This is why meal prep can be such a valuable tool to have in your cooking arsenal.
What Is Meal Prep?
Meal prep is all about preparing your meals, or portions of your meal, ahead of time. Typically, meals are shopped for on the weekend, then prepped or semi-prepped for the week ahead.
Planning out your meals ahead of time can help save you time throughout the week and ensure you are eating healthy meals, rather than rely on take-out when you’re too tired or short on time.
How to Meal Prep: Helpful Tips and Ideas
Approaching meal prep for the first time can seem overwhelming. You already have a lot to do and the thought of planning out a bunch of meals in one day can seem like an extra task you just don’t have the time for. Once you try your hand at it, however, you will quickly become accustomed to the routine.
Not only that, but you’ll become hooked on the fact that your weekday meals have become so effortless and easy to whip up. To help you get started on meal prep, we’re sharing some helpful tips and ideas that will make attempting meal prep a lot simpler.
Get the Right Tools
While slow cookers or pressure cookers are helpful tools to have when meal prepping, these are optional tools that will simply make your life easier. If you’re going to make a priority list of things you’ll need, you’ll want to put items like ziplock bags, storage containers, and sharpies at the top of the list.
Having the right items to properly store and label your meals or ingredients is vital to staying organized and making meal prep a smooth, seamless process.
Look Up Recipes
Maybe you have some go-to meal ideas or recipes you consistently turn to; if so, that’s great! If you’re struggling to brainstorm meal ideas for the entire week, however, do a quick search on the web or browse through your cookbooks for inspiration.
If you’re searching on the web, you’ll find many blogs that share recipes made specifically with the intention of preparing them ahead of time for meal prep. This can make your attempt at meal prep much less intimidating.
You can also take a look inside your pantry and fridge to see what ingredients you already have on hand. These can provide some inspiration for at least a couple of your meals.
Make a Grocery List
Once you’ve found the recipes you want to create for the week, make a grocery list outlining all the ingredients you’ll be needing for the week. Be sure to make a quick scan of your pantry and fridge first to ensure you don’t already have some of the ingredients.
There are a variety of helpful grocery list templates online that you can find to help you organize your list and make shopping at the store streamlined and fuss-free.
Form a Weekly Meal Calendar
Like grocery lists, it’s very easy to find templates for weekly meal plans or weekly meal calendars. A calendar is essential to meal prep and will help you keep track of how you’ve planned out your meals for the week.
A quick online search of a meal prep calendar will bring up a variety of templates you can fill out and print each week to help you stay organized.
Prep What You Can
If preparing entire meals ahead of time seems too intimidating, you can easily prep portions of your meals instead. For instance, when you get home from the grocery store, you can wash and chop any fruits or vegetables you’ll need for the week.
You can also cook any chicken or meats, as well as pasta and rice. These foods can be stored in airtight containers in the fridge for 3 to 4 days, or frozen in the freezer and reheated when you need them.
By preparing portions of your meals ahead of time, you can just dedicate a short amount of time each day to simply assembling the meals rather than cooking or preparing each component too.