For many of us, meal prepping is the first step in achieving a goal. Whether it’s to save money on groceries, or it’s to help us reach a fitness target, meal prepping is both a cost-effective and waistline-friendly task we can all do. However, getting started can definitely be a little bit confusing, especially if you’ve never done it before. If you’ve been curious about meal prepping, but you’re not sure where to start, here are five essential tips to get you on track!
Brainstorm Your Favorite Foods
First and foremost, before you begin, you first need to start thinking about what foods you want to include in your meal prep rotation. For instance, if you hate brussels sprouts and unseasoned chicken, why would you want to include them? On the other hand, though, you also need to think about which foods are going to actually last you through the week. A yummy egg frittata may sound good on day one or day two, but it can start taking on a certain… well, funk… after a few days in the fridge.
It’s also important to not let yourself get overwhelmed, especially since this is your first foray into meal prepping. Sure, you may be feeling ambitious and think that you can whip up a gourmet breakfast, lunch, and dinner to get you through the rest of the week. However, once you actually get started, you may find that this is far too many meals. Even if you just prep your dinners in advance during your first week, that’s still a step in the right direction.
Make a Shopping List
Once you know what you’re going to make for yourself this week, your next step is to write up a shopping list. Be sure to carefully research all recipes before you begin, as there’s nothing more frustrating to be halfway through your cooking session, only to find out that you forgot a key ingredient, like onions or potatoes. Cross-reference your list frequently while shopping, and try to do your best to stick to it as you work your way through the grocery store. That said, if a few (healthy!) treats fall into your cart while you shop, who’s going to judge you? Not us!
Start Preparing Your Food
You’ll want to budget at least a whole afternoon for the preparation of your food. Now, you may get more efficient and faster as you get used to the meal prep process, but it’s definitely going to take you a little bit of time at first. Not only are you chopping, dicing, and mincing, but you’re also baking, searing, and roasting. It’s not a bad idea to do all of that chopping in advance, though. That way, when it comes time to start cooking, you don’t have to interrupt your rhythm to julienne a carrot or some chives.
Store Them in the Fridge (or Freezer! )
Your kitchen is going to smell amazing once you’re done cooking, and it’s going to be very tempting to grab a meal and eat it right away once it comes out of the oven. Hey, if you want to “sample” your hard work, treat yourself! However, it’s extremely important to start packing up your food right away, as leaving it out on the counter for too long can lead to food-borne pathogens. Let them cool down slightly, but then immediately start loading up your meal prep containers. Once they’ve cooled slightly, start transferring them to the refrigerator or freezer for easy grab-and-go options this week.
Heat, Eat, and Enjoy
Finally, here’s the best part about meal prep: actually getting to tuck into the food you made for yourself! There’s seriously nothing better than knowing that there’s a fast, easy, and delicious meal waiting for you after a long day at work or chasing your kiddos around your home. Even though your meals are coming from containers in your fridge, though, why not go ahead and plate them after heating them up? After all, we eat with our eyes, and seeing your yummy meal on a real dinner plate can make it all the more enjoyable. Bon appétit!