Meal Prep Tips (that will make you an expert in no time!)
I get it…the idea of meal prepping can sound like such a chore. With your busy life, the last thing you need is ANOTHER task to add to your to-do, list, am I right? Even if you “know” you should, because it will make you so much more likely to eat at home, or at least consume home-cooked meals, so many individuals feel lost when it comes to meal prepping and allow even just the idea of doing it overwhelm them to the point of not even trying.
Can you relate?
What if I told you that it DOESN’T have to be so daunting, or even take as much time as you may think? What if I guaranteed you that you CAN learn how to implement basic meal-prepping tips, no matter how busy you are or lack of resources you may feel like you have?
Read on to learn my tried & proven TOP MEAL PREPPING TIPS that when practiced regularly, will make you into an expert in no time!
1. Plan for it-Sounds obvious, but this is the most important! If you desire to eat healthier and at home more often, you must plan for that. Consider scheduling it like you would an appointment for yourself. Last-minute thoughts of what to eat are likely to leave you reaching for something less healthy or overeating, so set yourself up for success
2. Batch cook- This means intentionally cooking large portions of versatile ingredients like grains, veggies, hard boiled eggs, and meats to have readily available all week long. Cooking double or triple bathes of favorite meals is also an excellent way to save time in the long run. Sometimes I like to put on some music or a podcast, and even bust a move or two to keep things fun & lively :) Prepare, store, & enjoy when ready!
3. Create a weekly meal plan & work around that-Even if it's just a list of 3 ideas for dinner, a weekly menu helps organize your grocery shopping which can save money and time at the store and reduce food waste (win-win!). Dedicate 20-30 minutes to deciding what to make for the week, keep a list wherever it is most practical for you & create your grocery list based on that plan. Better yet, see what ingredients you already have in your kitchen and base your meals off of those!
4. Keep a prepared kitchen- Create a list of a few favorite “go-to” meals that you will always have ingredients on hand for. Guidelines for items to be sure are always on your grocery list include:
· 3-4 protein sources (ie: fish, poultry, beans/lentils, cheese, eggs)
· 2-3 types of fruit
· 3-4 veggies (ideally at least 1 leafy green veggie. Pre-chopped or frozen are fine!)
· 2-3 whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, pasta, organic bread)
· 2-3 multi-purpose dips/spreads (ie: hummus, tahini, spinach dip, etc)
· 2-3 snack items (nuts, popcorn, favorite crackers, bars, etc)
5. Maximize your cooking time-If you’re already planning on using your oven, is there is there another food you can throw in there with it? If you’re cooking stove top, could you simultaneously get another pot going? Chopping veggies for dinner? Consider chopping for tomorrow while you’re at it (time-permitting). It takes practice, but soon you’ll be a multi-tasking pro :)
6. Check your schedule-Use your calendar as a guide so that your plan for meal prep actually works with your schedule. If there are nights you won't be home in time to cook, plan ahead to put a meal in the slow cooker that morning, or make a larger meal earlier in the week so you'll have leftovers to eat
7. Embrace frozen foods-There ARE healthy frozen options out there! Just be sure to choose wisely, don’t forget to check the nutrition & ingredients labels, and feel free to add in your own additions to make it more of a complete meal
8. Repurpose leftovers-Get creative & experiment with turning last night’s dinner into tomorrow’s lunch!
9. Invest in quality storage containers-so that you have an appropriate place for all those yummy ingredients, meals, and leftovers! Choose glass or silicone to reduce exposure to BPA and other toxins in plastic. Mason Jars and glass bowls/Tupperware work well!
10. Be prepared with backup-Reality means that meal prepping won’t always happen, yet this does not mean that you are doomed to the drive through! Keep a list of “go-to” meals in case of emergencies and keep those ingred few servings of boxed soups and healthy versions of frozen meals on hand in your home at all times for these occasions
There you have it! Proven strategies to get you & your family eating a more nutrient dense diet without spending hours in the kitchen each day! Some of my favorite things to meal prep include: overnight oats, entree salads, grain/ “budha bowls”, shredded chicken, roasted veggies, and soups/stews.
Lastly, in the midst of your busy life, please remember that you don’t have to do it all! Find what works for YOU & your family and don’t be afraid to embrace convenience items as needed 😊
So now for some recipes! Read on for 2 of my favorite go-to meal prep recipes:
Hearty Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili (option to cook straight from the freezer!)
This recipe is naturally gluten free & vegan. Simply add meat and/or cheese if desired to best meet your families preferences!
· 1 Tbsp olive oil
· 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced into bite-size pieces
· 1 yellow onion, diced
· 2 bell peppers, diced
· 4 cloves garlic, minced (or ~1-2 tsp pre-minced from jar)
· 1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
· 1 28 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes (or 2, 15 oz cans)
· 2-3 cups vegetable broth
· 2 Tbsp chili powder
· 1/2 tsp sea salt
· (optional) pinch of cayenne pepper
· (optional) desired cooked meat such as ground turkey
· Toppings as desired: sliced avocado, cilantro, shredded cheese, etc
1. Add 1 Tablespoon olive oil to the bottom of your slow cooker or Instant Pot. Add in the diced onion, peppers and garlic and sauté over medium heat for 5-7 minutes until onions are fragrant and translucent. Add in all spices and toss to combine.
2. Add in sweet potato chunks, black beans, diced tomatoes, vegetable broth and pre-cooked meat (if using). Cover & cook on high for 2-3 hours or low for 4-5 hours.
3. When ready to serve, top with your favorite toppings and enjoy!
**Meal Prep tip: Sauté veggies ahead of time and place in large freezer bag with remaining ingredients (except broth), then freeze until ready to use. On the day of, simply dump frozen contents into slow cooker/Instant Pot, add broth, and cook according to instructions. Enjoy!
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chia “Overnight Oats”
An excuse to eat chocolate for breakfast! Made with cacao powder which has zero grams of sugar & is a great source of fiber & magnesium, this breakfast is ensured to be both kid & mom approved!
Serves 1 per batch
· ½ cup rolled oats
· ¾ cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or milk of choice)
· 1 Tbsp chia seeds
· 1 Tbsp raw cacao powder
· 1 Tbsp natural peanut butter
· (optional) 2-3 drops stevia extract
1. Place all ingredients in a jar or bowl, mix very well and let sit overnight for cold version, or heat until liquid is absorbed to enjoy it hot. Enjoy! J
**Meal Prep tip: Prep multiple batches of this recipe (or similar versions) by simply laying out multiple mason jars on your counter and adding ingredients to each. Secure with lid & store in fridge all week!
There you have it! Feel free to contact me with any comments about this post or questions about meal prepping or healthy eating in general. I’d love to hear from you!