If you frequently find yourself eating fast food or processed microwave meals because your fridge is bare or you just don’t have time to get a meal together after a busy day, there are two words that will change your eating habits and your life forever: meal prep. Advance planning and prepping of your meals for the week lets you get ahead, eat more healthful and tasty meals at home, and save time and money. And this is how you do it like a pro!
There’s No Single “Right” Way to Prep
There are a number of different, successful methods for meal preparation that will save you time and effort and ensure you have something tasty to put on the table for the coming week. Maybe you like to menu plan and shop on the weekend and do all the actual cooking and prep each evening. Perhaps pre-cooking big batches of key ingredients that can then be portioned and used in various meals is your jam. Or maybe you prefer to make your own production line and build several one-pot/pan meals that are then ready to be cooked or reheated for the coming week. We are not the prep police – just find the method that works best for you and go with it.
Plan Twice, Shop Once
OK, you don’t necessarily need to plan twice – we were just going for a variation on that old carpentry truism. However you do want to avoid having to run to the grocery store every time you try to cook a meal. That is a huge time suck. By thinking through the entrees and sides you’d like to eat for the coming week, you can check your pantry and fridge, make and organize your shopping list, and get it all done in one trip. You’ll also minimize waste and spoilage and make each night’s dinner prep smoother and faster.
Use the Most Perishable Ingredients First
If you’ve planned a meal that uses delicate greens or some other ingredient with a shorter shelf-life, like fresh avocados, cook that meal early in the week so you use those ingredients first. Also, consider leaving a flex day (or two) in your schedule without a dedicated meal. On the flex day, you can eat leftovers or substitute a meal planned for later in the week in case you work late or decide to eat out. That way, nothing spoils or is wasted.
Be Your Own Prep Cook
While you’re watching the big game on Sunday afternoon or listening to your favorite podcast one evening, take an hour or two to do some of the more labor-intensive prep tasks ahead of time. Rinse and trim all the green beans, dice those onions, make the sauce, par-boil those potatoes, peel and devein the shrimp (or better yet just buy them that way to begin with). This will give you a head start on the coming meals.
Whenever you’re cooking, take the opportunity to double up. Roasting a chicken? Roast two. Making a sauce – make it a double or triple batch. Smashing potatoes? Smash a bunch more and add them to your sheet pan. Then save or freeze the extras for use later. It’s barely any more work or cleanup than you were doing to begin with, and you’ll get two or three times as many meals out of it. Easy!
Enjoy prepping, and more importantly eating, all the delicious meals that are in your future. For more great life hacks, check out The Enclave blog.