What do mealtimes look like in your household? Are they planned or a bit chaotic (or maybe a little bit of both)? If you’ve been seeking a more peaceful experience with meal times, meal prepping may be just what you need.
Chances are, you’re probably not a stranger to the idea of meal prepping. Yet with busy schedules & different food preferences, the idea of actually doing it might seem a little daunting.
But what if I told you that it doesn’t have to be so complicated, or even take as much time as you may think? What if I guaranteed you that you CAN learn how to implement basic meal-prepping tips, no matter how busy you are or lack of resources you may feel like you have?
This article will outline some of the many benefits associated with meal prepping, go over some myths & facts, and provide some tried & true tips that are sure to give you more confidence in the kitchen!
Benefits of Meal Prepping
There’s a good reason why meal prepping is often discussed in the health community. Not only does it help with organization, but it is associated with many health and other general benefits as well.
Here are some of its many benefits:
– More access to healthy ingredients, since you are more likely to bring fresh groceries into your home and make an effort to have the right ingredients on hand.
– Can save money, since you are less likely to eat out or waste food in your home.
– Generally, meal prep involves better nutritional intake & better overall health, which is also influenced by eating out less and having a greater likelihood of eating more produce and a more balanced diet.
– Saves time in the long run, since the effort that is put into it ahead of time will save time in the days that follow.
– May reduce stress-associated with mealtimes, since you will be able to open your fridge and see pre-prepped ingredients that will make the task of making a meal much less intimidating.
Meal Prep Myths and Facts:
It is common to have preconceived ideas about what meal prepping is or involves, which may keep you from wanting to try it out. To help set things straight, here are some common myths and the actual fact that exists instead!
Myth #1: Meal prep has to take hours at a time
- Fact: Meal prepping can take as little or as much time as you have! Putting in 20 minutes of prep time is better than no time at all. Take advantage of days when you do have more time to dedicate, but don’t discount when you may only have 10 minutes to chop veggies.
Myth #2: Meal prepping involves making entire meals ahead of time
- Fact: While this can be true, it doesn’t have to be. Meal prepping can be much more simple and involve cooking just 1 ingredient ahead of time or pre-chopping your veggies when you bring them home from the grocery store. Making an entire meal ahead of time is great too, but not required.
Myth #3: Meal prepping is always done on the weekends
- Fact: Meal prep can happen any time or time of the week, whatever works for your schedule!
Myth #4: Only dinners work for meal prep
- Fact: Even snacks, breakfasts & lunches can all be a part of meal prep. Choose the meal that you most struggle with and try implementing some meal prep strategies there first.
Tips to be Successful at Meal Prepping:
Now that you know the benefits of meal prepping and have hopefully been encouraged by the dispelled myths, let’s go over some further tips to help you be successful.
Plan for it. This might sound obvious, but it’s the most important! Consider scheduling meal prep into your routine like you would an appointment for yourself. The reality is that last-minute thoughts of what to eat are likely to leave you reaching for something less healthy or overeating, so set yourself up for success with a little planning.
Batch cook. This involves cooking larger portions of versatile ingredients like grains, veggies, hard boiled eggs, and meats to have readily available all week long. Cooking double or triple batches of favorite meals is also an excellent way to batch cook and save time in the long run. Prepare, store, & enjoy when ready!
Work-around a menu. Even if it’s just a list of 3 ideas for dinner, a weekly menu helps organize your grocery shopping list which can save money and time at the store and reduce food waste (a win-win!). Dedicate some time to deciding what to make for the week, keep a list wherever it is most practical for you & create your grocery list based on that plan. Better yet, see what ingredients you already have in your kitchen and base your meals off of those! It may require some practice, but it comes with big rewards.
Check your schedule. Use your calendar as a guide so that your plan for meal prep actually works with your schedule. If there are nights you won’t be home in time to cook, plan ahead to put a meal in the slow cooker that morning or the night before, or make a larger meal earlier in the week so you’ll have leftovers to eat. Remember that meal prep can occur any day of the week, so if your schedule changes and your usual Sunday prep gets turned into a Tuesday, that’s okay!
Embrace frozen & convenience items as needed. There’s no rule that all ingredients for meal prep have to be fresh. Frozen produce, meats, fish, as well as canned beans, etc are all totally acceptable ingredients to use and will last a lot longer in your pantry or freezer (so less food waste!). Other healthy “convenience” item ideas are pre-chopped veggies & bagged salad mixes.
Repurpose leftovers. Get creative & experiment with turning last night’s dinner into tomorrow’s lunch! Leftover taco meat can be used to top a salad the next day, and leftover veggies or grains can be used in an endless variety of ways as well.
Hopefully, you are already feeling more confident in your ability to tackle meal prep and understand the many benefits of doing so. Think about 1-2 tips to start with, knowing you can always build upon it from there. Do what works best for you and your family and look forward to starting to enjoy mealtimes even more in the near future.