I recently wrote a post for you all about why I meal prep, but I didn’t want to stop there. I also promised you all that I would share the how. I’m not one to break a promise, so let’s get down to the nitty gritty and the juicy how-to tips I’ve picked up along the way.
Pick Your Storage Containers.
You can’t have a successful meal prep without having containers to put your food in. I recommend options that are freezer-, dishwasher-, and microwave-safe. Have a variety on hand so that you aren’t stuck without containers for your food. I have included a few of my favorites. Have a few more containers than you think you’ll need, because what are the chances dishes are caught up when you plan to meal prep ?
- Single compartment options are good for pastas, soups, casseroles, anything that you don’t mind mixing together
- Mason jars are good options for salads and overnight oatmeal. With the salads, just make sure you put the dressing on the bottom and the greens on top so they don’t get soggy, unless soggy salads are your thing, you monster. I also included 4 oz. containers that are perfect for sauces, jellies, dressings, or small snacks.
- Most commonly, when I meal prep, I use multi-compartment containers. This gives me the opportunity to separate my veggies, proteins, starchy carbs, etc. Here are a few options with multiple compartments:
Recognize Your Goals
Ask yourself why you are interested in meal prep in the first place. Is there a certain goal you’re trying to reach? Are you trying to lose weight, gain weight, or put on muscle? Are you just looking to have more veggies in your life? Are you trying to add healthy snacks to your planning so you don’t wind up with another chocolate bar from the vending machine? Take all this into account when you’re planning your meals for the week ahead.
Going into this with a plan and knowing your goals helps you to be successful. I personally follow a portion control plan, so I keep in mind the number of proteins, carbs, healthy fats, etc. that I get for each day and plan my meals around that. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions about that or if you want more information on reaching your goals with a fool-proof, customizable meal plan.
Incorporate Themes Into Your Week
Not only will you save money by avoiding boxed foods and restaurants when you meal prep, but you will also save money by using the same ingredients across multiple meals. Try to find a theme or meals with similar flavor profiles and stick to it for the week. When you incorporate a theme, you are using the same ingredients in multiple different ways. Fewer ingredients = less money spent. For example, one of my go-to themes is Mexican/Tex-Mex food. I might have tofu burritos for breakfast, a taco salad bowl for lunch, and mushroom fajitas for dinner. I get to reuse several of the ingredients including tortillas, corn, beans, salsa, peppers, and onions (and guacamole because guac is life!)
Here are some other themes for you to try including a sample ingredients that can be used for multiple meals so you don’t get bored.
- Asian: soy sauce, rice, tofu, rice noodles, thai basil, Sriracha, edamame, snow peas, carrots, mushrooms
- Italian: olive oil, pasta, tomatoes, olives, basil, oregano, thyme
- Greek: pita, hummus, falaffel, mint, baba ganoush, cucumbers
Having a theme that allows you variety will keep you from getting bored throughout the week.
Have a Backup
It is important to have a backup that won’t spoil on you. My husband and I always have pasta, marinara, and frozen veggies ready to go in case one of our meals turns out funny. When you’re first starting out with meal prepping, you may unintentionally choose meals that just don’t reheat well or that you are sick and tired of by the end of the week. That happens. This is going to be trial and error in the beginning. You don’t want to be stuck without a meal and then having to make rational decisions when you’re hangry, do you? I didn’t think so.
Make Sure You Have Everything Ready to Go
Before getting started with a meal prepping session, make sure you have everything you need. The worst is when you’re halfway into making a meal and you realize you’re missing one crucial ingredient. Be like a Boy Scout and be prepared, so you don’t have to make a last minute grocery run for basil or some nutritional yeast.
This also includes making sure you have ingredients prepped that need extra time. Some examples might include tofu that needs to be pressed, veggies that need to be marinated overnight, or cashews that need to be soaked for a few hours. Make sure you’ve planned ahead.
Treat Meal Prepping Like an Art
Of course this isn’t the be-all-end-all on meal prepping. For me, I like meal prepping on Sundays to start the week. Maybe for you, you’ll find it easier to do two separate batches on Mondays and Thursdays. Maybe you can start with just prepping dinner ahead if all of your meals at once seems overwhelming. Look at meal prepping as an art instead of a science and find what works for you.