Meal prepping is an activity in which people participate for several reasons. Such preparation allows us to stay on track with our health and nutrition goals and provides efficiency in our busy lives. Many have flirted with the idea of meal prepping but often feel that they just don’t know where to start. Well for those who are interested, here are my top tips for mastering the art of meal prepping. Before going into details, I do want to stress that when it comes to preparing your own meals always remember that there are no rules. Whatever method works for you and your family that is the method you should adopt and stick with. So without further ado, let’s get you started.
1. CREATE A WEEKLY MEAL PLAN
Not only will this save you money, it will also save you from the dreaded drive home where you wonder what the hell you are going to make for dinner. When creating a meal plan for your week (could be Monday-Sunday or just Monday-Friday, whatever plan you feel you need)-write it out. It is much easier to see the whole picture when it’s in front of you. Be sure to mark if there are any days where you won’t need a meal. For example, cross off the evening if you have a date booked.
If you tend to get bored eating the same thing a few days in a row than you need to keep that in mind and puzzle your plan accordingly. Also take note of the amount of servings a recipe makes. If you are only preparing for yourself and your casserole makes 6 servings that is either fantastic news or a need to practice your division. If you don’t mind eating the same meal everyday than boom, you are one happy camper. However if you want a few different meals throughout the week and only want this casserole for 2 days, you’ll have to divide that recipe or make it all and freeze the rest to save it for another week.
Another helpful tip is to indicate below your weekly menu plan where to go to find the recipes you’ll be making. Are you trying a recipe from one of your favourite bloggers? Save the link for the recipe in your favourites or in your phone so you can have instant access. Are you preparing a dish from a cookbook? Mark down what page it’s on.
*People have asked me if I find preparing my weeks’ worth of meals boring and the answer is no. I always strive to try at least 2 new recipes every week whether it’s a creation of my own or somebody else’s. This is to honour my kitchen passion and to avoid boredom. Just because I’m organizing my menu doesn’t mean I’m eating the same thing every day, every week (unless I want to). Aside from my “new” recipes I aim to try, I keep things pretty simple. My snacks are often a juice that I’ve made, fruit, nuts and seeds, or celery sticks with all-natural nut butter and raisins (aka ants on a log).
2. MAKE YOUR OWN SCHEDULE
Most people will meal prep on a Sunday. They take a few hours out of their day to dedicate to completing their weekly menu. I understand that for some, the whole Sunday cook off method just may not be an option. If there is another day or window of time that does work for you, do it! Keep in mind you are not obliged to prepare every meal, every snack, and every beverage in full. Every little bit of pre prepared food helps. You can really get ahead of the game if you know the recipes you plan to make throughout the week. Once you know the dishes you will be preparing you can skim through the recipes and at least chop, slice, or mince all the veggies you’ll need. Store them in an air tight glass jar or container filled with water. The water keeps the produce fresh. You may not think this would make a big difference but trust me, it does. The most time consuming part of creating a meal is the preparation and if the preparation is done for you, all you have to do is cook.
3. SHOPPING AND MONEY SAVING
Once you have your completed meal plan written out in front of you, you can then proceed to making your grocery list. Mark down all ingredients (and how many of each) you’ll need to create each meal. I highly recommend doing this instead of just assuming that you have certain ingredients in stock or that you have enough of an item. Nothing is worse than needing a ½ cup of an ingredient and you actually only have 1/8 cup left. Head to your kitchen, physically scope out your stock, and mark down what ingredients you will need to purchase. Once you do hit the supermarket, only purchase items that are on your list. You have planned out every last ingredient you will need for the week, nothing else should make into that cart! You will be amazed at how much money you can save by staying faithful and committing to your grocery list.
*Before I started meal prepping, I spent so much money on groceries. It didn’t really bother me since I consider this part of my life my hobby. As a gamer would spend money on videogames, I spend money on food. As a knitter would spend money on yarn, I spend money on food. The kitchen is my zone of Zen and I love being in it. However, when people would ask me how much a week I spend on food, I embarrassingly enough had no idea. I would go to the supermarket and browse. I would purchase anything that caught my eye or that I was interested in experimenting with. Unfortunately I soon realized this led to wasted food which is wasted money. Not to mention it is unethical and leads to a chaotic week of cooking with too many ingredient choices (I suffer from extreme indecisiveness). Therefore, a meal plan is what keeps both my wallet and I in check and I can still keep my hobby a passionate one.
4. MAKE IT FUN
Apparently not everybody loves to be in the kitchen...As strange as I find this I do have a few tips for how to make it a tad more enjoyable. First of all, always clean your space before you begin. You want a blank canvas to work with.
Here are some ways to get excited about cooking in the kitchen:
- Listen to music. Pick whatever you are in the mood for and rock out. I personally love what I call “sing a longs” when I’m cooking. I LOVE singing (although I’m terrible) so I tend to throw on pop, r&b, or hip hop. If you have a husband like mine who likes to watch TV in the background on the highest volume possible, break out the earphones. No-I’m not kidding. I often times look like this awesome lady just having the time of her life.
- Put a favourite movie on in the background. I like playing classic movies that I have already seen so I don’t have to pay 100% attention but I still get to rekindle with old memories.
- If you have children, I understand that this complicates the whole meal prep madness just a tad. To truly make this a time dedicated just for yourself, ask a loved one to watch the mini you’s for a few hours, if possible. If you have a healthy living buddy that also has children, exchange shifts. One of you can watch the kids in the morning as the other buddy prepares and swap roles in the afternoon. If you feel you don’t want to spend your time alone in the kitchen than get those kids helping! Most children love being in the kitchen and what a great opportunity to teach them about healthy cooking. Meal prepping with your children can instil an everlasting impression on your younger generation that they can take with them as they grow older.
- Lastly, you can turn meal prepping into a drinking game. After every meal is prepared, take a shot or have a glass of wine-HAHA I’m kidding! Although if it gets you to try meal prepping….hehehe. All jokes!
5. COMMIT TO THE PLAN
You went through all of the trouble of planning everything out and perhaps even cooking everything in advance. You have a lunch prepared so decline when a co-worker asks you to join them for some take out. Meal planning saves us money so don’t throw your money out the window and opt for an overpriced salad at a mediocre restaurant. Wasting food is wasting money. You made a meal plan for your own personal reasons. Remember those reasons and stick to the plan!
*And just for the record, I’m not saying you should never go out to eat again. I’m saying your meals out should be planned and accommodate your weekly plan. Heck, I love eating out and my husband and I love trying new foods. This is why my meal plan is only a Monday-Friday plan. Weekends are when I create new dishes for fun and when I plan a couple of dates out on the town.
No matter what, I always try to prepare whatever I can. Like I said, every bit of preparation helps the week run smoothly. What are your tips for success when it comes to meal prepping?