Meal prepping has been all the rage recently, with the amount of meal kit users growing by the millions. But meal kits can be expensive, regardless of whether they’re delivered to your door or bought at the store. To save a bit of money and maintain healthy cooking habits, many have taken to portioning pre-made meals for the week on their own.
For those with a fuller schedule, it can be hard to factor in time to meal prep. Many people feel discouraged from meal prepping because it can be time-consuming and tedious. But with the right tips and tricks, meal prepping can be a quick and efficient process.
To help you become a meal prep pro, this article will explain what meal prepping is, why you should meal prep, how you can start meal prepping and the million-dollar question: How can I make meal prep easier?
What Is Meal Prepping?
As the name suggests, meal prepping is simply preparing meals for a later time so they’re ready-to-eat and available when you need them. Meal prepping typically involves using a time block to prepare daily meals ahead of time to take the daily task of cooking off your plate. The intensity of meal prepping can range from chopping up fresh ingredients for later to cooking and portioning complete recipes.
So why has making meals ahead of time become so popular? Essentially, the point is to make your life easier by allowing you to be one step ahead in at least one area. When you meal prep, you don’t have to worry about coming up with a dinner recipe after work each day because it’s already done.
Advantages of Meal Prepping
Although there are many others, here are the top five advantages to meal prepping:
- Saves time: In our fast-paced world, who has the time to cook every evening? Meal prepping spares you from spending time cooking and figuring out what to make throughout the week.
- Saves money: Planning out your meals for the week can give you an exact grocery list and keep you from buying extra ingredients you won’t use. Meal prepping also allows you to buy ingredients in bulk, saving you money and trips to the grocery store in the long run.
- Promotes healthy living: When you prep your meals, you can eliminate the temptation of including less healthy foods in your diet. With meal prepping, you’ll find it easier to eat clean, curb cravings and develop good nutritional habits.
- Improves portion control: For those looking to shed a few pounds, meal prepping lets you practice portion control and monitor your caloric intake.
- Reduces waste: Meal prepping helps cut down on food waste because you will use all the groceries you buy in your recipes for the week, saving you from throwing away rotten produce.
How to Meal Prep
Meal prepping is different from meal planning in the sense that it involves actually preparing the meals. At its core, meal prepping has three basic steps:
- Plan it out: Decide what you want to accomplish during your meal prepping, including what recipes you’ll use, how much food you want to prepare, how much you want to cook and how many portions you want to freeze. Write down what you plan on making and find ways to consolidate your cooking methods, such as chopping ingredients while waiting for water to boil.
- Make a list: Make a detailed grocery list before going shopping so you don’t waste time trying to remember what a certain recipe calls for or wandering around looking for items you don’t need. Stick to your list and you won’t have to make additional runs to the store for ingredients you forgot.
- Get cooking: Once you have all the supplies you need, it’s finally time to start prepping. Set out all the ingredients and containers you’ll need, then begin making the meals until you have what you want for the week. Don’t forget to store the meals you won’t get to until later in the week in the freezer so they don’t go bad.
10 Meal Prepping Tips
You might know how to meal prep generally, but there are tons of meal prepping pointers that can improve your experience in the kitchen. From saving time to cutting down on effort, there are secrets to solve any meal prepping problem. Once you learn the tricks of the trade, you’ll never want to skip a meal prep session.
Here are 10 tips for quick meal prepping:
1. Get Into a Routine
How do you meal prep with a busy schedule? Choose a block of time you know you’ll be free each week, such as Sunday evening, and get in the habit of meal prepping during that time. Add a little motivation by planning your meal prep time around your favorite show, movie or podcast so meal prepping becomes something to look forward to.
2. Stock up on Containers
If you’re serious about starting to meal prep, investing in reusable containers will be worth it. Meal prepping requires many containers for portioning out and storing meals for each day of the week. Making a habit of using these containers can also help you with portion control.
When shopping for meal prep containers, look for clear containers you can see through so you don’t have to waste time opening every container to figure out what’s inside. Another useful type of container is mason jars — they’re great for meal prep recipes like overnight oats or salads. Try to keep your new collection of containers organized to save yourself from searching through random lids and bottoms for a matching pair.
3. Find Fun Recipes
Choosing meal prep recipes you’re excited to try will make it a far more enjoyable activity. Although you should pick recipes that interest you, try to keep it simple to avoid spending time searching for obscure ingredients or trying to learn a new cooking method. You can also modify recipes by skipping or substituting some ingredients to make the recipe more time-efficient or cost-effective.
As you try the meals, keep track of any winners and write down your favorite recipes so you can repeat them. Once you develop some signature dishes, you’ll get faster at prepping them because you’ll figure out the quickest techniques and may even memorize the recipe. You’ll also find shortcuts for some instructions to speed up the prep process even more.
