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I always thought a food scale only belonged in an avid baker’s kitchen. Shortly after starting my meal-prepping journey, I got one to track my meals and macro calorie intake more accurately. I was taken aback at the efficacy and simplicity of this handy kitchen tool; with a few simple tips, you can become a master at it, too.
- How to Use a Food Scale for Meal Prep
- How to Calculate Portions & Macros in Bulk Recipes With a Scale
- How to Calibrate Your Food Scale Regularly
- Six Benefits of Using a Food Scale for Meal Prep
- How to Choose a Food Scale
- Related Questions
How to Use a Food Scale for Meal Prep
While it may take some time to get used to a kitchen scale, with some practice, you’ll ditch those outdated measuring cups forever.
Before using a food scale, I often attempted healthy family meal prep recipes (following the directions strictly), only for them to be implausible, far-fetched attempts. Turns out, scooping my ingredients instead of weighing them out was my biggest downfall. Using my food scale has helped me create consistent, yummy dishes every time – just like my aunt.
Follow these four simple steps to measure your food accurately:
- Place the food scale on a hard, flat surface: Digital kitchen scales work best on a hard, flat surface.
- Clear the scale: Reset or zero out the scale before weighing anything. Most digital scales usually are reset with the power button.
- Weight the container and ‘tare’ the scale: Place the mixing bowl on your scale and press the ‘tare’ knob to zero out the scale before adding your ingredients. After pressing the button, your scale should read zero with the container still on. The scale should read a negative number if you remove the bowl – this is the bowl’s weight.
- Weight the ingredients: Add your ingredients for an accurate weight reading. If you’re adding multiple components to the mixing bowl, zero out the scale after each ingredient.
How to Calculate Portions & Macros in Bulk Recipes With a Scale
Meal prepping is ideal for bulk recipes like giant crockpot soups or stews. However, we often misjudge portion sizes when storing the meals in separate containers for the week ahead.
Most food portions are oversized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This sabotages weight control efforts and directly contributes to American obesity.
Tracking our macros – proteins, fats, and carbs – helps us consume the ratio of nutrients and maintain a moderate weight. I like following the Dietary Guideline for Americans to ensure I add the right ratio of proteins, fats, and carbs to my daily diet.
Calculate your meals using a nutritional food scale to prevent your portion size (and waistline) from increasing.
- Place a large mixing container on your nutritional food scale and zero it out.
- Transfer the recipe to the container and note the total weight.
- Add all the recipe’s ingredients to a nutrition app compatible with your scale to calculate the recipe’s total calories and macronutrients.
- Divide the total calories and macronutrients by the number of servings you’d like.
- Split and store the individual servings by weight. Weight the container first and zero out the scale, then add the recipe.
As one of the former guilty over-eaters, my dietician recommended that I calculate my calorie and macro intake to help me drop some excess weight. I love my Etekcity Smart Nutrition Scale. I simply connect the scale to the free VeSync app to track and record my nutrition. I must say, the only drawback is that the scale doesn’t accurately measure less than 1g, but I mostly use it for bulk meal prepping anyways.
How to Calibrate Your Food Scale Regularly
Regularly calibrating your digital food scale ensures accurate readings and precise measurements. How often you should calibrate your scale ultimately depends on how frequently you use it. I like to calibrate my scale before I use it – yes, every time. However, double-check the owner’s manual for a calibration frequency recommendation.
Consider these tips when calibrating your digital scale:
- Calibrate your digital food on a flat, level surface.
- Place the scale on a gripping pad (or a mouse pad) to help absorb vibrations that can throw off your readings.
- Refer to the owner’s manual. Follow the detailed calibration instructions for the specific brand and model.
- Use calibration test weights or an object with a known weight on the food scale to ensure accuracy.
Six Benefits of Using a Food Scale for Meal Prep
A food scale can improve your meal prepping in the following ways:
- Consistency and Accuracy: Digital food scales offer precise ingredient measurements. This is especially important for meal prep recipes that require exact measurements.
- Portion Control: A digital food scale helps accurately measure and portion food items according to serving sizes. This makes it easy to meet your dietary needs and goals when prepping your meals for the week.
- Easy Conversion: Most modern digital food scales can easily convert items from pounds or ounces to grams with an easy button push. While some people are a little apprehensive about following metric units, measuring ingredients in grams ensures precise measurements. It also simplifies life when you need to increase or decrease recipe amounts. (For example, reducing 40 grams of flour in a recipe using your food scale is easier than decreasing it by ⅓ cup of flour with a measuring cup).
- Time Saver: Using a food scale saves a ton of time while meal prepping. You won’t have to scratch through your kitchen cabinets and drawers for the right bowls and measuring utensils. You can measure all your dry ingredients in one bowl (and wet ingredients in a separate bowl) by simply resetting the scale with every new ingredient.
- Less Clean-up: Say goodbye to cluttered countertops full of dirty bowls, teaspoons, tablespoons, and measuring cups. A food scale helps keep your kitchen organized and cleaner.
- Measure Nutritional Information: Some advanced digital food scales can estimate your ingredients’ nutritional value. They can display calories, protein, carbs, fat, fiber, and cholesterol in food items.
Measuring your dry and wet ingredients separately when using a food scale to ensure accurate measurements is recommended. I ditched all my old dry and liquid measuring cups and purchased the Home-it set of 6 stainless steel mixing bowls at Walmart.
How to Choose a Food Scale
Now that we’ve weighed the benefits of a food scale, it’s time to choose one that best fits your needs. Here are the factors to consider when shopping for a food scale:
- Use: Compact digital food scales are ideal for simple home cooking. However, sturdy mechanical scales are better suited if you plan to meal prep in bulk. They allow you to weigh whole produce and large cuts of meat.
- Weight capacity: Consider the maximum weight capacity when choosing a food scale.
- Readability: The scale’s screen placement and readability should suit your preferences.
- Price: You can find accurate food scales with various features in different price ranges. Choose one best that best suits your price range.
- Features: Some scales offer functions like overload protection, element protection, portability, data collection, and nutrition-tracking features. This may appeal to someone interested in tracking their calorie and macro intake.
Is a Food Scale Worth It for Meal Prepping?
A food scale is totally worth it. It allows you to measure ingredients when meal prepping accurately. It is also beneficial for closely tracking portion sizes and nutrient intake.
Is a Digital or Mechanical Food Scale Better?
Most decent-quality kitchen scales are straightforward to use and provide a reasonably accurate reading. A mechanical scale is basic and doesn’t require batteries or an outlet. However, a digital scale is more precise and takes the guesswork out with an easy-to-read screen and unit conversions.
A food scale is an underrated kitchen tool for meal preppers. Learning how to use a scale for meal prep helps you monitor your serving sizes while simplifying cooking and providing more accurate recipes.
Nathaniel Lee is an avid cook, drawing on his decades of home cooking and fine dining experience. He is a contributing chef at Mashed, and his recipes and contributions have been featured in Tasting Table, Edible Arrangements, Insanely Good Recipes, and The Daily Meal.