Meal Prep How-Tos

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Benefits of Meal Prepping – My Top 7

There are many benefits to prepping your meals. Here are my favorites:

  1. Lowering grocery bills – Planning your meals ahead of time can save you money because you’re only shopping for the ingredients you need for that week.
  2. Spend less time in the grocery store – an excellent rule of thumb is to do most of your “shopping” on the outer perimeter. This is where fresh produce, deli counter, fresh meat and fish counters are placed. The frozen food section is typically towards the outer sections of the store. These are the types of food you want to buy for 80% of your food consumption.
  3. Smarter meal choices – Meal prepping can facilitate wiser, more nutritious meal choices because you’re more intentional about what you’re preparing, and will be more aware about portion sizes. Most recipes state the number of servings, helping you better eyeball a true portion.
  4. Keeping you “green” – Prepping with only the ingredients you’ve purchased helps cut down on food waste because you’re only buying what you know you’re going to eat that week. When you know exactly what you need you won’t be likely to buy fresh foods you will end up tossing.
  5. Less temptation – When you follow your list at the supermarket, you’re less likely to purchase the food that ultimately calls your name after dinner when you’re watching TV or doing paperwork…or because you’re bored. You have bought the healthier alternative so grab some of that! Fruit, raisins, almonds, pistachios and cashews are some of my favorites – they’re already prepped and ready to eat!
  6. Less stress – Being prepared in advance really can be your saving grace. In addition to planning WHAT you’ll have, also plan how you’re going to manage your schedule around the meals. Making lunches the night before, putting in the bag and storing in the fridge overnight works. Taking your ingredients out of the freezer the night before next evenings dinner gives it plenty of time to thaw out, reducing cooking time. Use the crock you got for a wedding gift (or the new “Insta”-Pot…or an Air Fryer…they are serious time-savers).
  7. Save time –You’ll still have to cook your meals, but having the right things on hand and at the ready acts as a springboard to success!

5 Easy Meal Prepping Tricks

  1. Chop your veggies – Every Sunday afternoon or evening, my husband and/or I roast or grill the chicken breast, haul out the veggies we’ll need for our salads to make the preparation easier. Wash everything and cut the radishes, onions and peppers in advance, and put each in its own container. Whether you’re making your lunch the night before or the morning of, all you do is cut the lettuce and cucumber pick the other vegetables out of the containers “salad-bar style”.
  2. Cook large batches – When you are cooking meals during the week, double the batch and save some for leftovers later in the week. You can even portion them out in individual serving containers so anyone can just grab, warm in the microwave and eat! (Note please do not microwave food in plastic containers! There are chemicals in the plastic that leeches into the food. Use glass, or transfer food to a microwave-save dish).
  3. Make your oven the multi-tasker – As I mentioned, on Sunday, we cook the chicken. You can use the oven at this time to pre-cook food for other meals. You can roast vegetables for the week, or partially bake potatoes for microwaving later, you can even cook Sunday’s dinner all at the same time. Now you’re not only saving time, you’re also saving energy!
  4. Frozen is often better than fresh – When you’re going to eat a vegetable that is out of season for your area, and you choose the fresh produce – remember that it’s travelled many miles over several days or weeks often coming from other countries! Choose frozen for out-of-season veggies. I have even heard that because frozen are picked at the height of ripeness and immediately frozen, they “could” be even more nutritious than fresh! I will leave that debate for another day.  Also, out-of-season frozen fruits are great in smoothies, yogurt, even over ice cream!
  5. Choose convenience foods discriminately  – I absolutely love a good rotisserie chicken from the grocery store – or two! You can eat once and use the leftovers for chicken salad, in a casserole or for enchiladas…so many options! Frozen shrimp is great idea for a stir-fry or a scampi too – or stop at the fresh meat counter to see if they have any pre-stuffed chicken breasts or marinated meats ready for cooking!
Meal Prepping How Tos
Meal Prep Containers

Here are a few tips

Only pre-cut the hardy vegetables – celery, radishes, peppers. Cut cucumbers and mushrooms as you’re making your lunch. Some textures stand up better to being stored in containers than others.

Seriously consider the tip above about using your oven or grill as the multi-tasker and cook your protein with another meal. You’ll save time and resources!  When you loop these tasks in with other routines, it’s not nearly as heavy of a commitment.

Use clear containers so you can easily see what’s inside.

Delegate – get your partner, spouse or older kids to pitch in and help!

Do what works best for you – try making your lunch the night before, or the day of and choose the one that causes the least amount of stress!

Meal Prep is all about reducing the stress!

 

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