We all want to eat healthier these days, live more balanced lives, and feed ourselves with food that’s good for not only our mind and soul but the environment as well. That said, it’s not always that easy to do so. Work, being a parent, maintaining a household, and all kinds of other duties can get in the way of us living the healthy life we’d like to live. While it’s easy enough to learn about the healthy foods we need to eat, it can be harder to execute these plans and ideas on a day-to-day basis. And that’s where meal prep comes in! Everyone’s all about meal prep lately, and that’s because it’s the perfect time-effective solution to eating healthier, more balanced meals.
What is meal prep?
Meal prep is all about taking the time-consuming hassle of having to prepare your meals on a day-to-day basis. In other words, you prepare your meals beforehand in one big batch so that you have quick and easy access to wholesome, healthy meals for the rest of the week. Rather than reaching for the instant noodles or ordering take away, you can reach for the fridge or freezer and enjoy a healthy home cooked meal. How good is that?
Getting started with meal prep
It does take a little bit of organisation to make meal prep a successful endeavour. For example, you don’t want to prep meals for a whole week only to realise you had social events planned where you had to eat out, leaving your food unused. So, before beginning with meal prep, sit down for five minutes and consider the following:
- Picking meal prep day
You need to first pick a day of the week where you’re the most available. You want this to be something regular, so that you have time each week to prepare your meals on the same day. If your meal prep cycle is out of whack it won’t really work with the concept, which is all about balance and preparation! Pick a day and stick to it. Weekends are usually best, as you can wake up early or stay up a little later if you find yourself busy.
- Plan the week ahead
So, you’ve come to your chosen meal prep day. Let’s say it’s Sunday. Sit down, and check your schedule for the week ahead. Any engagements, dinners out, birthdays, or special occasions? Consider whether there’ll be any work lunches, and figure out how many meals you’ll need altogether. Decide whether or not you want to prep breakfast, lunch, and dinner, or just some meals. If you’re prepping for others, make sure to check in with them as well and keep their schedule in mind to avoid over-prepping.
- Consider your nutritional needs
Perhaps you have low iron and need to up your intake. Maybe your digestion has been slow and you want to focus on foods that are easy to digest. Or you might be thinking it’s a good idea to start incorporating more greens and superfoods into your diet. Meal prepping is the perfect opportunity to tailor your diet to suit your needs ahead of time. Our busy lives can truly get in the way of us cooking meals that are beneficial for our health, and considering what we need before beginning to meal prep can help us to find specific recipes or use particular ingredients for the week ahead.
A fun idea is to dedicate specific weeks to specific needs. This can be a good way to experiment with different diets and find any allergies or intolerances you may have been previously unaware of. Some ideas include:
- High iron intake week,
- Gluten free week,
- Raw food week,
- Low carb week,
- High protein week,
- Paleo week, and so on.
Meal prepping 101
So you’ve considered your needs and your schedule, and you’re ready to get started with meal prep. If you’re stuck for ideas, we’ll include a few recipes and links at the end of the post. But before we get to the fun stuff, here are some things to keep in mind when it gets to meal prep day:
- You can choose to either cook the same dinner for the whole week, or make two dinners and alternate them each day. If you’ve really got the time and effort, then go ahead and cook as many different meals as you’d like.
- Meal prep doesn’t necessarily have to mean preparing an entire meal. Doing something as simple as taking the oats out of the pantry and putting them in a pot on the stove ready to cook in the morning can also make a big difference in changing your eating habits when you’re strapped for time. Chopping veggies ready for cooking, pre-cooking quinoa or rice to whip up a salad quickly, and so on are all other ways you can meal prep without cooking an entire meal.
- We cannot stress the importance of good containers! The key to meal prep is having tasty meals – if you let your food get yuck in the fridge then you won’t enjoy the meal prep process and avoid it altogether. Good containers can help keep your food fresher for longer, particularly ones with little divisions that allow you to separate different parts of the meal. You don’t want your curry and rice mixing with salad all week! Invest in good containers and you’ll come to love the process of meal prepping and the aesthetic of beautiful, colourful meals placed in a nice container.
- Half the fun of meal prep is the fact that it allows you to get all aspects of your life together and frees up time for you to focus on other things. The key to successful meal prep is organisation, and once you get the hang of it you start to see the benefits of being organised and let it leak into other parts of your life too! Keep your entire meal prep process organised – use calendars to plan your days and meals, use organised containers and keep your fridge neat and tidy, and label your containers with the meal (e.g. dinner, lunch, snack) to round off the whole process.
- Sure, the word meal prep has “meal” in it, but it can also involve snacks! Snacks are an important part of anyone’s day, and to stop yourself from going hungry in between meals throughout the week, prep a few snacks as well. The last thing you want is to grab a packet of chips when you’re feeling nibbly, so here are some good snack prep ideas:
- Slice a few carrots into long strips, and separate hommus into small sauce containers,
- Quarter some apples and enjoy them with a tablespoon of peanut butter divided into small sauce containers,
- Nut and dried fruit mixes separated into small sandwich bags.
Meal prep recipe ideas
Finally, the fun bit! Here are some delicious meal prep recipe ideas to get you started if you’re feeling stumped. Have a go, and let us know how it all works out for you!