When it comes to meal prepping, I have pretty much made every mistake possible. From leaving this raw to scorching that, I have learned a lot about preparing healthy, tasty food in bulk.
Here are some of my best tips:
- Plan the right number of meals, leaving some room for fun activities. For instance, I often overestimate the number of meals I need in a week. I think, I have school five days this week, which means five healthy lunches and five great snacks. But what I leave out is the fact that there might be free pizza on Tuesday, or drinks and board games on Friday. I’ve learned to look at my calendar carefully beforehand, or even cook one less meal than I should (and just buy something special one day of the week!). That way, nothing goes to waste.
- Write down cooking times! In the words of Shape magazine: Cooking multiple things, multiple ways, and for multiple times without a timer of some sort is a recipe for disaster, and you don’t want to waste time and money on burning up a chicken. Solution: Download a multi-timer app—there are lots for both iOS and Android. You can set, say, 40 minutes for acorn squash in the oven, 20 minutes for barley on the stove, and another 20 for that sauce in the fridge to set up.
- Stock up on spices. The bare minimum for me would be salt and pepper, garlic powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, and curry powder.
- Avoid pre-cut vegetables like the plague! They are so pricey, and you don’t get to choose the shape of the veggie. I love to cut my sweet potatoes in small cubes so they cook faster. When you buy in bulk, it’s fresher and much cheaper.
- Scour your kitchen for things that should be used up, and base your meal prep off of that. Extra lentils? Plan a lentil stew!
- Plan when which meals will be eaten. Delicate items like berries, zucchini noodles, and lettuce wraps will go bad sooner, so they should be gobbled up first. Heartier things like potatoes, grains, chili, and stew can last longer, so plan to eat those later in the week.
- Whatever takes the longest to cook, make that first. That way, the chili/stew/pulled pork can cook low and slow while you prepare other things, or clean the kitchen.
- Use glass containers or BPA-free plastic containers. I have a love-hate relationship with glass containers because they are heavy, but reheat well. Now, I do half in glass and another half in plastic, depending on what else I need to take to school that day (to avoid overpacking and making my backpack into a 10-kg dumbbell).
- Leave some freedom an wiggle room. Be sure to prep some treats. For me, I love yogurt with baked goods and nut butter as a satisfying snack or dessert.
- Make what you know you love. My favourite things to meal prep include Thai green curries with vegetables and rice or quinoa, bean chili topped with cheese, and sweet potato or pumpkin stew. As a result, I make these all the time and never seem to tire of them.
- Find recipes that look amazing, and stick to them, especially when you go to the grocery store. Whenever I go to the store before getting recipes, I end up with a bunch of ingredients that I don’t need, and they spoil. Now, I find recipes first, write out a shopping list, and stick to the list. This also helps with that #studentbudget.
- Pack a good balance of healthy carbs, fat, and protein. While plain, buttered gnocchi is absolutely delicious, be sure to add veggies and protein. Also, watch the portion sizes.
- Don’t. Dress. Your. Salad. Ahead. Of. Time.
- Save your recipes on your computer or write them down. If you love it, you’ll want to come back to it.
- Meal prep with some entertainment! Not going to lie, it isn’t very exciting to stand and chop peppers for an hour. Why not put on an upbeat (or sad, if that’s what you’re into) playlist? Or watch a TV show or movie? Or – my favourite – FaceTime a friend or family member to chat?
Hope these tips work for you, and have a beautiful, healthy, rest of the week!
These photos are from Google, and therefore not my own.