Use this expert advice to become an expert yourself!
Meal prepping is a valuable tool that ensures you have healthy meals ready to eat all week long. This is one of the best ways to stay on track to your health and fitness goals! It can also help you save money on groceries since you can buy ingredients in bulk. In this article, we will break down everything you need to know about meal prepping, including how to create a meal plan, what foods to prep, and how to cook them. We will also offer tips on grocery shopping and food storage. If you are ready to learn how to become a meal prep expert, then keep reading!
Benefits of Meal Prepping
There are many benefits to meal prepping, including:
- Healthy eating: When you meal prep, you have more control over the ingredients that go into your food. This means that you can choose healthy options and avoid unhealthy junk food.
- Reach your health goals: Meal prepping can help you reach your health goals, whether you are trying to lose weight, gain muscle, or simply eat more nutritious meals.
- Save money: Meal prepping can help you save money on groceries since you will be buying ingredients like meat, nuts, grains, and more in bulk. Sticking to a list of specific ingredients you need will also help keep costs down!
- Save time: Meal prepping can save you time during the week since you will already have meals prepared. This means that you can spend less time cooking and more time doing the things you enjoy. Even if you can’t cook a whole meal ahead of time, preparing certain ingredients beforehand (like washing and chopping veggies) can still be extremely helpful once it’s time to cook!
Follow These Steps to Become a Meal Prepping Pro
Now that we’ve gone over the benefits of meal prepping, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of how to do it. These steps will ensure that you are a meal prepping pro in no time!
Step One: Choose Your Recipes
The first step to meal preparation is choosing your recipes. You can choose recipes that you already know and love, or you can find new ones to try. There are endless possibilities when it comes to meal prepping, so make sure to choose recipes that you will enjoy eating. You may also want to have a look inside your pantry or fridge to see what you already have. This can reduce food waste and even spark some new ideas
Some great recipes for meal prep include:
Bowls & Salads
Lunch Wraps & Sandwiches
Soups, Stews, and Chili
Step Two: Make a Grocery List
Once you have chosen your recipes, it’s time to make a grocery list. This step is important because it will help you save time and money at the grocery store. When making your list, be sure to double-check the recipes to make sure you have all of the ingredients. Look in your own inventory to see what you already have on hand or if you have any easy swaps (ie quinoa for brown rice or peanut butter for almond butter).
Step Three: Prepare Your Ingredients and Recipes
Once you’ve gone grocery shopping, it’s time to prepare your ingredients. This step can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. You can choose to chop all of your vegetables ahead of time, or you can cook entire meals ahead of time. The goal is to make meal prep as easy as possible for yourself, so choose a method that works best for you.
21 Tips from a Dietitian
It takes some time to become an expert, but following these tips will make meal prepping easier and less time-consuming:
- Try to prep one ingredient in each food group: This will help you create balanced meals that are packed with nutrients. That means one protein, one fruit and/or veggie, and one grain. You can also get things like dairy or healthy fats ready for snacking (think Trail Mix or Yogurt Parfaits). Learn more about getting each food group from our article on Healthy Meal Planning Tips.
- Bulk roast or boil: This is a great way to cook multiple ingredients at once. For example, you can roast a chicken and vegetables in the oven for easy meal prep bowls or boil eggs on the stovetop for snacks.
- Use a slow cooker: This kitchen appliance is a meal prepper’s best friend! You can throw all of your ingredients into the slow cooker and let it do all the work for you while you complete other tasks. Not sure what to make? Try one of our 37 Slow Cooker Recipes for Weight Loss!
- Try par-boiling: This cooking method is a great way to cook complex carbohydrates, such as potatoes and sweet potatoes. This allows you to cook them ahead of time and then finish them quickly when you are ready to eat.
- Use new cooking methods: Interested in new appliances like an air fryer or sous vide? You can easily prepare foods beforehand to pop in either appliance when you’re ready. You can even try some of our favorite Air Fried Tofu or even Air Fried Edamame for a meal prep snack.
- Invest in meal prep containers: These are specially designed to make meal prepping easier and more efficient. They come in all different shapes and sizes, so you can find ones that fit your needs perfectly.
- Mix and match flavors: My favorite way to prep is to bulk cook my veggies and/or protein and then just switch up the seasoning or sauces. That way, I can have chicken fajitas or a chicken stir fry all from the same ingredients. Our Slow Cooker Everything Chicken is one of my favorite options! I enjoy it on top of a caesar salad one night, and inside a quesadilla (seasoned with taco seasoning) the next!
- Make sure your pantry, fridge, and freezer are up to par: That means making sure all of your storage facilities are at the right temperature and climate. Pantries should be cool and dry, while fridges should stay at 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Freezers should stick to 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Use a meal prep template: This will help you plan your meals and make grocery shopping easier. Learn more about making your own template from our Essential Meal Planning Guide for Beginners.
- Cook simple recipes: Choose recipes that have fewer ingredients and steps. This will make meal prep less daunting.
- Double (or triple) recipes: When cooking, make enough for multiple meals. This way you will have leftovers for future lunches and/or dinners.
- Wash and chop your vegetables and fruit in bulk: Washing and chopping all of your vegetables and fruit at once will save you time throughout the week.
- Use lemon juice to prevent oxidation: While it’s a good idea to prep fruit beforehand for easier access, some fruit (like apples and bananas) will brown quickly after being cut. To prevent this, squeeze some lemon juice on top of the fruit. This will help to keep them fresh for longer.
- Keep certain foods from getting soggy: The only ingredients you cannot wash ahead of time are mushrooms and berries, as they will get soggy over time. Lettuce should also be torn, not chopped, to stay as crispy as possible. This is because chopping lettuce cuts through the cells – releasing water – whereas tearing it does not.
- Pack your meal prep containers in the order you will eat them: This is especially important if you are preparing meals for the week ahead. It will make sure your meals are fresh and delicious when it comes time to eat them.
- Use mason jars for on-the-go meals: Mason jars are a great way to prepare meals because they are easy to transport and can be used for both hot and cold foods. Plus, they come in a variety of sizes so you can find the perfect one for your needs. Try one of our 13 Clean & Lean Lunches in a Mason Jar to get started.
- Label everything: This may seem like an obvious tip, but it’s important to label all of your meal prep containers with the date and contents. This will help you keep track of what you have prepared and when it needs to be eaten.
- just chill: You can freeze almost anything – from chili to rice bowls and egg burritos. The only thing you can’t freeze is fresh eggs in shells. Most items will last between 2 and 6 months in the freezer. We’ve got all the info on freezer temps and more on our Guide to Leftovers and Food Storage.
- Meal prep on the weekends: Meal prepping on the weekends will save you time during the week. You can even make meal prepping an exciting activity – play your favorite music or podcast and have some fun experimenting with new recipes.
- Enlist help from family or friends: If you have a family or friends who are also interested in meal prepping, enlist their help! This way you can prepare meals together and make it a fun social activity.
- Start small: If meal prepping seems like a lot, start small. Choose one meal to prepare per week and gradually increase as you get more comfortable.
Think you’ve learned how to become a meal prep expert from these tips? You can save time and money (and even reach your health goals) now that you’ve got the tools to become a pro. So what are you waiting for? Get started today!
For even more healthy meal prep recipes and ingredients, check out our Skinny Ms. Recipe Collection eBook!