Do you often find yourself strapped for time, get home from work or kids activities feeling really hungry and tired because you’ve been so flat out, open the fridge or pantry, can’t find anything quick and healthy, so you turn to whatever processed packaged product you can find to fill your tummy or think to yourself that you need a quick sugar hit?
If this is you, then meal prepping is your answer.
Meal prepping doesn’t have to be overly time consuming and take you an entire day! Just some simple strategies and some organisation can help to eliminate those unhealthy last minute grabs and ensure you are more in control of what you put in your mouth! This way you know exactly what you are eating, with homemade stuff containing fewer calories than packaged products, which will help you reach your health and fitness goals faster. Meal prepping can also save you time during the week when you are busy and is far cheaper than eating out or eating processed foods!
Some people like to prepare whole meals and plan their entire week of meals, while others like to prepare ingredients. I like to do a combination of both so I can be more creative during the week, and also so that I am not locked in to making particular dishes on certain nights in case the day doesn’t go to plan!
So, some basic tips that I use to ensure I have nutritious things on hand are:
Set Aside some Time for Meal Prepping
Set aside a few hours, either on a Sunday or one day during the week, or several nights a week, to prepare some basics. Some of the things I like to prepare in advance are:
- Washing my leafy greens – spinach, lettuce, rocket, kale, or herbs like mint, coriander, parsley. I will soak them in the kitchen sink (especially fresh coriander which can be quite sandy), pop them in a salad spinner and spin dry them. Once dry, I pop them in a clean dry dish covered with gladwrap or large ziplock bag, and store in the fridge. They stay fresh for over a week so when you want to put together a quick salad, the ingredients are ready to go, and far cheaper than buying pre-washed salads at the super market.
- Roast vegies – I like to dice up a few different vegies, like capsicum, pumpkin, eggplant and zucchini, spread out on a baking tray, spray with a little olive oil spray and bake for 20-25 minutes or until tender and slightly golden. Once cooled, I store them in the fridge in a big bowl and use them to make a quick vegie salad with some spinach or as a side with some protein for lunch or dinner when things get hectic!
- Making a big jar of salad dressing – I pour equal parts of olive oil and apple cider vinegar into a glass jar, and add salt and pepper to taste, and a couple of large teaspoons of Dijon mustard (depending how much oil and vinegar I used), shake it all up and store in the fridge ready to use on my salads or roasted vegies.
- Cut up raw vegies – I like to cut up carrot and celery sticks and store them in a container with water to keep them fresh in the fridge. This way I can grab a handful at anytime and have with some dip or spread peanut butter over the celery (once dried) for a quick and easy snack. Or I cut up some broccoli or cauliflower and have in a bowl in the fridge which can be eaten raw with dip or use in a stirfry during the week! Or if I have more time, I might make zucchini noodles or cauliflower rice and store in the fridge raw when I need to whip together a quick dinner or side dish.
- Pre-prepare fruits for breakfasts or snacks – I buy bags of bananas (bruised ones are fine), peel and cut each one into slices, wrap in gladwrap or place in a small ziplock bag, and freeze ready for a breakfast or afternoon smoothie. Similarly, I buy a big bag of apples, wash, core and dice them, place in a large pot with a few sprinkles of cinnamon, some vanilla, and water and boil until soft. Once cooled I blitz them so that they are a chunky puree, then bag 3 large tablespoon fulls into small ziplock bags and freeze. I use this for breakfasts by taking the apples out of the ziplock bags, popping in the microwave to defrost, then topping with Greek yoghurt and a sprinkle of homemade granola for a nutritious breakfast or snack.
- Prepare some complex carb, like quinoa or brown rice – I cook up a batch and keep in the fridge so I can use in a salad for lunch or as a side for dinner.
- Have some pre-prepared protein on hand – when I know I am going to have a busy week, I buy a roast chicken from the supermarket, and if I have time, I break up a section of it into strips so I can add to wraps or salads, and leave part of it whole so if I want to add a bigger piece of protein to my lunch, I cut off a section, heat it in the microwave, and have with a salad. I also boil some eggs and have these in the fridge as a quick protein snack or again, to add to salads, or on top of crackers.
- Toast some nuts and/or seeds– I like to buy my seeds and nuts raw (they are a lot cheaper!), and then lay them out on a roasting tray and roast until golden. Things like flaked almonds, whole almonds, cashews, pepitas, or shredded coconut. This way they are ready to go to add to my breakfast or salads.
Cook in big batches so you have leftovers
Whenever I am making things like soups, stews, or curries, I like to make these in big batches and then freeze meal sized portions to use later in the week or another week when you are pushed for time.
Or I might add a few extra chicken legs into the roasting dish, or buy a larger lamb or beef roast at the supermarket, so I know there will be some leftovers. I then heat these up the next day for a protein-packed lunch.
Or I make a big batch of homemade granola or energy balls and store them in the freezer for a quick and healthy snack when I am craving something sweet.
Always have some basic grocery staples on hand
I like to make sure I have some basics in the pantry so I can always throw together some of the prepped food I have in the fridge to make a meal. Things like the following are always in my pantry/fridge:
- Olive oil and apple cider vinegar
- Lemons and Limes
- Maple syrup or rice malt syrup
- Garlic & onions
- Salt & pepper
- Feta, ricotta or cottage cheese
- Some sort of protein – Chicken, Greek yoghurt, eggs
- Washed leafy greens
- At least 4 different vegies
- Some sort of grain – quinoa, brown rice, wholegrain bread
- Nuts and seeds
So get prepping!