Meal prep hacks for weeknight meals
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 time commitment, but doing everything at once means you only have to preheat the oven once, chop your meats and veggies once and clean your kitchen once.
Try recipes that are practical, easy to follow and have familiar ingredients. Start with recipes that only have a few steps and a few ingredients that you normally use. Once you feel comfortable knowing which ingredients have the most protein, you can stray from the norm and start adding different protein packed ingredients such as quinoa or soy. This will help avoid boredom or a rut.
Some foods are a bit more sensitive to the passing of time than are others. Berries and greens like spinach and arugula begin wilting fast. Also, if you are prepping salads, they will stay crisp longer if you store any dressings and oils on the side in a separate container. Also, while you might like avocado in your salad or sliced apples for a snack, hold off slicing them until you’re ready to eat them, to avoid them turning brown.
From time to time, you’ll run out of prepped food in your fridge. That’s when it’s nice to have prepped meals stored in your freezer. Most meats that are already cooked can last in the freezer from two to six months. Soups also store well in the freezer, and you can split them into single servings to store for up to three months. With a permanent marker, start marking eat-by dates on containers or freezer bags.
Whether you have a crazy schedule or are short on time in the evenings you can still cook an amazing meal. All you have to do is plug in the crock pot, throw in some chopped veggies, meat, spices and liquid and walk away. Most recipes call for slow-cooking the ingredients between four and eight hours, so you can cook your meals while out running errands, at work or even asleep.
A vast majority of frozen produce is higher in antioxidants and other nutrients than is fresh produce. “They are picked at their peak of freshness and flash frozen so they don’t lose nutrition during transport from farm to store,” says Jaime Mass, RDN, LDN. “They are nutritious and can help keep you on track when prep time isn’t plentiful.”
So what if meal prepping means you eat four Greek yogurt parfaits in a week? It isn’t a bad thing to repeat meals, especially if it helps keep you on track. Making a big batch of a dish and then dividing it up to eat throughout the week is a simple time-saver. However, to keep yourself from getting bored, you might want to mix up what meals you repeat each week.
Just because it’s called “meal” prep doesn’t mean you should only prep large portions. It can help to plan out snacks too. Cheese, almonds, yogurt, baby carrots and bell pepper slices are all great options. Resist the temptation to buy single-serving snack packs, they cost more than regular-size boxes, and just because they come in 100-calorie packs doesn’t mean they are healthy.
Look for ingredients you can use in a variety of dishes can save you time and money, If you buy an entire bunch of tomatoes for a single taco salad, you’re going to end up with a lot in the garbage. But if you buy a whole bunch of tomatoes, cook them and divide them up to use in pastas, in wraps and in salads, you will minimize waste and save money.
Pack it up as completed meals to eat throughout week. You could also dedicate each shelf in your fridge for a different meal. Also, consider labeling each meal with the date you plan to eat it. That way you can eat from the front of your fridge to the back. Plus, if you plan when you’ll eat each meal, you can make sure that each days’ proteins, grains, fruits and veggies are varied.