How to Meal Prep and Why It’s Important
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Learning how to meal prep is extremely important for a healthier, more relaxed life. With fast food and eating out getting more and more convenient, many people are choosing those options over eating at home. This can lead to high monthly food expenses, as well as unhealthy eating habits. The easiest way to fix this problem is through meal prepping and today I’m going to walk you through it.
What is Meal Prepping?
Meal prepping is the process of preparing most, if not all, of your meals ahead of time. Many people tend to set aside a day each week to cook up everything and split it into meals for the week. Since you’re making the meals yourself, you know exactly what ingredients are going into them. You certainly can’t say the same about fast food or takeout.
The great thing about meal prepping is the fact that no cooking needs to be done during the week! All you have to do is pull a meal out of the fridge or freezer, heat it up (if necessary), and eat. This eliminates the need for fast food or unhealthy TV dinners. In turn, you’re eating home-cooked meals that are much healthier and less expensive.
I should note that meal prepping doesn’t have to be difficult. There are plenty of easy recipes out there that don’t require anything but basic cooking skills.
Benefits of Meal Prepping and Why It’s Important
Not only does meal prepping save a bunch of time, but it also helps you eat healthier. By spending one afternoon preparing a whole weeks worth of meals, you’ll have every meal ready to go when you need it. That dread you used to get when thinking about what to make for dinner each night is gone because it’s already prepared!
Not having to cook every night gives you more time to workout, do homework, clean the house, study for an exam, or anything else you didn’t have time for before.
Benefits of Meal Prepping:
• Can aid in weight loss: By controlling your portions and choosing healthy, yet still delicious, recipes, you have the ability to lose weight.
• Helps with eating healthier: Having home-cooked, healthy meals ready whenever you need them reduces the need for processed and fast foods.
• Can lead to a more balanced diet: Fast food is extremely unhealthy. Meal prep recipes tend to focus on a balance of the food groups, helping you consume more of what you need and less of what you don’t.
• Has the potential to save money: Eating out is expensive. By making your own meals and sticking to a grocery list, you aren’t spending as much money.
• Can save time: Cooking all your meals one day of the week frees up the rest of the week for things you need to get done. No more cooking and cleaning up each night: just grab a meal from the fridge and you’re good to go.
Meal prepping gives you the option to reach for healthy meals as opposed to ordering a pizza or getting takeout. Since no cooking is involved throughout the week, there’s no excuse not to eat one of the healthy meals you’ve already prepared.
How to Meal Prep
Learning how to meal prep is fairly simple. There are just a few rules to follow.
Step 1: Figure Out Your Meals
The first step to meal prepping is figuring out what meals to prep. To determine which types of meals to prepare ahead, you need to evaluate your eating habits. Do you normally go out to lunch and spend a lot of money doing so? Are you just too exhausted after work or class to make anything at home so you get takeout or fast food? When choosing snacks, do you go for chips and other processed foods, or do you choose fruits and veggies? If you normally eat cereal for breakfast but go to Taco Bell for dinner, you don’t need to prep breakfast, only dinner. Get it?
Step 2: Pick Recipes
Once you’ve figured out what meals to prep, you can start choosing recipes. If you’re prepping for more than just yourself, pick recipes that everyone will like. Otherwise, cooking several different recipes can get overwhelming and take more time than you may have. You can checkout my roundup of the 15 best chicken meal prep recipes or by doing a Google or Pinterest search for “meal prep recipes” or “meal prep ideas.” There are so many great recipes floating around the internet that you can use!
Step 3: Create a Grocery List
Now you can create your grocery list with everything you’ll need. Since you’re making your meals from scratch, you won’t need much, if any, processed foods. Win! When you go to the store, make sure to stick to your list. The whole purpose of meal prepping is creating all your meals (or most) for the week. Therefore, everything on your list is all that you need.
Step 4: Pick a Day and Prepare Your Meals
Pick a day to make all your meals and make sure you follow through. When preparing meals, focus on the foods that take longest to cook. While they’re cooking, you can rinse and cut produce for your snacks or other meals. In a few weeks, you’ll become a professional multi-tasker!
In order to make the process more efficient, keep a collection of your favorite recipes saved in an easy to find location. Not having to search for the recipes will save a lot of time. If there are certain recipes you frequently make, try and stock up on ingredients while they’re on sale. This can help save you even more money.
I should note that you don’t have to meal prep every single meal. If you want to get lunch with friends once a week or eat out a few nights a month, you can account for that when making your meals.
If the thought of eating the same meal for a whole week in a row turns you off, switch it up. Make enough of one recipe for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and then another recipe for Tuesday and Thursday. You are in control and should be making foods you enjoy and won’t get tired of. And the great thing is that you can make something completely different next week because meal prepping can be done with almost any recipe.
Since so many meals are created at one time, you need a few food storage containers. While you can buy cheap containers that will break after a few uses, I highly advise against it.
For starters, you’ll have to keep buying them. In the grand scheme of things, that will add up to a lot of money over the course of your meal prepping days. Secondly, and most importantly, you’ll be creating a lot of useless waste that’ll end up in landfills. I’m a big advocate for the environment, so I will never recommend wasteful products.
So instead of those cheap containers that chip after a few uses, below are some of great quality that won’t waste your money.
1. Prep Naturals Glass Meal Prep Containers
If you’re freezing meals or reheating anything, I highly recommend these Glass Meal Prep Containers. Since they have 2 compartments, you can keep certain foods separate or put your meal in one side and a snack in the other. And since they’re glass, you can easily see what’s in each container without taking off the lid. All you have to do is grab it and go. Glass containers make a world of difference when it comes to storing and reheating food. And since they’re freezer safe, you can make a bunch of meals to freeze and reheat later. For your snacks that don’t fit in those containers, I recommend these Stak Pak Portion Control containers.
2. Mason Jars
Another glass food storage option are mason jars. Mason jars are well-known for their food storage capabilities, so it makes sense to use them for meal prepping. These are very commonly used for storing oatmeal, yogurt and granola, smoothies, soup, veggies, and other similar meals. Just make sure when freezing them they aren’t filled all the way to allow for food expansion.
3. Rubbermaid Premier Food Storage Containers
If you’re looking for something a bit cheaper, there are still some great options out there. For the rest of your food storage needs, I recommend these Rubbermaid Food Storage Containers. They are crystal clear which makes them easy to see into. Now not all of them are the same size so you’ll have to watch how much food you put into each. However, for 14 containers, it’s a pretty good deal. Because this set comes with smaller containers, you shouldn’t need to buy the small snack containers mentioned above.
And lastly, any recipes that calls for plastic baggies should be ignored. Plastic baggies are wasteful, can get expensive, and don’t protect your food from getting crushed. Any of the options above are a great substitute for plastic baggies and should be used instead.
Learning how to meal prep and it’s importance is the first step in eating healthier and saving time. All that’s left to do is follow through and you’ll see first-hand the amazing benefits of meal prepping. 🙂