Meal prepping is a great way to save time, save money and stay on track with healthy eating. It can be overwhelming at first, but once you get down the tips and tricks of meal prepping it will become second nature.
Do you find yourself skipping nutritious meals for lack of time and devouring something from the freezer section or drive thru?(yuck) Then meal prepping is the answer for you! Meal prepping can be intimidating at first, especially if you sign up for one of the many "programs" that over complicate things. They tend to either have you eating the same dang thing every day or have you buying a billion one off ingredients. That is not fun, enjoyable or financially smart. I am here to take the fuss and confusion and make your meal prepping journey easier. Just follow some of these simple tips and you can save time and money while still enjoying nutritious meals.
Tip 1: Plan Ahead –Before you shop!! What I like to do is plan my meals by the ingredients, doing so makes it easier to cross utilize ingredients and spend less and have less waste. The object of the game is not just saving time by prepping meals, it's also about being mindful with your money. People do not realize how much money and food they waste when they shop "per recipe". I cringe when friends who think "planning ahead meals" means looking on Pinterest for fun recipes and then blowing obscene money on one off ingredients that will sit in the pantry forever or mold in the fridge. That is just so wasteful and pointless.
Tip 2: "Birds of a feather"- Think of meal ideas that you can make a base and then change the sides or sauces. Example, I weekly go to Costco for a rotisserie chicken (3 pounds for $4.99). I then remove all the meat when I get home and separate based on usage. The breasts I put in one container for dishes where a whole piece of chicken would work and I put the "shreds" or as my grandma called it the "shnibits" in another- basically everything but the breasts-the legs. The "Shreds" are great for things like; salads, quesadillas, wraps, stir fry, pizza topper, pastas, rice.
Tip 3: Shop Smart – First things first, what is in your pantry and refrigerator already? This sounds like common sense but is often overlooked. When it comes to baking things need to be more precise and exact, however, cooking is much more flexible. If you want to make something like mac n cheese ahead and the recipe calls for elbow but in your pantry you have bowtie- use the dang ole bowtie!! Maybe you usually add broccoli when you make mac n cheese, but you have peppers in the fridge-dice them up and try instead. Being creative not only can save you money and help the pantry items see the light of day again, but you could discover a new favorite or better way of making a classic!
Tip 4: Think Longevity - You want to make things that you can prep on say Sunday (my meal prepping day) and still enjoy come Friday! You want to steer clear of things that could get soggy or slimy or smelly. If you make a wrap, remember s-o-s "sauce-on-side", put the sauce you plan to use in a small ramekin or tupperware. If you make a pasta dish that requires reheating, remember microwaves tend to remove moisture. To keep your pasta perfect, any white or cheese sauce you can add a little milk or water before you heat ( you can always add more, harder to remove excess) and for tomato or pepper based sauces a splash of water will go far or you can always put extra sauce on the side when prepping. Also something to remember is that over time pasta and rice will absorb moisture from the dish. When you make items such as pasta salad, you should always make extra of the dressing you are using to keep on the side, today its perfect- by tomorrow your salad could taste bland and dry. I also suggest when you add cubes of cheese to cold dishes with liquid, do not mix in, place on top lastly before you close the lid. This helps keep the cheese from becoming slimy.
Tip 5: The Cracks - Meal prepping is great, but a lot of the time we meal prep and do not think of our in-between snacking...this is the "CRACK". The Crack is where the calories slip in and money slips out, because we underrate the importance. The candy from Cheryl's desk, the chocolate bar from the vending machine, the tiny bag of chips from the lunch room. Seemingly small unthought of moments, that have a quiet train derailment effect. I always plan a few snacks in the mix on meal prep day. You can be as simple as portioned peanut butter for a banana or apple, or a baggy of trail mix.
You do not need a billion options, I tend to do one sweeter option, one savory option and one salty or spicy. This way no matter what my "snack attack craving", I am covered. For my sweet satisfier, I make granola bars that are healthy using Mindful Mixes. It takes me only five to ten minutes and I cut them into bars, bites or roll them into energy balls. They satisfy my sweet craving without bogging me down with mass sugars. For my savory snack, I buy or make a flavored hummus or spinach dip with either peppers/cucumbers or pretzels for dipping. This fills me up and is a nice refreshing snack that does not leave me in need of a 2pm napola' ! Then for my salty or spicy snacks, I either mix up my own trail mix or I portion up wasabi peas. (I can't get enough of those little kicks.)
"Meal planning and food preparation are two integral parts of leading a healthy lifestyle."