Your guide to meal prepping for beginners
Meal prepping is a sensible option for helping you save time, waste less food and get your daily meals on the table much faster than usual. Are you interested in getting started with meal prepping? Read on to learn more, plus find meal prepping ideas, tips and suggestions for beginners.
What is meal prepping?
Meal prepping is the act of consciously allotting time for preparing your meals, or the ingredients you use for making your meals, in bulk ahead of when you will need them. The idea is that you can save time by cooking once, portioning out the food and having it ready to use when you need it.
You’re likely to also save money with this method. This is because you won’t end up buying overpriced takeaway meals at the last minute when you’re hungry and in too much of a hurry to cook a meal from scratch. You’re also likely to waste far less food with this method – because you consciously plan out what to do with each morsel of food instead of letting leftovers go to waste.
Here’s an example of how meal prepping can save you time and increase your efficiency. Let’s say that it takes you 4 hours to make a 2.5 kilogram roast from start to finish. As long as you’re going to all that trouble, why not make 2 roasts, then divide each roast into 12 portions to use for meal prepping? The roast beef meals can then be frozen for later use as needed.
That’s an extreme example of a time consuming meal prep. You do not have to allot that much time to meal prepping if you’d rather prepare simpler meals, or portions of meals.
If you hustle, it is possible to prepare a week’s worth of meals in only one hour.
Or meal prepping can be as simple as returning from the farmer’s market and then chopping up a week’s worth of fresh salads using the produce you bring home. If you serve a main dish plus a helping of fresh salad for dinner every night, having the salad made ahead of time frees you to focus on the main dish when it comes time to prepare dinner.
Tools and supplies you’ll need for meal prepping
First and foremost, you’ll need suitable containers for meal prepping. To avoid creating excess household waste, and to minimise your environmental footprint, avoid using single-use plastics such as plastic baggies or disposable containers for this purpose. Instead, select mason jars, glass storage containers or reusable stainless steel lunch containers for storing the foods you’ll prepare.
There are many kitchen gadgets, utensils and appliances that can make meal prepping more convenient. A few meal prepping essentials include a blender, an accurate digital kitchen scale and a set of high-quality kitchen knives.
How to meal prep
Start with a clean kitchen. First, clean out the refrigerator and freezer to make space for the meals you’re going to prep.
Next, wash any dirty dishes that may be lingering in the kitchen. Put everything away except for the gadgets, dishes and utensils you plan to use during the meal prepping process.
Next, decide which meals you’re going to prep. If you’re totally new to meal prepping, it’s probably wise to start small. Choose one meal – breakfast, lunch, or dinner -- to start with. Then decide which dishes you want to prepare for the week. Locate recipes you want to use. The ingredients you need for the recipes will form the basis for your grocery list. Prepare the grocery list and take it to the market with you to shop for the ingredients you need.
When you’ve returned from the market, it’s time to get busy prepping. Cook your ingredients. Set out your containers and your scale. Measure out your ingredients and assemble your meals. Then place everything in the refrigerator or freezer so it’s all ready to go when you need it.
If you freeze your meals, you will obviously need to allow adequate defrosting time before you can easily use them. You may wish to make notes on your calendar to defrost a particular item the night before you need it.
This clever and affordable hack can also help you with planning out your meals if you like to have a visual means of keeping track of your meal plans.
Those are some of the most essential basics you need to know about meal prepping. Like most other skills in life, you will get faster and more efficient at meal prepping if you do it repeatedly. You’ll learn what works best for you, and the process will get easier in time.