A Step-By-Step Guide to Meal Planning and Prep
This is a guest post from Isabel of Vivotion.com.
It’s been a long day, and you’re too tired to cook dinner. You’ll just want to grab some pizza or probably eat a bowl of cereal, after all, cereal is healthy right? Well, we can all relate.
Sometimes it can be tough to prepare a home-cooked meal to satisfy your hunger. But there’s a way to stick to a healthy diet despite a busy day – through meal planning and prep. It may seem complicated and a lot of effort to prepare a week’s worth of food in one go, but once you get the hang of it, meal prep will be a piece of cake.
“The key to a good meal is simplicity and the right seasoning. – Vivotion”
Remember that in meal prep, no one can really tell you what’s right or wrong. It’s all about what works best for you. All you need to know is how to start the process; then it’s all up to you.
Aside from saving you time from deciding what to eat, meal prep will also help you save a lot of money in the long run.
If you have zero knowledge about meal planning and prep, but you want to give it a shot, this step-by-step guide will surely help.
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11 STEPS TO MEAL PLANNING AND PREP
1. PLAN HOW MANY MEALS YOU’LL NEED IN A WEEK
Before you start rushing to the grocery store, there is some homework you need to do as a part of your preparation. First things first, think about how many meals you’ll be needing for the whole work week.
Technically, if you plan to prepare one meal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, that would be a total of 15 meals. However, that doesn’t mean you have to cook 15 separate meals for each day. Instead, you only have to prepare a large batch of meat and vegetables that can be cooked in different ways for exciting meals every day.
Also, be sure to consider the days you’ll have lunch with your clients or when you’re going to hang out with your friends, so you can avoid wasting your food.
2. SIMPLICITY IS THE KEY
Meal prep doesn’t have to be complicated. Keep your recipes simple, and do whatever works for you. Stay away from dishes that require a lot of ingredients. If you’re not really good at cooking, there are a lot of easy recipes available on the Internet. Find recipes that are easy to follow, and keep on trying out something new every week.
3. MAXIMIZE YOUR LEFTOVERS
It’s normal for beginners to struggle with planning a different meal for lunch and dinner. That’s why during the first few days, it’s best to stick with planning one meal.
You could start with preparing a week’s dinner, and when you have leftovers, have it for lunch the next day. Once you learn to handle the first meal, it’s time to add more until you manage to complete everything.
4. DETERMINE THE BEST (AND EASIEST) PREP AND COOKING METHOD FOR YOU
Grilled chicken sounds good for lunch next week, but because cooking on the grill requires more attention, you might want to save that for later. In choosing the best meal prep and cooking methods for you, the first thing you need to consider is your schedule.
It’s also important to plan ahead how much time you’re willing to allocate for meal prep. You can either cook everything in advance and reheat them every time or prepare all the ingredients and have your meal freshly cooked in an instant.
5. OPT FOR FROZEN FOODS
Contrary to popular belief, not all fresh foods are more nutritious than frozen ones. In fact, frozen fruits and vegetables retain more of the nutrients because they’re locked in and they won’t become overripe.
Plus, they save you time from washing, peeling, and cutting whenever you’re cooking. So the next time you shop for groceries, don’t just walk past the frozen foods section.
6. DON’T STRESS OVER BREAKFAST
If you don’t have a lot of time to prepare in the morning, it’s best to keep your breakfast simple. If you easily get tired of having the same breakfast, look out for smoothie recipes that will keep you fuelled for the day.
Chop up fruits ahead of time so you can quickly toss them in the blender or mix them in a cup of Greek yogurt.
7. PREPARE ON-THE-GO SNACKS
Instead of grabbing munchies from the vending machine, always have some snacks with you. It could be some trail mix or hard-boiled eggs, or probably some chopped up fruits dipped in water and lemon juice to prevent oxidation.
8. BE CREATIVE WITH YOUR FOOD
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t mean to say play with your food. Eating the same food every day can get boring, and you could lose motivation in meal planning and prep.
One way to keep your meals exciting is to use them in a variety of recipes. For example, a large batch of chicken can be used for salads, tacos, or anything you want it to be. Also, make sure to have different kinds of seasonings to add a different flavor to each meal.
However, you’ll want to avoid going for commercial dressings and other sauces as they are filled with sugar and unhealthy ingredients that might ruin your all your hard work.
9. SHOPPING TIME!
List down everything you need because it’s time to go shopping! Now that you’re equipped with everything you need to know about meal prep, you’re now ready to go grocery shopping.
Try to do it during weekends to prepare for the week ahead, or whenever it’s convenient for you. Just make sure you’ll have enough time to prepare before the work week starts again. To make things easier for you while you’re in the store, organize your grocery list by section, such as meat, dairy, fruits, etc.
10. KEEP TRACK OF EVERYTHING YOU PREPARED
Your freezer isn’t just made to store ice cream; it’s also to prevent your food from spoiling. Whenever you’re cooking a large batch of meat, keep track of how long they’ve been in your fridge.
Ideally, they can last for three to four days, and if you still haven’t consumed them, it’s time to move them in the freezer and label the containers they are in.
11. CHOOSE THE RIGHT CONTAINERS FOR YOUR FOOD
One of the ultimate secrets to keeping your meal prep game strong is to have the right containers. Make sure to have containers of various sizes so you can evenly distribute your meals and snacks.
It’s also recommended to have clear containers, so you’re aware of how much food, and what kind of food, you have left inside.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Isabel Speckman is a North Carolina-based freelance writer and work-from-home mother of three. In her 10 years as a professional writer, she’s worked in proposal management, grant writing, and content creation. Her writing skills may be confirmed independently on Vivotion. Personally, she’s passionate about teaching her family how to stay safe, secure and action-ready in the event of a disaster or emergency.