Pick one day a week and do the bulk — if not all — of your shopping and cooking on that day. It might sound like a big commitment, but doing everything at once means you only have to preheat the oven once, prep your meats and veggies once and do your dishes once. However, to chop all of your ingredients for 15 meals at once, it takes a little over half an hour. That’s a huge time saver. However, resist the urge to cook two, three or four weeks in advance. Most cooked meals tend to stay fresh in your fridge for about a week.
Try recipes that are practical, easy to follow and have common ingredients. After all, you’re trying to simplify your life, not master the fine art of sushi rolling. Make sure that you stay within your range of comfort. Start with recipes that only have a few steps and a few ingredients that you love. Once you start to feel more confident in your abilities, try rotating in a slightly more complicated dish from time to time.
Even with meal prep as plan A, life happens: From time to time, you’ll run out of prepped food in your fridge. That’s when it’s handy to have a half-dozen prepped meals stored in your freezer. So, grab a permanent marker and start marking eat-by dates. If you don’t want to write directly on your Tupperware, you can put the containers in freezer bags and then write the dates on them.
Bags of frozen broccoli and blueberries aren’t just convenient; they’re surprisingly nutritious. According to 2013 research from the University of Chester in England, the vast majority of frozen produce is higher in antioxidants and other nutrients than is fresh produce. For instance, in the study, frozen carrots were found to have about three times the lutein and twice the beta-carotene, as well as greater levels of vitamin C and polyphenols, compared to their fresh counterparts. They are nutritious and can help keep you on track when prep time isn’t available.
If you buy an entire bunch of tomatoes for a single taco salad, you’re going to end up putting a lot in the garbage. But if you buy a whole bunch of tomatoes, cook and divide them to use in pasta, wraps, and salads. You can save on cooking time and keep from throwing away your money. Go to the store knowing how many servings of proteins, grains, and vegetables you need. You may need to get creative to use up everything you’ve purchased.
Rather than prepping and cooking each meal individually, focus on cooking everything all at once — just do it in stages. After all, nearly every ingredient will require some combination of washing, chopping, seasoning and cooking. If you have more than six ingredients to cook, just rotate them in after the others finish. Then, all you have to do is mix and match to create your dishes.
Pack it all up as completed meals to eat throughout the week. To make it even easier, dedicate each shelf in your fridge for a different meal. Consider labeling each with the date you plan to eat it. That way, you can start from the front of your fridge and work your way to the back. Plus, by planning when you’ll eat each meal, you can make sure your diet contains variety.