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How to Meal Prep Like a Pro
Meal prepping has long been used in the dieting world as a way for people to stay on track and avoid making unhealthy food choices. In recent years, parents have taken to trend as a way to make dinners easier during busy work weeks. Even if you just hate cooking, meal prep is a good idea because you’ll find yourself cooking one or two days per week instead of every night.
It’s hard to cook food in advance if you don’t have anything to store it in. Take inventory of what you actually have and head to the store if you need to.
- Large freezer bags: Large freezer bags are useful for storing pre-cooked dinners that you’ll freeze and reheat later. To save space in your freezer, gently flatten them as much as possible after you fill them, and then stack them on top of each other or store them file style.
- Mason jars: Mason jars are perfect if you intend to add overnight oats into your breakfast meals. They’re also good for layering salads in a manner that prevents the vegetables from wilting during the week. Mason jars can be used to freeze smoothies as well, but be sure not to fill them to capacity because the contents will need room to expand as it freezes.
- Small plastic containers: Use these to pack lunches for the sweet or freeze smaller dinner portions if you will be eating alone. If you want to prep various parts of the meal at once, use bento boxes so you can keep your entree and sides separate.
Plan Your Meals and Purchase the Ingredients
Next, it’s time to decide what you want to eat for the week. If you need to save money, consider purchasing one meat, such as chicken, and making several different entrees from it. Don’t forget fresh fruits and vegetables, rice or beans, and snacks and drinks for the week. If you’re on a budget, look at sales ads for your local grocery stores first and base your meals around those. If you don’t have many ideas, don’t worry. A quick search on Google or Pinterest will pull up thousands of ideas for freezable meals that you can prep now and eat later.
Pick a Day for Prepping and Follow the Same Ritual Every Week
Many people choose to prep the week’s meals on Sunday afternoon or evening, but you can choose what works with your schedule. Just be sure to set aside enough time no matter which day you choose. Remember, you’ll need time to slice and dice fruits and vegetables, cook meats, bake the meals, and more. Most of the time, meal prep will take between two and four hours.
Gather Your Ingredients and Start Prepping
For this portion, you want to be highly organized. Set ingredients on the table in groups according to recipe and make them accessible based on which recipe you want to make first. Be sure you have a trash can nearby for disposing of waste to prevent clutter in your prep area.
In many cases, you can prep more than one thing at a time. For example, if you need Italian seasoned chicken and barbecue seasoned chicken, you can use foil to separate one pan into two sections and cook both types of chicken at the same time. If you’ll be baking or grilling multiple vegetables for several recipes, bake or grill them all at once.
Try not to become discouraged or overwhelmed during the actual act of prepping your meals. This part is largely trial and error—what works for one meal prepper may not work for another. You can always try out new ideas next week or the week after until you find a routine that works perfectly for your needs.
Prep Your Desserts Too
Some people have the willpower to forego sweets altogether if they are prepping for diet or health reasons, but if you are someone who must curb the sweet tooth now and then, you can help keep it healthy by prepping healthier versions of your favorite sweets. For example, instead of opting for buying a fattening pack of cookies at the grocery store, purchase gluten-free, low-cholesterol cookie dough from Hampton Creek and bake it during your meal prep time.
No matter your reason for deciding to meal prep, once you get used to the process, you’ll find you’re saving time, money, and even your health by doing so. This is why it is truly a way of life for so many people.