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I have never been really into cooking. Occasionally, I get the itch to try something new and that can be fun but, otherwise, I just feel like my time could be better spent elsewhere. However, we do need to eat, and a home cooked meal is much preferred over constant takeout. Enter meal prepping. I enjoy cooking so much more when I have everything ready to go at my fingertips. Taking a couple of hours once or twice a week to meal prep is much more convenient to my schedule.
What is Meal Prep?
I am sure this goes without saying but meal prep is exactly what it sounds like. It is preparing all the elements of your meal so they can be thrown together at a moment’s notice. Anything that can be done ahead of time and stored should be done. Some people go as far as to cook all their meals for the week and freeze them.
How Can It Help You?
As I mentioned above, meal prepping saves time. If you have three meals that require diced onions, go ahead and dice all three onions at the beginning of the week. Then you can just throw them in as you cook. This will save you the time of getting out a cutting board and knife, cutting up an onion, and then washing the cutting board and knife. While on the surface that doesn’t seem like a lot of time, when you add in additional items to chop, blend, etc. the time can add up quickly.
Further, when all your ingredients are prepped ahead of time, you can put a meal together much more easily. When you have had a long day and just don’t feel like cooking, knowing that you won’t have to do much makes it less likely you will give up and eat unhealthy takeout. So, essentially, meal prepping can also save your bank account and your waistline.
What Can You Prepare Ahead of Time?
There are a number of things you can prep ahead of time:
Any chopped veggies you may need can be chopped and stored in a container in the fridge until needed. Chopped veggies should be used within 3 days or so. Therefore, you may want to set aside time 2x/week to meal prep. Some vegetables, like root vegetables, can last up to a week but I find it is just easier to meal prep 2x/week rather than worry about what will last or not. For a better idea of how to store your prepped veggies, check out this post from Meal Plan Magic: The Complete Guide to Storing Prepped Veggies.
Certain fruits can be washed and sliced or diced ahead of time. Just keep in mind that some will need to be stored a special way in order for them to stay fresh. For example, apples should be stored in cold water to prevent oxidation. Citrus and melon should be stored in airtight containers. Finally, berries and stone fruits, such as peaches, are best left to be washed and prepped when needed.
Any sauces, dressings, or marinades you may need throughout the week should be prepped ahead of time and stored in airtight containers.
If your recipe calls for cooked grains or legumes, you can cook these ahead of time and store them in an airtight container in the fridge. Use these within 3 or 4 days.
If you have a few hours to a day each week to meal prep, consider making all your meals for the week and freezing them. I, personally, like certain things cooked fresh but a lot of meals freeze beautifully and make the week so much easier. If you have the time, I highly recommend you consider cooking all your meals for the week.
Extra Meal Prep Tips
- Divide up all your prepped ingredients into individual containers with the amount your need for each meal. When it comes time to cook, you won’t have to measure. You can just throw those ingredients in.
- Make sure you have plenty of good clear storage containers. I like this 60-piece set (30 containers/30 lids) by Rubbermaid. The lids snap into each other and the containers stack together for easy storage. If that is too many containers, it also comes in a 42-piece set (21 containers/21 lids).
- Make a little extra of anything you prep from scratch and freeze it for quick use later on.
I don’t always have time to meal prep but, when I do, it makes my week go by much smoother. Further, it really helps me stick to my diet. There are so many days where I don’t want to cook. I’m either tired or have a lot to do and taking the time to throw together a meal is the last thing I want to do. This leads to bad choices in last minute food decisions. Having certain meals completely or partially prepped where I can just throw the ingredients together or simply warm up makes things so much easier. So, when you can, meal prep.