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Whether you’re a health nut, someone who likes to cook but doesn’t have time for it during the week, or just want to save money by cooking your own meals instead of eating out all the time, meal prepping is an awesome way to accomplish those things.
But what exactly is meal prepping? Should you be meal prepping? And how will it benefit you?
Want to learn all the meal prep 101 basics? This article is where you need to be! We’re going to cover everything you need to know about meal prepping and provide tips on getting started with your first meal prep session.
What is Meal Prepping?
Meal prepping is when you prepare meals for the week in advance, saving yourself time, money, and stress. If you’ve ever packed your dinner leftovers to take with you for lunch the next day, you’ve already done mini-meal prepping, so you likely already have some of the necessary skills.
Meal prep is also helpful for people who like to eat healthy but don’t always have the time or desire to cook (like me). By making your meals in advance, you’ll never be faced with the decision to either make food or order out. Your meals will already be ready and waiting for you when you get home from work.
Why Meal Prep? 4 Benefits of Meal Prepping
Meal prepping has a lot of benefits which is why so many people have adopted it into their lifestyle. Some of the most common reasons for meal prepping include:
1. Money and Time Saver
One of the biggest complaints about cooking is that it’s time-consuming, especially when you have to do it regularly. You can save a lot of time and money by meal prepping because you buy and cook in bulk.
How much money can you save? Well, that varies from person to person, but as we discussed, you can save up to $2,140 each year by simply preparing your meals in advance and reusing leftovers instead of tossing them.
In addition to that, we’ve also shared some fantastic meal prepping tips to help you save money and time with meal prepping.
2. Reduces Waste
A lot of food is wasted each year because people do not know how to store leftovers properly or make too much food for a meal. By meal prepping, you can minimize waste by preparing meals in advance and correctly portioning out meals.
So by portioning out meals correctly each meal, you will leave less food after to be thrown away.
3. Can Help You Lose Weight
Many people want to lose weight but quickly get discouraged by the amount of time it takes to prepare healthy meals. However, by meal prepping, you can control what you eat each day and ensure that you are giving your body all of its daily nutrients.
If this is your goal, here are some healthy low-calorie meal prep recipes that are under 400 calories.
4. Helps You Try New Recipes
You’re more likely to stick to your same old, go-to meals when you don’t plan your food in advance. However, when you meal prep, you can experiment with new recipes and try out things that your family and friends might like.
After meal prepping for a while, you’ll start to get used to preparing different types of foods.
As a result, this will make it easier for you to feel more comfortable experimenting with new recipes. You’ll also learn how to adjust recipes depending on their portion size.
Who is Meal Prepping for?
Meal prep is a great way to save time and money while staying healthy. It’s for health-conscious people who want to save time cooking, reduce waste, save money, follow any healthy diets, or all of the above!
Meal prepping can be used to create healthy lunches or dinners for people who are busy. It is especially beneficial for those with busy family lives or who work in an industry where lunch can be quick or often skipped.
By cooking in bulk early in the week, you can easily cut down spending on eating out or running to the grocery store for more food later on.
Moreover, meal prepping is also suitable for vegans as meal planning gives them flexibility when preparing food that eliminates meat and dairy products from meals.
What Can I Meal Prep?
When you’re just starting out, it can feel overwhelming when you see people meal-prepping foods that are not common in your daily diet.
However, don’t be discouraged because there are a lot of meals that you can easily meal prep. Below is a list of foods that we found to work well with meal prepping and are easier to prepare:
- Roasted vegetables
- Cooked beans
- Cooked meat
- Cooked grains and pasta
- Hearty fresh vegetables such as carrots, peas, bell peppers, cabbage, kale, celery, etc.
- Whole fruits (think stone fruit, apples, oranges)
- Nuts and seeds
- Sauces and dips
Have a look at these healthy meal prep recipes, for some more ideas!
Meal Prep 101: 5 Steps to Get Started
Meal prepping can be a somewhat intimidating lifestyle if you’re just starting out. We all know this from personal experience, right? But the best way to get started is to go step-by-step and learn as you go along.
Step 1: Meal Planning
Whether you’re the kind of person who plans your meals for the week ahead or not, taking time to plan out your meals can save you a lot of headaches later on.
To keep things simple, choose just 3-4 days that work best for you and plan accordingly. You might want to consider planning your weekday lunches first so that you can cook them on the weekend.
Here are some amazing meal planning apps that’ll help you stay on track and keep things organized.
