One of the biggest trends currently sweeping social media and fitness circles is meal prepping, which saves you time, money, and effort and makes it far easier to stick to healthy, preplanned, and preportioned dishes. Although it may be a dominating trend for those wanting to achieve health and fitness goals, people from all walks of life will benefit from this clever planning technique.
While meal prepping is a lifesaver for anyone hoping to save precious time and energy during the week, it is especially beneficial for busy mums wanting tasty and healthy meals ready to go. Dedicating one day a week to filling your French door fridges with flavourful dishes and ingredients is the best habit you can pick up in the new year.
What is Meal prepping?
Meal prep is the process of preparing the key ingredients and elements of a dish, like grains, roasted vegetables and cooked protein, ahead of time. This smart planning method gives you a much-needed headstart to the week and allows for faster, healthier, stress-free meal planning and eating.
While some people choose to prep key ingredients that can mixed and matched throughout the week to create different tasty meals, others decide to prepare entire meals that simply need to be reheated as needed. The method you choose is ultimately up to you.
Benefits of prepping
Meal prepping saves time and energy on busy weeknights by making food readily available to heat and eat as soon as you get home. But the benefits of meal prep don’t stop there. By pre-planning your meals, you can save money, as it forces you to buy only the ingredients you need during one weekly shopping trip.
Furthermore, pre-prepared meals are more likely to be eaten, allowing you to cut down on unnecessary food waste. Finally, many people find it easier to stick to healthy, home-cooked meals as the menu can be planned in advance, making you less likely to choose an unhealthy option on your way home from work or at the end of a busy day.
Best foods to prep
You can prep nearly any ingredient depending on how far in advance you plan to prepare. However, a select few stand up well throughout the week, maintaining a higher freshness and flavour.
These foods include frozen vegetables that can be prepared as needed, stiff fresh vegetables, pulses, whole grains, nuts & seeds, lean proteins and tofu, eggs, whole fruits and starchy vegetables.
When picking recipes to prep, it is worthwhile to consider a few important tips to make the most of your clever planning technique. When starting out, choose one key mealtime to prepare for each day. Whether you prefer a healthy and filling breakfast to start your day, a tasty lunch or the ideal weeknight dinner ready to go, choose the meal you typically eat out or skip altogether.
Dedicate one day of the week to your meal prepping. Many people choose to complete their grocery shopping and prepare on the same day, traditionally choosing Sunday to start the new week fresh and ready.
The biggest mistake you can make is prepping too many or too few meals. Before beginning, decide how far in advance you want to be catered for. When starting, experiment with two or three days’ worth of prepped food before extending to a full week. You may not enjoy eating the same meal the whole week.
And finally, if you find yourself lacking ideas, you may benefit from investing in a cookbook or following social media accounts dedicated to this unique way of cooking. Alongside a wide range of delicious recipes, you will learn additional tips and techniques to make the entire process simple and effective.
How long will food last?
The longevity of your meals largely depends on the ingredients you have chosen to use. Most food can remain refrigerated for 2-5 days or frozen for 3-4 months. Sealing food in airtight packaging or freezer-safe storage containers will not only keep bacteria at bay but also help maintain freshness and flavour, lock in moisture, and prevent unwanted freezer burn.
Things to consider
Meal prepping is based on preparing the same dish or type of food to be eaten multiple days in a row. While some enjoy the convenience and reliability of having these meals to turn to each day, those who enjoy variety and freshness above all else may struggle with the concept.
Getting kids on board to eat ‘leftovers’ for multiple days in a row may also pose a unique challenge, especially if you need to accommodate different dietary requirements and restrictions. The best way to avoid your food becoming monotonous is by using different finishing spices, dressings or condiments that add new and unique tastes to the meal. Alternatively, you can freeze some of your prepped food to feature in future dishes.
For fussy family members who don’t like the idea of eating the same meal multiple days in a row, consider prepping your ingredients only, like washing and chopping various vegetables, creating marinades and sauces in advance and pre-cooking grains or rice to eat alongside your protein of choice. This method offers you more flexibility when creating meals throughout the week.