Let’s examine the promise of meal prep: if you spend time making several servings of food on a Sunday afternoon, your week will be better. You’ll have more free time to do the things you love, you’ll eat healthier meals, you’ll save money, and your hair will be shinier (no promises on that last one). It sounds like an obvious choice, but it can be a little intimidating. Sometimes cooking one meal can be a challenge. Taking on a whole week’s worth of food is downright daunting.
Like anything, if you arm yourself with knowledge and prepare ahead of time, it will go smoothly. Before you head into the kitchen, check out the tips below. You’ll thank yourself when you’re savoring healthy lunches all week long.
Choose your recipe wisely
There’s no one right way to eat, and there’s no one right way to meal prep. When you’re choosing a recipe, think about your daily schedule. Where do you want to change?
If you want to save money on lunch, maybe the best option is to make a huge batch of soup or stew, store it in the fridge, and eat a little bit each day. If you want to save time in the evening, but not eat the same thing every night, try simply cooking a week’s worth of protein in advance. That way you can pair it with different side dishes throughout the week.
Think about your tools
Your kitchen tools should work for you, not against you. When you’re preparing five meals in one day, there’s inevitably going to be a lot of chopping. If you’re serious about meal prep, consider investing in a few basic tools that will make that work easier. A chef’s knife, a cutting board, and good-tasting olive oil are must-haves.
Wait, I have to prep for meal prep? Yes. You do. Before you even get started, make sure you have all of the ingredients in the correct amounts. If you realize that you’re out of salt while you’re in the middle of cooking a week’s worth of rice, it will be a devastating emotional blow.
Work in stages
As always, make sure to read through your entire recipe before you get started. Look at the ingredient list and figure out what you can do before you even turn on the stove or oven. Mince anything that needs to be minced, peel anything that needs to be peeled, open your cans, and unwrap your meats. Once the heat is on, things become time sensitive. If your ingredients are ready to go, you won’t run the risk of burning the onions while you’re dicing garlic.
Choose the right containers
No matter what you make, you’ll be storing your prepped ingredients in the fridge over the course of the week. The choice of container makes a big difference. To prevent unwanted fridge flavors from seeping into your lovingly prepared lunches, you’ll want to use a non-porous glass container with a tightly sealed snap on top. That lid will also come in handy if you plan on taking food with you to work: it will also stop food from spilling all over your bag. Finally, choose rectangular containers over circular ones. Rectangles will fit snugly in your fridge without leaving any awkward gaps.
It’s ok to let a few things slide
Meal prep is supposed to be about enjoyment. By making meals ahead of time, you’re freeing up time to do things you love later. If you make yourself miserable in the process, you’re defeating the point. With that in mind: forgive yourself if things don’t go as planned. If the recipe is taking longer than you expected, it’s ok to ditch a side dish, or to stop short of portioning things out into individual containers. Even if you don’t finish 100% of what you set out to do, you’ve still set yourself up for success later on.