Meal prepping has become one of my bestfriends these days. As a stay-at-home mom, it’s a constant struggle to find time to cook for every meal when you have a toddler to look after. So being able to prep ahead our meals for the week saves me time, effort, and it frees me from the decision fatigue of what to cook every time. But where does one even begin when meal prepping? Here are some tips that has made meal prepping a breeze for me.
1. PLAN – Planning is everything. Take time to sit down and spend like 10 minutes to think about your menu for the week. I usually meal prep twice, Sundays and Thursdays to I would have two meal plans for that week, ideally. Write it down, including what ingredients you need to buy. This will save you time and money as compared to deciding randomly only when you’re at the grocery. When choosing the menu, I like to keep it healthy and balanced. I usually go for a mix of lean proteins such as fish and chicken, healthy fiber & carbs like oats and brown rice, and a variety of fruits and vegetables.
Plan also which meal are you prepping for. Is it just lunch or dinner or all meals? For me it’s mostly for lunch and dinner since those are the times when my son is widely awake hence no time for me to cook. If at all I prep for breakfast, then overnight oats, chia puddings or a big batch of wholemeal pancakes stored in the freezer would be my options. So plan around your lifestyle and preference and see what works for you best.
2. PREP – Prep your pantry and kitchen with fresh and healthy produce as much as possible. Be mindful also of the servings you are prepping for when buying ingredients. The idea is to cook once and eat it 2-3 times. So what I normally do is bake or grill a pound of chicken and fish, and then roast or stirfry a big batch of mixed vegetables. For succeeding meals, I mix it up and even toss it into salads or wraps, or even make a soup or a pasta dish from it. Prepping could also mean just marinating some meat beforehand so you can easily cook it for one of your dinners. I experiment a lot with flavors and play around with the taste by using different spices such as paprika and garlic powder on top of the usual salt and pepper.
If you can, invest on a grill pan or a steamer which are great alternatives if you don’t have a convection oven. Go for grilling, baking or roasting, and steaming methods which are much healthier as compared to frying. If you’re not very comfortable working your way in the kitchen, try to search for youtube videos which show you step-by-step guides on how to cook a particular dish. Start with simple dishes and work your way up once you’re getting the hang of it. You may check out also our Fit Foodie Mommy recipes for some great ideas.
3. STORE. Storage is key when meal prepping. Make sure you have air-tight containers to keep it from spoiling too fast. Choose BPA-free tupperwares or glass-type food dish that’s oven-friendly for you to warm it up. You can store cooked food in the chiller for up to 3-4 days. You may also freeze the meals in freezer-friendly containers and just defrost it the night before when you are planning to consume it. Be sure to smell the food before consuming. Smell it and taste it first especially when feeding these to your little tots.
4. TIME. As I mentioned, I usually meal prep for a window of 3-4 days. In that way you won’t be too overwhelmed with all the cooking. I also try to maximize time thru ‘synchronized cooking’. For example, while the brown rice is boiling away in my rice cooker, I steam vegetables in it’s built-in steamer. When I bake some chicken or fish, I also have a mix of vegetables or some potato chips on another baking tray. Or when I’m cooking pasta, I also add in some vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower to blanch it. It takes a bit of practice so just do what you can and you’ll eventually get into the rhythm of it all.
Meal prepping sounds like a lot of work but with a little planning it can surely be a fun and enjoyable activity in your household. You can even involve your kids by letting them help with portioning the dishes into the containers. Or maybe let them cut up the vegetables for you while you’re cooking. Make it a fun way to bring your family together. It’s also a great way to introduce healthy eating to your children.
And don’t worry if it doesn’t come out too picture-perfect or Instagram-worthy like you would want it. Go for substance over form. Just like anything else, aim for progress over perfection.
Hope these tips help you get started. If you have already been meal prepping, share your success tips in the comment below! Happy meal prepping!