We have taught you the basics of meal prep, and we’ve given you some recipes to use in your meal prep but now it’s time for us to show you how to make your meal prepping more efficient. The more practice you have with meal prepping the less time it will take you to prepare an entire week’s worth of meals. But who has time to wait around and learn the tricks for themselves? Rather than wasting your time on trial and error, here are our five best meal prep tips to save you time in the kitchen so that you can spend more time doing the things you love without having to sacrifice your nutrition.
Prep What You LIKE!
If you only take one thing away from every meal prep article we ever post, it should be this tip. Meal prep with food that you like and actually want to eat. Don’t prepare three days worth of baked salmon if you can’t stand the taste of fish, and don’t pack five meal prep containers full of chicken if you never eat it. Meal prep the food that you would cook for yourself if you were cooking everyday. Just prep it in larger quantities. It doesn’t matter how healthy a food is for you if you aren’t going to eat it, it’s just wasted money down the drain.
On the other hand if the only foods you tend to eat are loaded with saturated fats, added sugars or simple carbohydrates then it’s time to expand your culinary horizons. The main goal about meal prep after all is making eating healthy easier. If you skip the healthy portion of that then there isn’t much of a reason left to do it. Start out with simplistic recipes that you can alter with spices and hot sauces when it comes time to eat them, and as you become more experienced with meal prep and are willing to try new dishes move on to meals with a bit more complexity.
Make A Meal Plan
Having a plan about what you’re going to make for the week before you even step out the door to do your grocery shopping is one of the best ways to save time during the entire meal prepping experience. This way you know what you will need to buy at the grocery store (spending less time roaming the aisles), you’ll know what recipes you’ll be cooking (saving you time once you’re home) and you’ll know which ingredients combine to make a complete meal (cutting down on your post cooking packaging time). Without a meal time not only will you waste time, but you will also likely waste money at the store. You may even cook too much which means that you will waste food later in the week.
Making a meal plan can also save you time during the week. A key component of a meal plan is a menu involving a rough scheduling outline of which meals you will eat on which days. That way you know which meals you have to freeze to keep fresh until the end of the week and which ones you can safely store within the refrigerator. This menu cuts down on the amount of time you spend packing your meal prep bag in the morning for that day, because you will already know which meals to take. To make your meal prep even more organized you can even use colored coded meal prep containers.
Calculate Your Portions
Whether you are counting your calories or counting your macros, chances are you know exactly how much of each food you will be consuming over the next few days. That means that you are able to buy the exact amount that you need without going over and wasting money or wasting food. By only buying what you need you avoid having to reseal and freeze copious amounts of food prior to beginning your intended meal prepping session. This will also save you money in the long run because as they say: Time Is Money!
Don’t waste time pre portioning each meal before you cook all of your raw ingredients. Too many people get caught up in this step only to realize that it’s much faster to cook everything at once and calculate out their portions later. As long as you’ve bought the right quantity of everything there is no reason why you should waste precious time remeasuring everything now that you’re home.
Prep Your Prep
Before you start baking, broiling, sauteing, boiling or otherwise cooking your meals for the week you need to prep your meal prep. That means washing and cutting any vegetables you may need, thawing your meats, measuring your grains and organizing your oils and spices. Preparing everything in advance ensures that you have everything you need to cook before you even start. It also ensures that you won’t have to stop in the middle of cooking a dish to get the next ingredients ready. This simplifies the entire process and makes sure that you don’t waste any time.
Check your recipes to make sure that if there are any special instructions that may take extra time, such as marinating meats, you are sure to complete this step before you go on to prepping the rest of your cooking materials. Do not be fooled into thinking that any step of preparation is too small to get out of the way ahead of time. Anything that you can do during the precooking phase to simplify the actual cooking process should be done now.
Chances are that there will be some overlap in ingredients between meals throughout the week, so why not allow for a little cooking overlap too? Go ahead and cook as many things at the same time as you can without risking burning or overcooking any of the foods. For instance if you’re cooking chicken, salmon, sweet potatoes, broccoli and snap peas try cooking them each a different way so that they can all cook at the same time. Put your chicken in a crock pot, steam your salmon, bake your sweet potatoes, roast the broccoli and saute the snap peas. By using different methods to cook each dish you are shortening your amount of time spent in the kitchen because you won’t have to wait on one dish to be finished in the oven before you begin the next.
Once all of your food is prepared it’s time to separate your meals based on weight, calorie content or macronutrients, depending on your nutritional plan. This may be the most time consuming process for those new to meal prepping but by the time you are about a month in, it will feel like second nature to you. Separate your meals into two categories: the meals you will eat in the first three or four days of the week, and the rest of your meals. Put those you plan on eating in the first half of the week in the refrigerator to keep them cold and fresh. Make sure that any meals you will not be eating in the first three or four days of the week are kept in your freezer so that they too remain fresh. Colored meal prep containers can be used to enhance the organization of your weekly meal prep.
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