On average, we eat about 1,095 meals each year (and that’s not even including snacks!). So it’s no surprise that many of us feel we spend most of our days in the kitchen – preparing, cooking and cleaning up after meals.
While we can’t boycott the kitchen, because eating nutritious food is literally a necessity in life, we can make the process a little easier and more enjoyable by meal prepping!
There are many perks to meal prepping – it can save you time and money, it can help reduce waste because you’re more intentional about what groceries you’re buying and the portion sizes you’re making, it can lessen the stress of cooking throughout the week, and it can allow you to eat healthier on a daily basis.
With all of those benefits, why not try implementing meal prep into your weekly routine? Check out the tips below, as well as some quick and easy meal prep ideas, to get started!
The first step to meal prep is compiling recipes and making a list of the ingredients required. By planning ahead, analyzing your current inventory and building out a grocery list, you’ll be able to shop only for what you need (which will save you time and money). Although it may take some effort to put the list together, it can save you from standing in grocery store aisles trying to rack your brain about what you need or returning home only to realize you have to go back out again to get something you forgot. It can also save you from over-spending on unnecessary items.
Set Aside Time
One of the best parts about meal prepping is that you’re in control of when you do it (rather than it being something you have to do every single day). Pick one day each week to get busy in the kitchen! Whether you have a free afternoon on weekends or there’s a specific weeknight that you’re not running around to various activities, block off time in your schedule and know that the few hours spent now can save you many hours (and unwanted stress) throughout the week. Since most ingredients will last 2-4 days in the fridge, you may want to add another meal prep day into your weekly rotation, or you can simply mix in freezer-friendly meals that you can pull out later in the week once you’ve enjoyed all of the fresh foods.
Start Small & Keep It Simple
Don’t let the thought of preparing multiple meals in advance overwhelm you. If you’re just getting started with meal prepping, try making snacks or breakfast staples first. Once you’ve gotten into a good groove, you can move on to lunches and dinners. There’s also no need to try new recipes all the time. Simplify things by doubling up on go-to dishes that you enjoy and know how to make!
If building out full recipes isn’t your jam, you can still simplify things with buffet-style prep (a.k.a. preparing a variety of ingredients that can be used in different meals throughout the week). Cook your meats and grains, and clean and cut your veggies and fruits, so that everything is ready to go when you need it.
Pick The Right Storage Solutions
When it comes to meal prep, effective storage solutions are a must. Zipper storage bags (we love the reusable type) are great for storing pre-made meals in the freezer, and microwave-safe glass containers are perfect for heating up your food in a flash! Plus, it helps that you can easily see inside both so you know what meal or ingredients you’re pulling out.
Multitask & Take Advantage of Kitchen Appliances
The most efficient meal prepping involves multitasking! And the beauty of having a variety of kitchen appliances is that you can often multitask easier and get quite a few things made all at once. Cook your quinoa or rice in a rice cooker rather than on the stove that you constantly have to keep your eye on. Try a slow cooker for your meats rather than pan-frying them. Bake your chicken and roast your vegetables in the oven at the same time. There are many ways to make your life easier in the kitchen. Keep planning recipes for the week ahead, seek out short-cuts and make use of the right appliances.
- Smoothies: Tip – compile all of your favorite smoothie ingredients into reusable zipper bags and freeze them so that all you have to do is add some water, milk or juice and blend.
- Fruit & Yogurt Parfaits: Tip – if you don’t want your granola getting soggy, only layer the yogurt and fruit into jars in advance and leave some extra space at the top so you can add the granola when you’re ready to eat it.
- High-Protein Muffins & Breakfast Bars: Tip – prepare multiple batches in different flavours so you have a variety of tasty options to enjoy in the morning or snack on throughout the day. Put the remaining muffins and bars from each batch into the freezer so you can pull them out in the weeks to follow and still have variety each day!
- Overnight Oats: Tip – mix in fruit, nuts or other toppings to add more flavor and give your oats a different texture.
LUNCH & DINNER IDEAS:
- Bento Lunch Box: Tip – simply add a mix of your favorite meats, cheeses, crackers, fruits, veggies, dips, etc. and enjoy.
- Mason Jar Salads: Tip – add the dressing first so it sits at the bottom of the mason jar, then pile on the veggies, fruits, nuts and anything else you like before adding the leafy greens. This way, the dressing remains separated from the lettuce by less-absorbent ingredients.
- Pasta: Tip – make a big batch of noodles and divy it up into a couple different recipes so that you can enjoy a hot, savory dish for dinner and a cold, refreshing pasta salad for lunch.
- Soups, Stews & Chilis: ie. chicken noodle, lentil, butternut squash, roasted cauliflower, broccoli and cheddar, beef, turkey, and the list goes on!
- Bowls: ie. taco, burrito, quinoa, noodle, rice, etc.
There are so many healthy and delicious recipes out there. Whether you want to do a quick Google search or a deep dive into Pinterest, we know you’ll find new dishes to prepare and enjoy. While the possibilities are endless, we hope this article offers up some good ideas to help you get started!
To your Balanced Health,
Your friends at The Balanced Company