5 Great Meal Prepping Hacks

Looking to incorporate more fresh, healthy foods without spending countless hours in the kitchen every day? Meal prepping could be the solution. What if everything needed for meals was ready to go either already made so you can heat and eat or ready to cook so cooking time is minimized? There’s no one right way to do it, but here are a few tricks to save some time.

Meal prepping can shave precious time off of a daily routine. Let's look at five great ideas with some bonus tips thrown in for good measure.

Start Small

Meal prepping might feel like a lot to take on all at once, so start with something small. It might be enough to make a casserole ahead of time or enough soup to prep lunches for work for the whole week. Or try making enough overnight oats jars to have a nutritious instant breakfast each morning for the next 2 to 4 days. The key is to get your feet wet without becoming overwhelmed.

Unsure where to start or feel iffy about your culinary skills? Try meal kits. Services like HelloFresh and Blue Apron will send you just enough of each ingredient you need to make healthy and affordable meals, while also reducing potential waste. They do most of the prep work; all you have to do is follow the recipes and enjoy.

Plan Before You Shop

Decide what you’ll be eating for the week before you go to the store. FreshNLean recommends planning your meals to include 50% non-starchy vegetables, 25% whole grains and 25% protein. Cook enough of each food group for three or four days then mix and match throughout the week. This might mean a few cups of brown rice cooked and put in the fridge, some roasted veggies, and fresh greens.

Also, prep salads, sans dressing and croutons, so they’re ready for lunches. Have the makings for sandwiches on hand for any in-between days. The key here is to cut and store ingredients to help make building meals easy and to reduce dependence on fast food or eating out. By knowing exactly where you’re going with each meal, you’ll also reduce waste and keep dinner interesting.

Label and Date Everything

Make sure you don’t over-prep in an effort to simplify the week. All that work does no good if you end up with meals that go to waste in the fridge. The CDC has a food storage chart you can check to see how long the items you’ve chosen will last. For example, most cooked meats will only stay good for 3 to 4 days. But using prep methods that could mean cooking just twice per week! Label those containers clearly and don’t forget to include the prep date to avoid guessing games a few days in.

Have the Right Containers

Will the meals be reheated in an oven or in the microwave? This will help determine whether you’ll want to avoid metals (don’t microwave) and plastics (don’t put in the oven). If you do go with plastic, Meal Prep Haven stresses the importance of choosing BPA-free containers. It’s also recommended that we choose plastic that is microwavable, freezer safe, okay for the dishwasher and easy to store and reuse. Use mason jars and similar airtight glass containers for foods that need to be layered and don’t require reheating. Glass containers that are oven safe can be found pretty inexpensively at places like Ikea, just remember that the lids aren't oven-safe as they're usually plastic.

Spices are Key

Health.com recommends keeping an inventory of your spices and canned or jarred goods and continuously adding to your collection. But let's be real here, who has time for that? Still, it helps to keep a great selection of spices. The broader the available selection, the more you can do with prepped ingredients to make each meal stand out from the next. Experiment with different flavors.

Some basics in most kitchens include curry, basil, thyme, and cumin. But mixes are fun and help take the guesswork out, too. Penzey's has some that many people swear by.

Meal prepping can save time and money, but there is a learning curve. Try the hacks listed above to transform the way you approach your meals. You deserve to sit down to a fresh, home-cooked meal every night, but the modern lifestyle seems to prohibit this for too many of us. Batch cooking or food prepping might be the solution.

Copyright 2019, Wellness.com

10/4/2023 4:00:00 AM
Wellness Editor
Written by Wellness Editor
Wellness Exists to Empower Health Conscious Consumers. Wellness.com helps people live healthier, happier and more successful lives by connecting them with the best health, wellness and lifestyle information and resources on the web.
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