Have you always wanted to start meal-prepping but feel like it’s too overwhelming? I hear ya sistah! In today’s blog, I want to share with you 10 of my top tips to make meal-prepping a breezing success for you–even if you’re a newbie in the kitchen!
Meal-prepping has taken over the food world these days and you probably see all over social media how more and more people (moms especially) have embraced the art of meal prepping. Half of the time though, I hear some say that meal-prepping takes so much time and energy, and only those who have the luxury of time can prep meals.
HERE’S SOME NEWS FOR YOU…. when you don’t have time, that’s when meal-prepping can actually give you more time! I know, it sounds ironic. But picture this, if you carve out say an hour over the weekend to plan meals and prep your food, you can save an hour each day for the next 5 days from having to constantly cook every meal. That’s 4 hours back to your week. Sounds neat, right?
But I feel your struggle, and I’ve been there myself. So I hope these tips can sort of help you ease your way to becoming a meal-prep pro.
TIP # 1. START SIMPLE.
Resist the urge to have instagram-worthy meal-prep photos with 20 meals prepped for the week. Especially if you are new to meal-prepping, it can get overwhelming. So start small and simple by focusing on one meal, like breakfast which is the easiest to prep and requires less cooking. I started with just overnight oats and then moved on to salads, and eventually mains and desserts. As for the recipes, look for those that require less than 10 ingredients, and less than half an hour to prep. In this way, you don’t instantly feel stressed during your first few tries and just begin to enjoy the art of meal-prepping!
TIP # 2. ORGANIZE YOUR RECIPES.
While you may have a photographic memory, it’s so much easier to have all your favorite recipes in one place or folder (digitally or using a file folder) which you can easily access. I love using Pinterest and pinning my fave recipes in one folder, organizing them by category. I like to also collect recipes from magazines, and other food blogs too, save them in my dropbox or even print these and file in a clear folder. You can of course get recipe inspiration from my RECIPE archive.
TIP # 3. CHECK PANTRY & FRIDGE BEFORE YOU PLAN YOUR MEALS.
Pre-planning phase of meal-prepping involves checking your pantry & fridge for any ingredients that you already have that can give you inspiration for new meals. Last thing you would want is having to throw out food and waste money on ingredients you never got to use. So, say you’ve got leftover veggies like carrots, celery in your fridge, and maybe some cans of beans in your pantry, then you can them put them together and create a vegetable soup or maybe chili recipe. Pasta sauces, casseroles, and stir-fries are also perfect ways to use up whatever left-over veggies or proteins are left in your fridge.
Speaking of pantry, I also make sure to have pantry staples on-hand such as healthy oils & vinegars (olive oil, balsamic vinegar) ,whole grains (oats, quinoa), legumes (canned beans), canned tomatoes, variety of spices, pasta & noodles, chia seeds, baking essentials (almond or oat flour, honey or coconut sugar, baking powder). In this way, I don’t have to rush to the grocery every single time I have to cook up a meal.
TIP # 4. LIST FIRST, THEN SHOP.
Have you ever found yourself in the grocery buying jars and boxes that you ended up not using? We’ve all been there, haven’t we? So, one way to help you be more laser-focused and intentional when it comes to grocery shopping is simply by having a grocery list. Trust me, it can save you TONS of time and $$$ money as well if you just take 5 minutes to list those ingredients down. You can use your phone or if you’re the traditional pen-and-paper type like me, you can also create your own meal planning template.
TIP # 5. PREP YOUR FRUITS & VEGGIES BEFORE STORING THEM IN THE FRIDGE.
I used to throw lettuce and tomatoes and even berries just because I was too lazy to wash and cut them up every time I want to eat or cook them. But when I started to pre-wash, pre-cut my fruits & veggies straight after I bought them from the supermarket, I found myself getting excited to actually use them! Also, when storing, I prefer to use glass or transparent BPA-free plastic containers so I can see clearly what food items are in the fridge. Remember, out of sight, out of mind. So take those veggies out of their bags and packaging, clean those babies right away, dry them (very important, so they don’t get soggy), and store properly for ease in cooking.
TIP # 6. BATCH-COOK.
Batch cooking is a life saviour, yes? If you’re one busy mom like me, you most definitely don’t want to be spending hours in the kitchen every single meal time. So what I do is I double up my recipes and store some in the freezer in pre-portioned sizes. Food like pasta sauces, soups, casseroles, meatballs, burgers, and even pancakes are very freezer-friendly. You can just re-heat these easily for future meals and for busy days when you don’t feel like cooking. But remember, DO NOT re-freeze food that you’ve already thawed. And always smell your food before eating it, just in case!
Use your oven or slow-cooker for ease in batch-cooking. My oven is probably the most used kitchen appliance as I use it 80-90% of the time –from baking goodies, to roasting veggies and proteins. One-sheet pans are kind of my thing these days where I have some fish, and veggies all roasting in one pan at the same time. Super time-saver!
TIP # 7. USE SEASONAL INGREDIENTS.
Another way to make meal-prepping a breeze for you is to use seasonal ingredients. Not only are they likely to be more fresh, but they tend to be cheaper at that time around too. So for spring for example, I usually plan meals that involves citrus fruits, and have more salads with watermelons, and fish or prawns. While over winter or the cooler months, I would have more warming foods like hearty soups, casseroles, and roasted root veggies like sweet potatoes and pumpkin. For seasonal fruits like cherries, I usually freeze them right after we’ve picked and pitted these. And speaking of frozen, you can also go for frozen veggies or fruits especially if they’re out of season.
TIP # 8. INVOLVE YOUR FAMILY.
Running out of meal ideas? Ask your kids or your partner for suggestions. You can also have daily or weekly themes such as #MeatlessMondays or #TacoTuesdays or #MexicanFriday to give you some inspiration on what meals to plan for. And most especially with prepping food, it’s a great bonding experience to involve your kids in the mixing, stirring, cooking process. Yes it can get messy, but it’s a fun kind of messy and your kids will most likely eat what they helped prepare.
TIP # 9. STORAGE IS KEY.
I can’t emphasize enough how important storage is when it comes to food prepping. Invest in good-quality airtight containers–either BPA-free plastic ware or glass dishes which is what I prefer. Glass containers are better for re-heating over plastic as we all know. I normally prep good for 3 days since chilled food stay fresh within that period. For longer storage, use the freezer and make sure to label them as well. Cooked food would normally last in the freezer for up to 30 days. And like I mentioned, DON’T re-freeze food that you’ve already thawed, for food safety purposes.
Storage also means organizing your pantry and fridge in a way that most-used food items are easily seen and widely visible. Label your pantry essentials so you can easily recognize them especially if you’ve transferred them into containers.
TIP # 10. ASK FOR HELP.
If even after all these tips you still find yourself getting too stressed out with meal-prepping, then simply ask for help. When I started, I found myself asking for tips and advice from fellow wellness coaches and even from food bloggers I follow over in my Instagram. Learn from those who inspire you and can make the process even way easier for you.
So, now that you have learned all these tips, tell me, which of these have you already tried or want to start doing? And if you have your own tips and hacks as well, I would love to hear them so please share them below in the comments section.
Meal-prepping isn’t a chore. It’s an art. And you don’t have to get it perfect, you just have to get started.@FitFoodiemommy