Meal prep is a great way to prepare for a busy week ahead and stay on track with healthy eating, but it can seem overwhelming when starting out. Where do you even begin? What tools do you need? How do you keep your meals fresh?
We will be covering all of this and providing tips on how to make meal prep and smooth and effective process.
An important thing to remember about meal prep is that it is supposed to help you and your lifestyle. What works for one person with meal prep may not be what works best for you. This guide is designed to help you figure out what will work best for you during your weekly meal prep.
Make a Weekly Menu
No two weeks are the same, right? Look at the week you have ahead and plan your meals around that. Will you be on the road a lot this week and in need of foods that you can eat cold? Are you going need to prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner for each day this week or do you have a lunch meetings lined up? Tailor your meal prep menu to your week. Once you have made your menu, take the time to make a detailed grocery list of what you need and how much you need. The more you are prepared before you walk into the big, intimidating grocery store, the less likely you are to forget something and have to run back out.
Tools for Success
Check out these tools that will help make meal prep a breeze
A food scale is essential for keeping portion sizes under control. This can be used to measure out grains, proteins, fruits, vegetables or any snacks.
Pro Tip: If you are going to measure meats, measure out the portion sizes before cooking the meat.
Multi-purpose vegetable chopper
It sounds silly, but there is a lot of prep before the meal prep. Chopping all your veggies can take a lot of time BUT this handy, dandy vegetable chopper can help cut down on your chopping time (pun definitely intended)
Glass storage containers
These containers are great to store all of your food. Freshly chopped vegetables and prepared food last best in air tight containers. These glass containers are great because you can see exactly what is inside of each container without pulling it out of the fridge. Cleaning these containers is easy, they are dishwasher safe, they are BPA free and they won’t hold any odor from food you store.
Pro Tip: Use a dry erase marker to label the date that the food was prepared or chopped when you store it & how long that food will stay fresh. This will help cut down on food waste.
Compartment meal prep containers
When looking for meal prep containers, it is important to find sturdy containers that are BPA free and microwave safe. Being BPA free means that your food will be safe from any harmful materials in the plastic. Size matters with these containers. The size you will need will depend on what your meals will consist of and how easily you need to pack these meals together.
Pro Tip: Having a small variety of sizes is beneficial. Compartmented meal prep containers are great to help portion out your macronutrients in each meal (protein, carbohydrates and fats) and they are also great for separating foods that you do not want touching.
Re-useable storage bags & condiment containers
Aside from helping you stay on track with healthy eating, meal prep can also help so much with saving $$$$. Purchasing re-useable storage bags and condiment containers will help eliminate the need to continuously buy plastic storage bags. OH, it’s environmentally friendly as well!
Pro Tip: When measuring out any dressings, dips simply place your condiment container on top of your food scale, and you can measure out the perfect portion!
Prepare Ingredients That Can Overlap
Simplify your meal prep by simplifying your recipes. Choose ingredients that are simple, versatile and can be made in large batches. You can add variety by changing up how you combine the ingredients and rely on different sauces and spices to switch up the taste.
Here are some examples of versatile ingredients:
Raw Snacking Veggies (these can also be chopped up and easily added to a salad)
Hard Boiled Eggs
Keeping Ingredients Fresh
Eggs – Eggs are so versatile! You are can hard boil them, store them & add them to salads + sandwiches or you can turn a dozen eggs into individual egg muffins for you a portable breakfast.
Tip for freshness: If hard-boiling eggs store them in an airtight container with the shell on and they will last 1 week. Hard boiled eggs stored with the shell off will last around 5 days. Eggs cooked in the individual egg muffins should be stored in an airtight container and they will last around 4-5 days
Legumes & Beans – Another great food to add to your meal prep because of the nutritional value and versatility. They can be tossed into salads, soups, rice dishes or even eaten plain!
Tips for freshness: If you cook the legumes or beans store them with some of the cooking water to avoid them drying out. You can always drain the liquid before using them in your meal. Stored this way in an airtight container will allow them to last up to a full week!
Ground Meat – Ground meats such as turkey are great to add to your meal prep because it cooks quickly & any extra you make can be frozen and used for your next meal prep.
Tips for freshness: Portion out your ground meat for you meals and store in an airtight container. If you plan on pairing the meat with a sauce, separate them and only mix when you are ready to eat. Ground meat will last up to 4 days.
Chicken – It’s easy to switch up the flavor of your chicken by having two different seasonings or marinades each week. Portion out the chicken you need for the week and store any extra in the freezer for the next meal prep.
Tips for freshness: It’s best to only reheat chicken once. Once you cook all of your chicken only re-heat the amount of chicken that you need. If you don’t like the taste of the re-heated chicken, simply have your chicken already prepared to cook (Washed, trimmed, seasoned or marinated) so that way all you have to do it cook & go. Chicken can last up to 4 days.
Rice – Major staple ingredient in meal prep. Simple to make in large batches and you can switch up by pairing it with different proteins and veggies.
Tips for freshness: Like chicken, rice is better if only re-heated once. Only re-heat the portion that you need & before re-heating sprinkle a little water and cover the dish with a wet paper towel.
Pasta – Slightly undercooked pasta is best when meal prepping so that when it is reheated during the week it won’t be all mushy.
Tips for freshness: To make your pasta last longer, store it separately from any sauces or add ins, this will also help avoid the soggy, mushy pasta.
Sweet Potatoes – Oven baked sweet potatoes are a great way to prepare your potatoes for the week. Later in the week you cab roast them, mash the, or just simply reheat heat them for your meals.
Tips for Freshness: Store the sweet potatoes (skin on) in a plastic bag or airtight glass container. These baked sweet potatoes can last up to 10 days in the fridge and even frozen for up to 6 months without sacrificing flavor.
It may seem overwhelming at first but meal prep can add so much value to your healthy lifestyle. The time it takes to meal prep is well worth the time you will save throughout the week. Questions about how to implement these tips into your routine? Join our supportive Facebook community, where you can ask any and all questions health & lifestyle related.