It’s all too easy to get into a rut with meals, especially if you are only cooking for one or two. The problem is then that you can lose interest in what you eat and it’s only a small step to impulsively reaching for the snacks and filling up on junk instead of having a proper healthy meal. Sometimes is all about the effort and time required to plan and prepare a decent meal: shopping, kitchen prep, cooking and clearing up.
How about simplifying things and making a batch of meals at a time so that you can have variety and interest with it feeling like a chore? The benefits can be enormous and enable you to eat healthy food, save money and reducing stress!
Tips for getting started with meal prep
- Start small. You DO NOT have to meal prep all your meals in order to feel the benefits. Start with one meal that pains you- breakfast, lunch, or snacks are a great place to start!
- Schedule it. For the first month, you have to work your meal prep into your routine, so it is a good idea to block off time to dedicate to your meal prep. Set a reminder in your phone. At first you might feel like it’s a chore, but I’m betting once you get going, and you see how beneficial it is to not have to worry about your meals during the week, you’ll look forward to it!
- Find a core set of recipes you can depend on. Over time, you can find a set of recipes you love and that you know work. You may even have them memorized! This makes the meal prep routine so. easy.
- Good storage is essential! Invest in some good storage containers to pack your meals. Think about whether you want containers that can go straight from the freezer to microwave or even oven, or just ones to use in the fridge for a few days. It really helps to be able to see into the container rather than taking the lid off to check contents. See ‘Reasons to choose glass food containers instead of plastic’
- Prep with friends! Make creating meals more enjoyable by getting together with one or two friends and doing it together. If you plan your recipes beforehand and share the shopping too, you could each do a half dozen of the same meal and then swop and share! And once you are done, enjoy a nice cup of tea together! The social benefits are enormous and a regular cooking together session could become the highlight of your week!
There are lots of ways to shortcut on the preparation too! Here are some of our favourite meal prep short cuts:
- use pre-cut & washed veggies- carrot sticks, cabbage slaw, and pre-riced cauliflower are super convenient on meal prep day! Getting pre-cut vegetables can also reduce the amount of strain on sore joints and make the whole thing more achievable!
- buy a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken– shred it and use in multiple meals! This is a very cost-effective way to get a lot of protein for your money. There are loads of ways to use cooked chicken that are delicious!
- Use frozen prepared ingredients: Toss in some frozen peas or beans, make a casserole with frozen diced chicken or pork, make a delicious sauce with fozen stock or sauces.
- Pre-cooked pulses and lentils! An excellent way to add nourishment to meals is to use beans, pulses and lentils many of which are now available in pre-cooked tins or packets just ready to use – no need to soak and simmer for hours! This is a very quick and easy way to add variety and make a meal go a bit further – and delicious and healthy too!
- use pre-made dressings and dips– cuts down on prep time
- use your appliances– Some appliances can really make easy work of food preparation: If you have a rice cooker you can cook up a large batch of rice while you get on with other stuff. Cook a big batch of protein in the slow cooker. And I often use my magimix for chopping up a load of onions to bag up in the fridge and just add to recipes as I cook them. Using your appliances frees up your hands (and mind) to focus on other tasks.
- use ‘no cook’ recipes– such as overnight oats or salads
Reasons to choose glass food containers instead of plastic!
- they are free from chemicals- yes, many plastic containers are BPA free these days, but I’m just waiting for the next chemical to be discovered. Using glass means you don’t have to worry about anything from the containers seeping into your food.
- they re-heat your food more evenly- glass just conducts heat better.
- they keep your food fresher- no smells or tastes absorb into your food the way they can from plastic meal prep containers.
- they are more environmentally friendly- glass meal prep containers last waaaay longer than plastic, and because they are more expensive so you are less likely to treat them as ‘disposable’.
- glass meal prep containers are …I’ve put mine through the dishwasher, in the freezer, and in the microwave. Some glass meal prep containers are even oven-safe (not the lids), and some can even go directly from the freezer into the oven!