Have you ever thought about meal prepping? Do you do it right now? I sure do. If I don’t, I’d end up eating out for every meal and spending a fortune…not to mention how many bad choices I’d make. Not everyone out there travels for work without a kitchen at their disposal. But even if you don’t, you can reap the benefits of food prepping. It’ll save you time over the week, as well as prevent you from stopping over at McDonalds on your way home from work. Food prep is hard work, can take up a lot of time. After food prepping for over two years now, I’ve figured out a few tips and tricks I’d like to share with you. If you guys have any tips yourself, please leave a comment! I’m always looking for new ideas!
1. Pre-marinade and freeze your meats. It’s always cheaper to buy your meats in bulk. The problem that follows is you end up leaving the extra chicken breasts in the fridge for the following week and when you try to use it again…it’s gone bad. I’ve never been a fan of cooking meat that was previously frozen, but when its already marinated, its a different story. Cook what you need and take 2 or three of your portions and freeze them with a marinade. I’ll usually set two aside in each zip lock with different kind of marinade (ie. Greek, Spicy, Thai Peanut etc.) This way I’ll have a variety of choices for my next meal prep session, but I’ll also avoid throwing away food.
2. Portion out your meals. If you are anything like me, you will eat everything on your plate, no matter how full you are. It’s a curse. Since I tend to overeat to begin with, I like to portion out my meals so that I’ll actually eat a healthy amount. This also helps if you want to track your calories and macros.
3. Diversify. Time and time again I will chat with other friends or coworkers who food prep and they’ll tell me: “I’m going out for a sandwich, if I eat this stir fry one more time, I’m going to die.” You have to cook more than one giant meal for a week people! Otherwise you will go insane. Sure, it’s easy to make a big batch of your mom’s famous chicken stir fry. But eating it for 3, 4 or 5 days straight will cause you to stray. This means you’ll end of wasting food, and in turn money. Usually at this point, you’ll make an unhealthy food choice. Always try to make a few different meals, use different spice palates and meats to diversify your lunches and dinners. You can still make those big batches, just freeze half of it for next week.
4. Find new recipes. This ties in a bit with my earlier point. After a while, you’ll get sick of making the four or five things you’ve mastered over the years. It’ll be time for a change to keep your meals exciting. Pinterest is a great place to find healthy meals, and the posts are endless. I also get a fair share of my new recipes from Oxygen Magazine and healthy cookbooks.
5. Bake and Fry at the same time. This will literally save you HOURS. Once you pop something in the oven, there’s not much to do but wait for it to be done. So why not start on a stir fry, turkey burgers or whatever else you can grill. While you’re at it, throw some rice on. I know this seems so simple it’s ridiculous, but you’d be surprised how often we forget to multitask. This can change a food prep session from three hours to five or six hours. Just don’t forget to set your timers!
6. Make big batches of sauce and refrigerate. I couldn’t tell you the amount of times I’ve made my teriyaki sauce, or peanut dipping sauce. I’ll do it over and over again, until I realized I could double or triple the recipe and save it for next time. It literally won’t take any longer to do, and it’ll save you so much time in future weeks. You can even throw them in cute little mason jars with labels.
7. Careful what you freeze. I just went away for three days for work and I was so excited to eat my veggie pasta! When I re-heated it in the microwave, I was severely disappointed. The noddles turned to mush and everything seemed watery. WHY?!!?!?!?!? Well most veggies, or anything with high-water content does not do well after being frozen. Especially since most of our meals don’t contain loads of preservatives (for example a frozen meal in the grocery store would have). Lesson learned: don’t freeze foods like this. Stick to freezing meats and rice.
8. Don’t cook more than you need. This might seem obvious, but as a person who likes choices, It took me a long time to learn this one. Sure it’s nice to decide between salad or pasta, but this is very wasteful of food and also your money. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, American families throw out approximately $1,500 worth of food a year. A survey by TNS Global suggests that on average half of us are throwing out fresh food we never touched and 53% throw out leftovers. To save that extra cash and not waste food, make only what you need for the week.
9. Chop up or Prepare all of your fruits and veggies. If you buy a watermelon and just leave it in the fridge, it’ll never get eaten. Why? Because most of us would rather reach for a bag of chips, or one of our prepped meals then spend five minutes cutting a piece of watermelon. It’s all about convenience! When we’re hungry, we tend to take the quickest easiest choice. So cut up those veggies and fruits, peel them, put them in containers, whatever it takes to make them easily accessible to you.
10. Always make a healthy treat. If you limit yourself to bland foods, no treats, nothing fun, you’ll eventually break down and buy a Kit Kat bar. The point of eating healthy and living a healthy lifestyle is not to deprive yourself of treats! Sometimes we need one. I know I sure do. Hell, I could go for something right now. But wouldn’t you rather eat something that isn’t manufactured beyond all means? I personally like to know what I put into my body, and I know once in awhile I need that sweet fix. I’ll always have a few chocolate covered bananas in the fridge, or some protein peanut butter balls. It helps solve the craving without the guilt.