Meals You Can Look Forward To
You want to incorporate healthy home-cooked meals in your diet. Good for you! But how do you start? You’re always on the run, thanks to all the other important things you must do every day, and you often grab an easy packaged meal. After all cooking three meals a day can’t be easy, can it?
Well, what if we say it can? Are you wondering how? Here’s your answer: meal prep.
If you’ve never done it, it might sound daunting. But trust us, meal prep is not as intimidating as it sounds. So why wait? With this guide, you’ll know all you need when it comes to how to meal prep.
Tips to Keep You Motivated
Before we start with the details, here are some little things to remember about meal prep:
Even a small amount of preparation can make a big difference. Pick one meal per day and start doing meal prep for it — perhaps breakfasts.
Dedicate a Time Slot
An hour or two a week is enough to start with.
Use Your Favorite Recipes
Leave out that interesting new recipe for some other meal or until you have made meal prep into part of your regular routine.
The point of meal prep is to take the stress out of daily cooking. So make it enjoyable. Put on some music or an audio book. Sip on your coffee while prepping.
Prep for the Meal Prep
Here are a few things you need to do before you start your meal prep.
Step 1: Make a Meal Plan
Use a meal planner to jot down the meals you plan to prepare during the next week. It takes the guesswork out of your shopping lists and cooking too.
Include your favorite recipes. Pick meals that will make use of the vegetables in your fridge. Use perishable items like fresh seafood earlier in the week. Make up some fun themes like Taco Tuesday or Fishy Friday to make your plans easier.
Step 2: Shopping Time!
Make a list of the ingredients you'll need to execute your meal plan. Add to it any ingredients that need re-stocking. Then head to the grocery store.
Purchase your grains, oils, etc. in bulk — it’s easy and economical that way. Look for fresh ingredients and sales on everything else.
The quantity of an item required may be a tad confusing when you are starting. But it will get a lot easier in a few weeks’ time.
Step 3: Stock up on Containers
To store prepared meals for the whole week, you need a lot of containers. Do you need any specific ones? Not, really. Any container will do to start with.
But, for ease of storage and use, the following features will help:
- BPA free
- Fridge, freezer and microwave safe
- Convenient to carry (say, to the workplace)
- Stackable and easy to store in the refrigerator
- Sized well for holding a portion
Food and freezer bags are also useful for storing certain types of foods like fruits and meat.
Step 4: Soak Your Grains and Beans
Soaking legumes and beans like kidney beans, chickpeas and whole lentils quickens the cooking process and is beneficial from a health point of view too. Soak them for around eight hours before your meal prep.
Let’s Get Started
Gather everything you'll need:
- Meal Plan
- A sharp kitchen knife
- Other tools needed for your chosen recipes (blender, grater, etc.)
- Clean containers
Read on to see how you can easily prep the most commonly used ingredients.
Grains, Beans, Lentils
These take the longest amount of time to cook, so you should start with them. Cook your grains, beans and lentils in big batches.
Brown rice and quinoa always come in handy for meals. Steel cut oats cooked ahead make great breakfast choices.
Once cooked and cooled, divide them into portions and store in the fridge or freezer.
While the grains are cooking, start prepping your veggies.
Wash, dry, chop, dice, grate or spiralize as required.
You may go ahead and cook them or simply store the chopped veggies in a freezer bag.
Roasting is a great way to cook the veggies. Just toss them with a little olive oil and desired seasonings and pop them into the oven. Carrots, peppers, beans and corn on the cob are a few vegetables that can be roasted.
Peel garlic and store it in a zip lock bag in the fridge.
Prepared onions are very useful for soups, curries, stir fries, etc. To prepare them, chop the onions (use a chopper to hasten it), and cook them in a saucepan with a little oil until caramelized. Sprinkle some water now and then to prevent burning. Once done, store in an airtight container.
Prepping fruit and storing them neatly can increase your chances of grabbing them for a snack instead of cookies or other junk food. It also makes your morning smoothie a breeze to prepare.
Peel overripe bananas, put them in a freezer bag and freeze them. Use them for smoothies, have them for dessert or bake them for breakfast.
When it comes to fruits like strawberries and grapes, rinse and pat them dry with a clean kitchen towel, then store them in containers in the fridge. If you have tons, you can freeze them for a nice addition to your smoothies.
This is something you need to do with care. Ensure raw meat is sealed and stored well in the freezer the day you purchase it. Ensure cooked meat is done so thoroughly.
The best way to prep meat is to cook it and store it, but you can also portion out raw meat, season it and store it.
For example, if you need to store four chicken breasts:
- Roast one in the oven (25-30 mins) and store it
- Boil two of them in a crock pot, shred them, portion them out and freeze them
- Season the remaining breast with oil, salt, spices and herbs of your choice in a zip lock bag and freeze it. You can just pop the contents of the bag onto a baking tray and cook when needed.
More Useful Things to Prep
Some other things you can prep and store for ease are:
- Sauces: Whether it is Indian, Thai, Chinese or traditional, you can cook the sauce or the spice paste and store as ice cubes.
- Dips: Use boiled chickpeas to make hummus or be creative with the dip of your choice. Store in little containers or jars in the fridge.
- Salad Dressings: Mix up a vinaigrette and store for a week in the fridge.
- Nut Milk: Cashew milk, almond milk and so on can be blended and stored for a week in the fridge.
The Bottom Line
The best thing about meal prepping is that there are no hard and fast rules. The only thing to ensure is hygiene while prepping and storing. Have fun with it. Prepare as little or as much as you want.
Give it a try this week and you’ll be hooked by the difference it makes in your busy life!