Meal prep for beginners
The antidote for the "I don't have time" excuse
I'm about to drop some really taboo knowledge on you: I'm a dietitian, and I do not like to cook. There, I said it. I said it, because I hope you can relate to it. You see, cooking requires planning. And planning involves making a list and going to the grocery store. And where there is a homemade meal, there is also a messy kitchen. And honestly, I'm a busy person and there are million things I'd rather do with my time than be washing dishes five nights a week.
But this leaves me with a precarious dilemma, because although I don't find much joy in cooking it myself, I happen to be a big fan of healthful, homemade food. So what's a girl to do? My solution to this problem is meal prepping: I do all my grocery shopping, cooking and dish-washing in one night and I'm done for the whole week.
Does this sound like the plan for you? Here are some tips to get you started:
- Have the right equipment. Meal prep gets a lot easier when you have the right storage containers for the job. Many local retailers have compartmentalized storage containers to keep the right things separate without extra clean-up.
- Take an account of your schedule. This will affect what (and how many) meals you prep for. Consider things such as whether or not you will have access to a refrigerator or microwave, whether you'll have to eat on-the-go or have time to sit down, or whether there are some meals you will simply have to eat out for.
- Consider re-purposing ingredients. If you can use the same ingredient for more than one meal, this will save time and money and prevent waste. I typically like to use the same protein across multiple meals: if I'm prepping chicken, for example, I'm likely to make chicken Caesar salad, chicken alfredo and chicken salad sandwiches in the same week.
- Have a plan. If you make each meal entirely from start to finish before starting the next one, this is bound to take a lot more time. It helps to find ways to multi-task. While you are waiting for meat to cook or pasta to boil, can you prepare the sauce or cut up the fruits and vegetables? Are there things that require a similar baking temperature that you could put in the oven together?
- Don't forget snacks. Cutting and bagging fruits and veggies ahead of time, portioning snack mixes and crackers and keeping grab-and-go foods around (consider yogurt, string cheese or fruits such as apples, oranges or bananas) can prepare you for curbing the munchies and staying on track.
Mastering the art of meal prep takes lots and lots of practice, so don't give up if you don't perfect it on the first try! This is a habit worth building, because it will make meeting your goals much more simple and less time-consuming.