Step 2: Build a Shopping List
Why buy the stuff you don’t need? So once you’ve prepared your meal plan, it’s time to do some grocery shopping.
Don’t forget that your list should include all the ingredients in your recipes and any raw veggies and meats you choose to prepare.
A money-saving shopping hack we like to follow is to organize the items in your shopping list by the department and where you can find it in the grocery store.
Once in the store, head straight to the departments and grab the items on your list instead of wandering around. You should always stick to the shopping list and avoid any unnecessary purchases.
Step 3: Start Small
Don’t try to do everything at the same time. You might want to start with a couple of recipes that you know you and your family love and which you can prepare quickly and easily.
Pick out recipes that have similar cooking times to batch cook them as well. This will allow you to save both time and money because you’ll only need one oven or pot to do the job.
Step 4: Prep and Store
Now that you’ve got your ingredients ready, you can start preparing meals and storing them.
The first thing to do is prepare all the ingredients and store them in different containers. If you’re willing to spend some money on new containers, consider buying stackable ones because they take up less space in the refrigerator or freezer.
If not, any storage container works fine as long as it’s a freezer-safe container. And don’t forget that you can use aluminum foil or wax paper to separate ingredients with different cooking times, so you can separate them before reheating.
Here are a few tips to help you meal prep and store better:
- Begin with foods that need the longest cooking times. Prepare ingredients that will be cooked first in the oven.
- To avoid the need to rinse your cutting board between activities, cut ingredients that will be eaten raw first, followed by produce to be cooked.
- When two recipes require the same item, such as chopped onions, prepare onions for both recipes at once, then divide and use as needed.
- After preparing raw proteins, such as meat or poultry, keep in mind to clean your cutting board and utensils.
- Let your cooked food cool down before transferring it to a container and storing it in the freezer to avoid excess moisture in the container.
- Allow for food to expand as it freezes by leaving an inch at the top of containers when storing.
- Write down the contents of these containers, preparation date, and label them. Put reminders to eat frozen meals within three to six months.
- When you are ready to eat the food, keep in mind to reheat it at a temperature of 165℉.
Step 5: Keep Experimenting
Now that you’ve completed a few meal preps, take some time to experiment more and come up with recipes of your own. Try using different cooking methods like grilling, steaming, or roasting instead of pan-frying.
Prepare dishes that’ll last longer than just a week so that you have them on hand for those busy days.
Remember that this doesn’t have to be time-consuming as long as you plan ahead, follow a schedule, and use basic cooking knowledge.
Once you’ve got the hang of it, you’ll realize how easy and fun it is to cook your own healthy meals instead of buying takeout or eating out.
What Containers are Best for Meal Prepping?
Freezer-safe glass containers with airtight lids would be your best bet for meal prepping.
You can also use freezer-safe plastic containers and aluminum foil or wax paper to separate ingredients with different cooking times.This all depends on the recipes, frozen reheated seafood isn’t recommended for near that long etc. Try be more descriptive and take into consideration different types of recipes.
How Long Does Meal Prep Last in the Fridge?
This all depends on the type of recipe, and ingredients you use and make. Meal prep recipes normally range from anywhere between 2 to a maximum 7 days, most being in th
There is no fits all answer; it all depends on a handful of factors. Factors like ingredients, storage, recipe, ingredient age, etc; will all impact the expiration date of your meal prep. High-risk foods like seafood may last for up to 2 days, while lower-risk foods like a yogurt dip may last 7 days.
Most cooked carbohydrates like pasta, rice, potatoes, and grains will last for 3-4 days, and most cooked meats like chicken, beef, and pork as long as they are stored well.
Are Meal Preps Worth it?
Yes, it is definitely worth it to meal prep. Meal preps save you time and money in the long run.
If you’re really on a tight budget, then gathering a few recipes that only require a handful of ingredients will be a huge help. Also, they can last longer than just seven days.
The more you practice preparing your meals at home instead of going out for food, the more money you’ll save over time.
For absolute beginners, meal prepping may sound like an alien concept. However, with the right amount of planning and preparation, meal prepping can be as easy.
By following the steps outlined in this article, meal preps won’t seem as daunting anymore. Now that there are no more excuses, start cooking your meals.
If you have any other questions on meal prep, leave them in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you.
Richmond Howard started Meal Prepify in 2019 and has helped over a million people learn how to meal prep, get better at meal planning, and create a kitchen they love to use. He’s an avid home chef and loves to bbq, grill out, and make awesome food for family and friends. He’s been featured on MSN, Renaissance Periodization, and Good Financial Cents.