You know the feeling – it’s Monday evening, you’ve just gotten home from work, and you have no idea what’s for dinner. Your stomach is growling, your energy is zapped, and the last thing you want to do is spend an hour cooking and cleaning up the kitchen. But what if I told you with just a few hours on the weekend, you could have delicious, homemade meals ready for the entire week? Meal prep, the secret weapon of busy people everywhere, is your solution.
By dedicating some time each week to chopping veggies, cooking grains, and preparing protein, you’ll have everything you need for quick, healthy dinners and lunches each day. No more scrambling for takeout menus or unhealthy snacks when hunger strikes. Meal prep saves you time, money, and helps you avoid unhealthy temptation. Read on to learn how you can master the art of meal prep and transform your weekdays. The secret to saving time and eating home-cooked meals every day is simpler than you might think.
Plan Your Meals Ahead of Time
Planning your meals ahead of time is the key to mastering meal prep. Sit down on the weekend and figure out what you want to eat for the next week. Think about your schedule and what nights you have activities or commitments outside the home. For those busier nights, opt for quicker meals like frittatas, stir fries, or sheet pan dinners. For less busy nights, choose more labor-intensive meals like lasagna, enchiladas or slow cooker stews.
Once you have your meals selected, make a detailed grocery list of all the ingredients you’ll need. Do one big shop to get everything at once. Buy extras of pantry staples you use often, like rice, beans, olive oil and spices. Stock up on snacks, too, so you have easy grab-and-go options.
When you get home from shopping, spend a few hours prepping ingredients that can be made ahead of time. Wash and chop veggies, cook whole grains, marinate meats, and make sauces or dressings. Portion and package ingredients into reusable containers so they’re ready to use. You can also fully cook some meals and freeze them for easy reheating later.
During the week, all you have to do is assemble and cook the meals, which will now only take a fraction of the time. You’ll also have leftovers for lunch or extra dinners. Meal prep saves time, reduces food waste, and helps avoid unhealthy takeout on busy nights. With some practice, you’ll get into a routine and wonder how you ever lived without it!
Planning, shopping, and preparing – the key principles for mastering meal prep and gaining more time during your weekdays. Try starting small by prepping just 2 or 3 meals at a time and build up from there as you get more comfortable. You’ve got this! Meal prep can truly be a lifesaver.
Make a Grocery List and Do One Big Shop
Meal prep is key to saving time during the week, and it all starts with planning. Make a list of meals you want to cook for the week ahead and all the ingredients you’ll need. Then, head to the store and do one big shop to get everything in one trip.
Stock up on staples with a long shelf life like rice, pasta, oatmeal, and canned goods. Buy versatile ingredients you can use in multiple meals like onions, garlic, olive oil, eggs, cheese, and Greek yogurt. Get proteins that you can cook in batches like chicken, beans, and lentils.
Don’t forget snacks and breakfast options too. Yogurt parfaits, trail mix, granola bars, and pre-cut veggies are easy to grab and go. Buy bread, tortillas or pitas you can fill or top for quick lunches.
Once you get home, prep as much as you can. Wash and chop veggies, cook a big batch of whole grains, and marinate meats. Make double batches of things like chili, soup, pancakes, and muffins and freeze half for another week.
With your meal prep done, your actual cooking time during the week will be slashed. You’ll have pre-made components ready to assemble for lunches and dinners in minutes. No more scrambling for leftovers or unhealthy takeout on busy nights.
Meal prep only takes a few hours, but it provides days of benefits. Your belly and wallet will thank you, and you’ll gain back hours of your time each week. The key is starting with that well-planned grocery list so you have everything on hand to make meal prep a success. Conquer your weeknights and try it – you’ll be hooked!
Prep Ingredients in Bulk
When it comes to meal prep, preparing ingredients in bulk is key. This will save you tons of time during the busy weekdays. Some tips for prepping ingredients in bulk:
Chop vegetables and fruits
Chop vegetables like bell peppers, carrots, broccoli, and cabbage. Wash and chop fruits like apples, berries and melon. Store them in airtight containers or ziplock bags in the refrigerator. This makes it easy to grab handfuls for snacks, salads or to cook with.
Cook grains and beans
Cook a big batch of grains like brown rice, quinoa or farro and beans like chickpeas or black beans. Let them cool then portion into containers or bags and refrigerate for up to 5 days. Add them to salads, burritos or stir fries for extra nutrition and substance.
Marinate meat and tofu
Whether chicken, beef, fish or tofu, marinating protein in bulk saves time. Place in an airtight container or ziplock bag and marinate in the refrigerator overnight or up to 2 days. Cook them on the stovetop, grill or oven, then portion into containers to add to meals, snacks, sandwiches and wraps during the week.
Wash and chop fresh herbs
Fresh herbs add flavor to any dish but can be time-consuming to prepare. Wash and chop hardy herbs like rosemary, thyme, oregano and sage. Softer herbs like basil, cilantro and parsley should be washed and spun dry, then placed on a paper towel in an open container or bag with a damp paper towel underneath. Store in the refrigerator and use within 3 to 5 days.
Meal prep may require an initial investment of time but preparing ingredients in bulk on the weekends will make your weekdays that much easier. Having pre- chopped veggies, cooked grains, marinated proteins and fresh herbs on hand means you’ll have wholesome, homemade meals at your fingertips in minutes. Get into the habit of bulk prep and you’ll become a meal prep pro in no time!
Invest in Time-Saving Tools
Investing in some essential tools will make your meal prep quicker and easier. Here are a few things worth adding to your kitchen arsenal:
A food processor can chop vegetables and grate cheese in seconds. It’s ideal for making things like coleslaw, hummus, pesto, or mixing dough. Look for a processor with different blade attachments so you have options for slicing, shredding, kneading, and mixing.
An immersion blender lets you blend soups, smoothies, salad dressings, and sauces right in the container you’re using. No need to pour everything into a countertop blender. Immersion blenders are very affordable and compact to store.
A slow cooker is a lifesaver for busy weeks. You can throw in ingredients in the morning and come home to a hot, home-cooked meal. Use it to make chili, stew, pulled pork, curry, and soup. Look for a cooker with multiple settings so you can keep food on warm or adjust cooking times.
Meal prep containers
Invest in a set of matching containers to prep and store your meals. Look for ones that are microwave, freezer and dishwasher safe. Containers with compartments are useful for storing meals with multiple components. Label and date each container so you can easily spot what’s inside and keep track of how long it’s been stored.
A good set of sharp knives makes slicing, dicing, and chopping much easier and safer. You’ll want a chef’s knife for most tasks, a paring knife for small jobs, and a serrated knife for bread. Look for forged knives that will hold an edge well. Keep your knives sharp with an electric or manual knife sharpener.
With the right tools on hand, you’ll find yourself breezing through meal prep. Your weeknight dinners will come together in no time, leaving you more time to enjoy your evening. The extra few minutes invested in preparing and packing meals will save you hours over the course of a week. Meal prep doesn’t have to be difficult when you set yourself up for success.
So there you have it, some easy tips to help you become a meal prep master. Start slow by prepping just one or two meals a week, then build up as you get into the groove. Remember, the key is keeping things simple. Pick recipes with minimal ingredients that you know your family already enjoys. Focus on staples like grains, proteins, and veggies that keep well.
And don’t forget to invest in some good containers – they’ll make storing and transporting your meals a breeze. Meal prep may require some initial effort but just think of all the time you’ll gain back during the week. The extra hours each day are so worth it. Now get cooking – your deliciously efficient week awaits!