Health

How to meal prep — a beginner’s guide 2022

Meal prepping is the practice of preparing full meals or dishes ahead of time.

It is especially popular among busy people because it can save a significant amount of time.

Having pre-prepared meals on hand can also help you reduce portion size and achieve your nutrition goals. You’ll be less likely to reach for TV dinners or takeout this way, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed or exhausted.

Meal prepping can also lead to more nutritious meal choices in the long run because it requires you to decide what to eat ahead of time.

Contrary to popular belief, there are numerous ways to meal prep that do not all entail spending an entire Sunday afternoon cooking dishes for the upcoming week. The tactics that are most effective for you are yours to select.

We’ll go over the most important principles of meal preparation and break them down into a few simple steps below.


how to meal prep for beginners
how to meal prep for beginners


Different Ways to Meal Prep

You may believe that preparing meals for the upcoming week will consume a significant portion of your weekend.


However, because there are numerous methods for meal preparation, you don’t have to spend an entire Sunday afternoon in the kitchen. Everyone can find a meal preparation style that works for them.

The following are the most popular methods of meal preparation:

 

Make-ahead meals: Meals that are fully prepared and can be refrigerated and reheated at mealtimes. This is especially helpful for evening meals.

Batch cooking: Make large batches of a particular recipe, then divide it into individual portions to be frozen and consumed over the next few months. These are popular for a warm lunch or dinner.

Individually portioned meals: Fresh meals are prepared and portioned into individual grab-and-go portions to be refrigerated and eaten over the next few days. This is very helpful for fast lunches.

Ready-to-cook ingredients: Preparing the ingredients for specific meals ahead of time to reduce cooking time in the kitchen.

 

The method that is best for you is determined by your goals and daily routine.

Make-ahead breakfasts, for example, may be ideal if you want to simplify your morning routine. Keeping batch-cooked meals in your freezer, on the other hand, is especially useful for those who have limited time in the evenings.

The various meal-prepping methods can also be combined based on your specific needs. Begin by selecting the most appealing method, then gradually experiment with the others to see which one best suits you.


Picking the Right Number and Variety of Meals


It can be difficult to know how many meals to prepareand what to include in each.

The best way to plan ahead is to first decide which meals you want to prioritize and which meal-prepping method is best for your lifestyle.

Then, look at your calendar to see how many breakfasts, lunches, and dinners you’ll need for the coming week.

Remember to factor in times when you’re likely to eat out, such as on dates, brunch with friends, or client dinners.

When deciding which meals to prepare, it’s best to start with a small number of tried-and-true recipes. This will make the transition to meal planning easier.

However, it is also important to avoid selecting only one recipe for the entire week. This lack of variety can lead to boredom and will deprive your body of essential nutrients.

Instead, choose meals that include a variety of vegetables and protein-rich foods, as well as complex carbs such as brown rice, quinoa, or sweet potatoes. Another way to add variety is to incorporate a vegetarian or vegan meal into the mix.


Tips to Cut Down on Cooking Time


Few people enjoy spending hours in the kitchen preparing meals. This is understandable given that the primary incentive for meal prepping is reduced cooking time.

The methods listed below will assist in shortening prep and cooking times.

 

  • Stick to a Consistent Schedule

Meal prepping works best when done on a regular basis. Knowing when you’ll go grocery shopping and prepare your meals will help you establish a good routine.

For example, you could set aside Sunday mornings for grocery shopping and meal preparation. You could also choose Monday evenings to prepare lunches for the rest of the week.

The schedule is entirely up to you and should correspond to your weekly routine. Remember that choosing specific times and sticking to them will simplify decision-making and free up mental space for other things.

 

  • Pick the Right Combination of Recipes

Choosing the right recipe combination will help you become more efficient in the kitchen.

To save time, choose recipes that require a variety of cooking methods. Too many recipes requiring the same appliance, such as the oven, will limit the number of dishes you can prepare at once.

This is especially true when choosing make-ahead meals or batch cooking.

A good rule of thumb is to limit yourself to one oven meal and no more than two stovetop meals at a time, such as loaded baked potatoes, a stir-fry, and soup.

Then simply add non-cooking meals to the mix, such as sandwiches or salads.

 

  • Organize Your Prep and Cook Times

 

A well-planned workflow will save you a significant amount of time in the kitchen.

Start with the recipe that requires the most cook time to best organize your prep and cook times. This is frequently a soup or oven meal. Concentrate on the rest once the meal is ready.

Cold meals should be made last because they can be easily prepared while the other meals are cooking.

To save even more time, double-check the ingredients for all recipes before beginning. If two recipes call for diced onions or julienned peppers, you’ll be able to chop the entire amount at once.

Using automated appliances such as a rice cooker or slow cooker can help to streamline your workflow even further.

 

  • Make a Shopping List

 

Establish a shopping list.

Shopping for groceries might take a lot of time.

Keep a thorough grocery list organized by grocery store categories to cut down on the time you spend shopping.

This will speed up your purchasing by preventing you from going back to a previous page.

Two further strategies to cut down on time spent shopping are to do your food shopping only once a week and employ a supermarket delivery service.

Picking the Right Storage Containers

A meal’s quality can be determined by the containers you choose to store food. Here are some suggestions for containers:
 
  1. Airtight containers for ready-to-cook ingredients: Foods may be kept fresh and ingredients crisp using stainless steel containers and washable, reusable silicone baggies.
  2. BPA-free microwavable containers: These are more beneficial to your health and more practical. Some excellent choices are collapsible silicone containers or Pyrex glasses.
  3. Freezer-safe containers: These will reduce nutrition and freezer burn losses. Mason jars with a wide opening are appropriate, provided that there is at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) of headspace so that the food may expand as it freezes. 
  4. Leak-proof, compartmentalized containers: These are excellent for lunches or other meals when the ingredients must be quickly blended. Bento lunchboxes are a prime illustration.

 
Containers that are stackable or have a similar form can help you make the most of the space in your freezer, fridge, or workbag.

Steps to a Successful Meal Prep


It might seem overwhelming to plan meals for an entire week, especially for beginners. However, it need not be challenging.

You’ll find a straightforward, step-by-step tutorial for streamlining your meal preparation procedure below.


  • Select your meal prep method of choice: This can also be a combination of techniques, and it should be determined by your dietary and lifestyle objectives.
  • Stick to a schedule: Choose a day each week to plan your meals, go grocery shopping, and prepare.
  • Pick the right number of meals: Keep in mind your schedule as well as the weekly restaurant dinners you’ve arranged.
  • Select the right recipes: Pay attention to variation and preparation techniques. Start out by using only the recipes you are familiar with.
  • Reduce the time you spend on grocery shopping: Make a list of your groceries categorized by grocery store sections or buy your goods online.
  • Spend less time in the kitchen: Considering the cook times, decide which dishes to prepare first.
  • Store your meals: Use proper containers and secure cooling techniques. Meals you won’t be eating for 3–4 days or longer should be refrigerated. The remainder should be labeled and frozen.

The Bottom Line


Meal preparation is ideal for those who wish to spend less time in the kitchen.

It may also encourage nutrient-dense, wholesome meals while discouraging unhealthy fast food options.

Meal preparing may entail producing big portions to be frozen, whole meals to be refrigerated, or prepared items to be blended as required, depending on your objectives, schedule, and meal preferences.

Find a method that works for you and set aside one day each week for meal preparation, grocery shopping, and cooking.

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