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It’s popular among busy people because it can save a lot of time. Think about it: On a hectic work day morning, packing up an entire breakfast or lunch is probably one of the last things you want to do (or even have time for) before heading into the office. The same goes for making a whole dinner from start-to-finish after a long day of work.
Chances are, your schedule and overall wellness could benefit from meal prepping. If you’re asking yourself, “How do I start meal prepping?” read on for easy and healthy meal prep ideas and what you’ll need to get started.
How to meal prep
Step 1: Decide how you want to meal prep.
There are several different ways to meal prep. You can:
- Cook a single meal at night, and then store it in your fridge or freezer to pull out in the morning.
- “Ingredient prep” by chopping veggies, mixing spices, or marinating meat in advance to make cooking future meals easier.
- Batch cook multiple dishes in large portions, then portion them into single-serving containers before storing them. (This is what most people think of when they talk about meal prepping; however, if you’re doing any sort of preparation in advance, then you’re meal prepping!)
What foods are good to meal prep?
Step 2: Pick what foods you want to meal prep.
When it comes to thinking up meal prep ideas, the possibilities may seem endless; however, you’ll only want to stick to foods that hold up well in storage and still taste good after a few days in the refrigerator.
Start with a protein and vegetable base, and then go from there. Some base ideas include cooked meat or tofu, nuts, and roasted or raw vegetables. You can create a plated meal, or combine your vegetables and proteins into a soup. Switch up the protein and veggies you use each week to keep your meal prep ideas interesting (and get creative with the toppings! Switch off between savory and sweet).
Some foods that are not suitable for meal prep? Soft vegetables, cut fruit, and crunchy food like crackers. These foods will soften quickly when kept in the refrigerator and therefore aren’t the best meal prep ideas.
Reheating and re-serving meal prep meals
Step 3: Think about how you’ll reheat your meals.
The dishes you meal prep may depend on access to a microwave. Consider meal prep ideas and recipes that you can enjoy cold if using a microwave isn’t an option.
When to meal prep
Step 4: Plan a specific time to meal prep.
Meal prepping does require a block of your time, but the trade off is you’ll end up saving time during the rest of the week.
Sunday nights are great for batch cooking: You’re able able to come up with your meal prep ideas, shop for them, and then make them before the standard work week even starts. But don’t fret if you’re someone who works on Sundays — any time or day is suitable for meal prepping. Create your meal prep ideas and then start cooking whenever your schedule allows for it.
Many people use their free time to meal prep their lunches for the week, but if you have the time, you can also meal prep your breakfasts and dinners, too.
How long can you keep meal prep in the fridge?
Step 5: Determine how long you plan to store your meal preps.
If you’re using fresh ingredients that maintain well in the fridge, you can keep your meal preps in the fridge for the entire work week. If you reach Day 5 and you still have a meal left, try to eat it within the next few days or store it in the freezer if you can.
A meal prep’s life really depends on what ingredients you use and how you store it, so be mindful of those two things when coming up with meal prep ideas.
How to store your meal prep meals
Step 6: Stock up on containers.
As you incorporate meal prepping into your lifestyle, it’s smart to invest in quality food storage containers. Compared to plastic containers, glass containers and sealed bowls are your best bet: They’re environmentally-friendly and microwave-safe. Reusable plastics actually contain chemicals that can leach into your food if you heat them in the microwave. Thermal, stainless steel containers are ideal for keeping food at specific temperatures (both warm or chilled).
You should pick up containers in an assortment of sizes so you’re able to store any size of meal. If you take supplements with your meals, consider purchasing a special container to pack your supplements up with your meal preps. Packing up your supplements with your meal is yet another way to save time and ensure you’re getting the most nutritionally out of your work lunch.