Newbie or not, we all know how preparing make-ahead meals for the whole week can be a lifesaver. Goodbye, morning rush and chaotic weeknights! But if your kitchen turns into a war zone every meal prep time, you might be needing more than foolproof meal recipes. These tips should help you start meal prepping like a boss.
How to Start Meal Prepping or Batch Cooking
There are several ways how to meal prep at home. You can cook and freeze food in large batches, store whole meals in individual containers or cook ingredients to create various meals. The best thing about meal prepping is you save time, energy and money. Your family gets to eat healthier food choices and enjoy home-cooked meals at work or school. Plus, you reduce food waste, practice portion control and become more disciplined when doing your groceries.
Tips on Meal Prepping
But sometimes, kitchen life doesn’t go as planned – missing ingredients, misplaced recipes, long cook times. Or perhaps you have these lovely cooked meals prepared but don’t know how to fit them all in the fridge. Meal prep is not only about cooking meals and putting them in food containers. Being systematic will help motivate you to do this week after week. Turn a kitchen nightmare around and start meal prepping with these tips added to your routine.
1. Start with a mini routine
If it’s your first time hopping in the meal prep wagon, you need to start small. Doing a meal plan for a full week can be overwhelming. You have to get the feel of things first, learn from experience and become more confident! For example, on Week 1, start meal prepping your healthy snacks or breakfast meals only. Overnight oats, muesli slices and bliss balls are excellent ideas. Then gradually add more meals to your plan later on. Keep these in mind:
- choose simple ingredients for easy meals that you know
- set the end or middle of the week as your meal prep day
- keep at your schedule for a few weeks before levelling up
2. Organise your meal prep recipes
It’s great if you have several recipe ideas in your arsenal. But for quicker meal planning, it’s ideal to compile your favourites. That way, you won’t have to spend time scouring every cookbook or browsing every bookmarked recipe. You can write them in a notebook or save them on your computer. Even better, modify your saved meal prep recipes for double or triple batch cooking. If you want, you can also download a meal prep app on your phone to organise your cooking and shopping needs.
3. Keep a well-stocked and orderly pantry
Having an organised pantry is more than a source of happiness for us mums. When you start meal prepping, it’s best to shop your pantry first to avoid waste and overstocking. And with a neat stockroom, food supplies are easy to find and monitor. Some pantry staples for meal prepping include whole grains, herbs and spices, canned goods, cooking oil and baking ingredients like flour and sugar. With these on hand, you can whip up something quick and lessen your trips to the grocery store.
4. Grocery shop with a purpose
When you do your grocery runs, see to it that you have a detailed grocery list with you. This tip should curb impulse buys and wasted time. For convenience, you can opt for online shopping, grocery delivery services or pick-ups. There are extra charges, of course, but these let you do away with long queues and shopping temptations. For grocery items that you use often, bulk buying can help stretch your food budget, too.
5. Have food storage containers on hand
High-quality meal prep containers are airtight, microwave-safe and easy to clean. If you need reusable containers for freezer storage, look for durable, clear ones that you can easily stack to save space. Resealable snack bags are great add-ons, too, to limit disposable plastic use. But my favourite would have to be stain-resistant glass containers or glass jars. They’re breakable and quite heavy, but with proper care, they can last for a long time. I especially love those that can go from freezer to microwave to oven.
6. Create your meal prep game plan
Meal prep planning doesn’t stop at having recipes and buying ingredients. Remember, you’ll be preparing several meals in one day. So, make sure to take the whole meal prep process and cooking time into consideration. Are there meats I need to marinate in advance? What are the vegetables I need to chop? Which dishes can go in the oven together? Plan everything from start to finish. Multitask to save energy and time! This technique can also help you stay focused and move more efficiently in the kitchen.
7. Always use time-saving methods
We love cooking for our families, but we don’t want to spend all day in the kitchen. Preparing everything from scratch is impractical, too, not to mention, tiring. So, here are some nifty shortcuts you can do when you start meal prepping:
- Use instant or precooked ingredients. Having ready-to-heat food items, canned sauces or frozen vegetables in your weekly meal plan is okay. Homemade is cheaper and more delicious, but you need to keep your meal prep time balanced, too.
- Use food processors, blenders and choppers. If you’re in a large household, chopping vegetables alone will take a large chunk off your schedule. These useful tools can come to your rescue. They’re also better alternatives than buying pre-cut produce.
- Use quick-cooking ingredients. Chicken breasts and fish are versatile and take no time to cook. For red meats, go for tender cuts. You can also modify your prep style to speed up your cooking time. For example, you can cut your starchy vegetables, like sweet potato, thinly.
- Use passive or hands-off cooking. Set-and-forget cooking appliances like multicookers, slow cookers, bread makers and air fryers are your reliable meal prep partners. They can do some of the cooking for you while you do something else. They also keep the stovetop or oven free for your other dishes. Pressure cookers can cut your cooking time by half, too.
8. Use up your leftovers
Lastly, don’t let leftover food go to waste. Let your creative juices flow instead and turn it into a tasty meal prep dish. Using your leftovers speeds up prep time as they’re already half ready. Moreover, it prevents you from serving the same meals over and over again. A brilliant variation of this tip is to batch cook a base dish. For example, you can roast root vegetables then use them to make side dishes or soups. Repurpose your roasted chicken for sandwiches or hearty salads. I know, sneaky but smart.
Happy meal prepping!