How to Meal Prep Like a Pro
Let’s face it. At times life is busy and hectic, and cooking at home can be tough.
Whether you work long hours, participate in extracurricular activities, or your kids are monsters at mealtimes, cooking at home can feel overwhelming, stressful, and sometimes impossible. Meal planning takes work, but those who have mastered it know it’s the key to saving money, reducing waste, eating healthier, and feeling your best.
However, if the thought of meal prepping makes you cringe (who wants to eat the same thing every day?), we have the solutions for you!
Here are five steps to successful meal prepping that will have you meal planning and prepping like a pro in no time.
5-Steps to Meal Planning Like a Pro
1. Set Aside Time
You can’t meal prep without prep time.
Schedule one to two days per week to prep your meals. It’s important to schedule your meal prepping time just as you would any appointment. There is no hard and fast rule of when you need to meal prep. It’s what will work best for your schedule.
While some people meal prep for the week on Sundays, if it works better for your schedule to cook on Monday and again on Thursday, for example, go for it.
The best meal prep schedule is the one that works for you. If you can multitask a little (use your oven and stovetop to prep more than one food at a time), you’ll cut down on even more time. Using a sheet pan to roast big batches of food can also cut down on prep time.
2. Make a Grocery List
When planning your menu and prep, rely on recipes you know and enjoy that you’ve cooked before, with maybe one or two new recipes you want to try.
Remember to keep things simple. Once you have your menu planned, it’s time to head to the grocery store, farmers market, or place your order online.
However, before rushing out to the store, or placing your order, take inventory of your fridge, freezer, and pantry. Then with your grocery list in hand, stick to the list! It’s also helpful to organize your grocery list in areas of the grocery store or by categories, for example, fruits, vegetables, frozen, etc.
This way, you don’t forget something in one section and have to double back or cover the whole store again to pick up what was missed. Remember only to buy what is on your list.
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3. Find Recipes That Work for You
Knowing what your week ahead looks like, pick recipes that will work for you.
If you have a busy week coming up, focus on recipes that take 30 minutes or less to make, can be prepped ahead of time, or can last several meals (for example, Instant Pot or slow cooker meals).
Save your leftovers from dinner or lunch for the next day and choose recipes that share the same ingredients to shorten your grocery list and possibly cut down on the prep work. Remember, there is nothing wrong with keeping things simple. Uncomplicated meals should be a staple in your weekly meal plans.
I love making a large egg frittata or overnight oats for busy work mornings and saving some of the more time-consuming recipes for my days off.
4. Pick Simple Snacks
Meal prep is supposed to make your life easier, so think about snacks that come together quickly and recipes with simple ingredients.
It can be as easy as chopping veggie sticks to pair with hummus or combining oats, nuts, and fruit to make your own energy balls.
Snacks are meant to curb hunger between meals, so choosing energizing and nourishing foods is important. Snacks like berries with almond butter or full-fat yogurt with nuts and seeds are high in protein and fiber, which will help you feel full for longer.
And if you noticed, these don’t take much prep work!
5. Don’t Complicate Things
You don’t have to run yourself ragged or stress yourself out to get meal prepping done. If your meal prepping goal is to make all of your food from scratch, that doesn’t necessarily mean that each meal has to be a masterpiece.
Protein + veggies + (maybe) a starch = dinner.
Not everything needs to be blog or Instagram-worthy. For example, a high-quality protein source; steamed or roasted veggies with salt, pepper, and some healthy fat; and a sweet potato can make for a satisfying and effortless meal. Additionally, you don’t need to eat 20 different vegetables during your workweek.
Select 5 or 6 key vegetables to focus on each week, as this will help you menu plan/meal prep easily and will likely reduce food waste and grocery bills, too.
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Which Foods Work Best for Meal Prepping?
If you are brand new to meal planning and prepping, it’s important to know which foods work best for meal prepping. Some foods are more suitable for meal prepping than others; for example, roasted potatoes hold up well to reheating, whereas pre-dressed salads quickly wilt in the refrigerator.
Here are some of the best foods to include in your meal prepping process.
- Cook chicken, turkey, beef, or bison in a slow-cooker. Shred the meat and set it aside to use in stir-fries, tacos, on top of salads, or in soup.
- Sauté ground turkey, chicken, or beef in a pan with garlic, onion, and sea salt. Use the ground meat in taco salads, on top of spiralized vegetables, or in hearty stews.
- Bake chicken breasts, wild salmon fillets, burgers, or meatballs in batches. Use them throughout the week with roasted or sautéed veggies, salad, rice, and starchy vegetables as sides.
- Cooked beans such as lentils, chickpeas, black beans, and pinto beans. Prepared in a slow cooker or instant pot beans, beans hold up well in the fridge during a workweek.
- Hard-boil a dozen eggs. Hard-boiled eggs are ideal for a quick and easy breakfast and are also an excellent portable snack.
- Roast sweet potatoes, white potatoes, winter squash, and root vegetables in batches. These vegetables hold up well to reheating. As well, rice, make large quantities in a rice cooker or Instant Pot.
- Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts, also hold up well to reheating throughout the week.
- Make several sauces to use throughout the week. Salsa, guacamole, homemade salad dressings, and chimichurri are just a few examples of sauces that can be made ahead of time and quickly spice up any meal.
Meal Prep in a Way That Works for You!
Meal planning and meal preparation is going to look different to everyone.
Remember, it’s what is going to work best for your schedule. You do not have to change your entire life all at once. Take small steps toward meal planning and go at your own pace. Remember to be gentle with yourself and that no one is perfect.
Everybody’s journey looks different.
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