Meal prep has become one of the "non-negotiables" in my weekly routine. I feel much better heading into a new week when I know I've got my meals planned and mostly prepared. When I don't meal prep, I am much more likely to grab things on the go, or not put together balanced meals. Plus, I find my days more enjoyable when I have delicious food to look forward to!
When you're new to incorporating meal prep into your week, it can seem really overwhelming at first, but I promise you it will make a huge difference in how you feel at the end of the week! So this week's Friday Five is all about making this process easier for you, with my 5 Tips for Easy Meal Prep.
Plus, take advantage of my FREE Homemade Healthy Meal Planning template at the bottom of this post to make it even easier for you!
1. Plan your week
Before starting your meal prep, take a few minutes to write out what you have going on in your schedule for the week. Everyone is busy in different ways. For me, I tend to travel outside of the city for work quite often, take dance classes a few nights a week and my husband often has commitments in the evenings. Knowing what we have planned for the week allows me to prep foods that will either make a quick meal for busy evenings, or that I can bring on the road with me. Alternatively, if I know there is an evening that neither of us will be home for dinner, I know it's one less meal to prep for the week and I don't end up wasting food (or time!).
2. Make it manageable
Don't overwhelm yourself! A lot of people I've spoken with think that meal prep means cooking everything for the week in one day. Sure, you can do that if it works for you, but for me it's just not realistic. I set aside a few hours on Sundays to cook up some chicken for the week, make a batch of muffins or granola bars, and do some chopping for quick salads or snacks. Again, depending what I have going on during the week, I may also prepare some smoothies to take on the road, or measure out some oatmeal to make my mornings easier. Knowing that I have things mostly planned and prepared on Sunday makes putting supper together way less daunting each night after work.
Extra Tip: Unless the recipe states otherwise, I always use my stand mixer to shred my chicken rather than chopping it into chunks. I find it makes 2 chicken breasts go further and saves money!
3. Divide your prep up throughout the week
To build on my last point, there is nothing saying you need to complete ALL prep in one day. Get a head start on Sundays, and then plan ahead for the week to complete the rest of it. For example, if I know that on Wednesday, we will be having pizza for dinner, I'll take 15 minutes on Tuesday evening and make sure I have the veggies chopped, cheese shredded and dough defrosted so that it is easy to put together on Wednesday! Trust me, the 15 minutes will be well worth it!
4. Only try 1 or 2 new recipes each week
This is one that I learned the hard way. When my husband and I moved to Kingston, I decided that I was going to try 4 new recipes each week. Let me tell you - it didn't last long! I felt so burnt out and overwhelmed with all of the recipes, buying too many ingredients and the time I spent on each one. So now, I only do 1 new recipe each week (sometimes 2 if I find an easy one!). This helps in 2 ways - first, it saves time when you are using recipes that you know well already. Second, it helps to ensure you aren't wasting time or money on recipes you don't even enjoy!
Extra Tip: One of the best pieces of cooking advice my mom has given me is to always read the entire recipe from start to finish before starting to cook. This is so important to make sure that you know exactly how much time a recipe is going to take and that you have all of the ingredients and equipment that you need.
5. Store your food properly
This one is super important! By storing your veggies and snacks properly, you make sure that all of your hard work doesn't go to waste! There is nothing worse than getting half-way through the week and realizing your food is no longer fit to eat. Here are a few suggestions that will help:
Store chopped vegetables in the fridge in air-tight (preferably glass) containers
Don't pre-chop things that will go bad too early (apples, bananas, cucumbers, etc.)
Check storage suggestions on muffins, granola bars, etc. Typically they should be stored in the fridge in air-tight containers, especially if they contain any eggs or dairy.
Ready to start your meal-prep practice?
Get your free Homemade Healthy Meal-Planning Template here!