Tired of resorting to takeout at the end of the day? Want to take better control of your diet and make healthier choices? Look no further than meal prepping! It’s the ultimate solution for anyone interested in saving time, money, and reaching their well-being goals. It may seem daunting at first, but with a few simple tricks, even beginners can become meal-prepping pros. Whether you’re feeding yourself or your family, let’s dig into meal prep for busy people (yes, it’s worth a little effort!). Get started on your meal-prepping journey—today.
What is meal prepping?
It involves planning and preparing meals in advance. It’s beneficial for anyone, but particularly if your daily schedule is stacked, you have a family to feed, or you have a limited meal break at work. It’s become increasingly popular in recent years—and for good reason. Meal prepping is a convenient way to eat well and avoid the stress of last-minute meal planning. But for busy people, the idea of meal prepping can seem overwhelming. While traditional meal prep involves prepping main courses (i.e. burrito bowls), sides (i.e. roasted veggies), and snacks (i.e. energy balls), ingredient prepping is just as effective—and easier! More on this, below.
Benefits of meal prepping
They’re a dime a dozen. Most significantly, you’ll make healthier choices. By planning meals in advance, you’re less likely to make impulsive decisions and resort to unhealthy options or ultra-processed snacks. Meal prepping can also encourage consuming the appropriate amount of nutrients—without overeating. Another advantage of meal prepping? It saves time, money, and unnecessary stress. When meals are planned and prepared ahead of time, you can avoid last-minute grocery store runs and reduce food waste. Lastly, meal prepping is a reason to buy food in bulk (rice, chia seeds, etc.), which is more economical.
How To Meal Prep
First,, get inspired. Open your favorite cookbook, browse Pinterest, or scroll social media. Keep in mind your schedule for the week, what you already have in your pantry, and what you’re craving. Then, create a grocery list based on your meal plan (this will curb buying unnecessary ingredients at the store!). If possible, try to set aside a specific time each week to cook and prepare your meals. Hello, habit stacking. It’s also a good idea to prepare a few things in bulk, such as soups, which can be frozen and reheated. Put on your favorite podcast—and get prepping.
MEal Prep Tips If You Have Little Time
Low on time? Don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen? These tips can make meal prepping a breeze and keep your budget in check.
Keep it simple
Simplicity is key. Choose recipes that are easy to prepare and don’t require more than 5-6 ingredients. Stick to meals that can be made in bulk and easily reheated, pasta sauce with ground beef, breakfast burritos, and stir-fries.
Take 5-10 minutes each week to plan your meals. Consider your schedule and choose meals that can be stored in the fridge or freezer. Make a grocery list based on your meal plan and stick to it to avoid impulse purchases.
Use the right containers
Invest in high-quality food storage containers. Choose containers that are the right size for your meals—and make sure they’re airtight. Use reusable silicone bags for snacks or smaller items. Labeling your meals is really helpful as well.
Cook in bulk
Cooking in bulk is one of the best ways to save time. Consider making a large batch of rice, quinoa, or roasted vegetables at the beginning of the week, which can be used in multiple meals. Cook up a big batch of protein—such as chicken, hard-boiled eggs, or turkey meatballs.
Utilize time-saving gadgets
There are many kitchen appliances that can make meal prep easier and faster. Invest in a slow cooker, which allows you to cook meals overnight or throughout the day while you’re at work. A pressure cooker can also be a smart choice for busy people who want to cook meals quickly. An air fryer is fantastic, too!
Meal Prep Recipes For Busy People
While the concept of meal prepping sounds great on paper, finding the right recipes—that are both easy to make and delicious—can be a challenge. Luckily, there are plenty of meal prep recipes that are perfect for busy people.
- Chicken and Broccoli Stir-Fry
Sauté chicken breast in a skillet with garlic and ginger, then add broccoli (and any other non-starchy veggies you’d like). Season with coconut aminos and a dash of maple syrup, then portion out into meal prep containers. Serve with rice, lime wedges, sesame oil, and cilantro.
- Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burrito Bowls
Roast sweet potatoes in the oven with a sprinkle of chili powder cumin, sea salt, and avocado oil. Combine with sautéed bell peppers, red onion, spinach, and black beans. Serve over cauliflower rice and top with avocado, salsa, and a dollop of Greek yogurt. For more protein, add lentils.
- Egg and Veggie Muffins
Whisk together a carton of eggs with cheese, veggies, milk, and salt and pepper. Pour into muffin tins. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, then let cool. These muffins can be reheated in the microwave for a quick breakfast on the go (paired with a banana, English muffin, etc.).
- Slow Cooker Turkey Chili
For a hands-off approach, brown a package of ground turkey in a skillet, then add to the slow cooker with kidney beans, diced tomatoes, veggie broth, and chili powder. Let cook on low for 6-8 hours, then portion out into meal prep containers.
- Greek Chicken Bowls
Cook chicken breasts in a skillet with lemon juice, oregano, garlic, sea salt, and olive oil. Combine with couscous, cucumber, tomato, and feta cheese. When it comes time to eat, drizzle with tahini and hemp seeds.
These are meant to be inspiration, so take to Google for specifics!
Ingredient prep vs. meal prep
Ingredient prepping is one of my favorite cooking hacks. Think mise en place, but on a larger scale. It’s not exactly like meal prepping, which is cooking entire main dishes and sides. Instead, it’s about prepping the components. For example, chopping vegetables, prepping protein, and cooking simple grains. In other words, make parts of recipes. Food prepping could look like boiling chicken, making a dip or sauce, putting together smoothie bags, or washing and storing lettuce.
The Best Meal Prep Containers
The world of meal prep containers is vast (…to say the least). However, these are my tried-and-true options. They’re all non-toxic, dishwasher save, and microwave-friendly.
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