4. Organize Your Work Space
A clean work area can make all the difference in productive meal prepping. Be intentional about clearing some space in your kitchen to serve as your work station so you’re not constantly pausing to move things off your counters. Extend this level of organization to your fridge and pantry by keeping all your ingredients conveniently stored so you don’t have to spend time searching for them.
You can follow the French cooking concept of mise-en-place, meaning put in place, when it’s time for you to start cooking. This means assembling all the ingredients, measuring utensils, mixing bowls, pots, pans or dishes that a recipe requires before beginning to cook. According to mise-en-place, when everything is in place you are able to function more efficiently because your thoughts aren’t scattered and you don’t need to waste time looking around for the items you need. On a grander scale, mise-en-place is a mindset of focus and self-discipline.
5. Start Small
When you first begin meal prepping, it’s perfectly normal to take baby steps. If you don’t have the time, energy or confidence to prep meals for a whole week, meal prepping for a few days will save you from having to make dinner on some days throughout the week. Of course, it’s more efficient to meal prep for the whole week at once, but meal prepping for a few days at a time until you get the hang of it is a good idea.
6. Make Big Batches
The point of meal prepping is to save you from having to cook during the week, so be sure to make enough of each recipe to last you the week. Multiply ingredients and measurements according to how many days and servings of food you’ll need. Meals that keep well and are easily doubled include casseroles, soups and sauces. If a meal includes a component that doesn’t go bad quickly, such as a marinara, make extra of it to save for future pasta meals.
In addition, make mass quantities of some foods you eat regularly or routinely use in recipes. For example, try cooking large amounts of bacon in the oven. Using the oven instead of the stovetop to make bacon allows you to do more pieces at a time and frees you from constantly monitoring the skillet.
Multitasking in the kitchen can save you tons of time, and it’s easy to do once you get the hang of planning your recipes. Look for places in a recipe that are hands-off, such as waiting for the oven to preheat or letting a soup simmer, and start preparing other ingredients during this time. For example, you could slice fruit, wash veggies or stir a sauce while your meat roasts.
8. Get Some Gadgets
Don’t limit yourself to the oven, stovetop and some knives — get some fun kitchen tools. Using certain kitchen gadgets can help speed up and streamline the prep process, while others can give you some hands-off prep time and free you up to multitask more while your food cooks. These tools can also give you reliable results and minimize the margin of error in your cooking.
If you’re new to meal prepping, here are some good gadgets to start with:
- Slow cooker: Cooking meats and soups in a slow cooker can save you hours.
- Herb scissors: Quit wasting time meticulously mincing — use herb scissors to finely cut herbs in no time.
- Hand blender: A hand blender’s ability to puree quickly makes it perfect for bisque and sauces.
- Mandoline: Use a mandoline to slice, dice and cut as efficiently as possible.
- Food processor: A food processor is key if you need to chop, dice or blend ingredients in a hurry.
It might take you some extra time to figure out how to use your new kitchen tools at first, but once you get the hang of using them, they’ll save you time when meal prepping.
9. Work Smarter, Not Harder
Save time when meal prepping by using pre-cut produce and precooked meats, like a rotisserie chicken. Don’t worry — it’s not cheating! Buying a shortcut ingredient like pre-marinated meat is an easy way to pick up some extra time, and the end result is just as delicious. You can also buy pre-made dressings, spice mixes and sauces to eliminate some steps from your meal prep session.
If you choose not to purchase pre-cut produce, be sure to wash and cut your produce as soon as you get home from the grocery store. You’ll be much more likely to snack on fruits and veggies throughout the week if they are already washed and ready to eat. Prepping your produce will set you up for more healthy habits and less food waste.
10. Chill Out
The freezer will become your best friend once you start meal prepping. Use your freezer to preserve both your ingredients and finished meals. Frozen fruits and veggies are just as nutritious as when they’re fresh and they keep for longer, so buy frozen produce in bulk so you can always have it on hand when meal prepping recipes.
After prepping your meals, portion them out and put the meals you scheduled for later in the week in the freezer to keep them as fresh as the day they were made. You can also pop prepped meals in the freezer whenever you want to try a different recipe or go out to eat one night. Eating the same meals all week can get redundant, so use your freezer to get a bit of variety in your diet.
Find an Apartment That’s Perfect for Meal Prep With Triple Crown Corporation
The right kitchen will make meal prepping a breeze, so it’s important that you choose an apartment with ample counter and storage space if you plan to meal prep. Apartments by Triple Crown Corporation offer the appliances and space you need to prep and store meals so you can tackle your busy schedule. Our apartments have functional kitchens with trendy designs, making them perfect for an active meal prepper.
If you’re looking for a rental community that will fuel your healthy lifestyle, contact Triple Crown Corporation today.