A little preparation can go a long way! Whether you’re trying to meal prep for one or for the whole family, there are things you can do to cut down on the time you spend in the kitchen cooking each day.
Do you love to cook?
Or do you dread the time you spend in the kitchen every day, coming up with something to feed your family?
Either way, one thing’s for sure. You probably don’t have a ton of time to spend on the task.
Between taking care of your family, keeping your home in order, working, random obligations and appointments, bringing the kids to soccer practice, walking the dog, and everything else on your to-do list, finding 30 minutes to pull together dinner each night can be a challenge – and sometimes, it’s downright impossible.
But thanks to meal prepping, it doesn’t have to be so hard.
By coming up with a plan and dedicating time each week to prepare ahead, you might just be surprised to see how much time you can save in the kitchen – while still serving up quality meals for yourself and your family.
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What is meal prepping?
Meal prepping involves spending some focused time in the kitchen and cooking up meals and dishes ahead of schedule to eat throughout the week.
It’s really that simple.
Instead of whipping up a brand new dish each and every night, or scrambling in the morning to make lunches for everyone, you do the bulk of that work in advance – taking time, effort, and stress out of the process as you navigate your week.
Why should I meal prep?
Not convinced why meal prepping is a good idea? There are a lot of great reasons why you should consider meal prepping. Here are just a few of the biggest benefits you’ll get from the process.
Meal prepping can save you time.
The biggest argument for meal prepping is the amount of time you’ll save each week. For most people, meal prepping involves spending a couple of hours in the kitchen once a week – usually on a weekend – cooking up dishes in bulk and portioning them out for later.
A couple of hours in the kitchen might sound like a lot, but when you think about how much time you’ll get back each evening when you’re spending ten minutes or less putting dinner together, you can see how it adds up fast.
Not only does it save you time when it comes to cooking, but you’ll save time and energy when it comes to cleaning up your kitchen, too. You won’t have a pile of dishes to wash each evening or lots of ingredients to put away. You’ll be able to assemble delicious meals with minimal time and effort, which is why meal prepping is so popular among busy families.
Meal prepping can help you budget.
Another great benefit of meal prepping is that it can help you cut down on food costs.
Since you’re cooking lots of food at once, you can buy ingredients in bulk without worrying that they’ll spoil in the fridge or pantry. A pork shoulder is a lot cheaper than individual chops, and you can often save at least a dollar a pound on chicken when you shop for value packs. Even things like veggies and grains are cheaper when you buy them in bulk.
Not only that, but by meal prepping, you ensure there’s something quick and easy to eat on hand – and can more easily avoid the temptation of splurging on delivery or takeout.
Meal prepping can improve your diet.
When you’re flying by the seat of your pants each night when it comes to dinner, it’s easy to default to whatever’s easiest. And while there’s nothing wrong with taking the easy route once in a while, you can lose sight of maintaining a well-balanced diet when you’re only focused on one meal at a time.
When you meal prep, you can look holistically at the week ahead and plan your meals to ensure you have balance. And since meal prepping is all about cooking fresh food – instead of popping in a frozen pizza or chicken nuggets – you eliminate a lot of preservatives, sodium, and other not-so-great things from your diet.
How To Meal Prep: Tips and Tricks to Make Cooking A Breeze
Want to master the art of meal prepping? It might sound intimidating, but it’s easier than you might think. Keep these tips and tricks in mind as you navigate the process and you’ll be surprised to see how simple and straightforward it can be.
Make A Plan To Prepare For The Week
One of the first things you’ll need to do is make a plan. A good plan is key to successful meal prepping. You need to know what you’re planning to make, what your portion sizes look like, and how much of each ingredient you need.
There are lots of different ways you can make a meal plan. Some people take a budget-conscious approach and plan meals based on what’s on sale at the grocery store. Others focus on incorporating meals their family loves – or branching out to try new recipes. You can use a meal planning worksheet, like the ones you’ll find in the Take Action Printables binder, to organize your thoughts.
Another great resource? Our Printable Meal Planner! With printable grocery lists, ways to keep track of your family’s favorite meals, and an easy tool to manage what you’ve got in your fridge and pantry, it’s an easy way to stay on top of the meal planning process.
Not sure where to start, or want a little help? There are lots of services and apps that can help you plan your meals for the weeks ahead. Check out services like 20 Dishes, which will give you a plan to prep a week’s worth of dinners in about an hour for a small fee.
Dedicate One Day A Each Week To Cooking
Once you know what you’re going to make and have your ingredients, it’s time to cook.
Most successful meal preppers dedicate a couple of hours over the weekend to making everything they need for the week ahead. By spending a bit of time in the kitchen on Sunday afternoon, you can accomplish quite a bit and set yourself up for success throughout the week.
You won’t cook one dish at a time – instead, you’ll optimize your time in the kitchen and cook multiple things at once. Throw some rice in the rice cooker and a chicken in the oven, chop veggies for salads, make your side dishes, and prep your ingredients. Involve your family if you can to speed up the process!
The first few times you meal prep, you might find it takes longer than usual. But with a little practice, you’ll have a system down and be able to whip up a surprising amount of food in a short amount of time.
Pick the Right Meal Prep Containers
Before you start meal prepping, you need to ensure you have space and containers to store all of that food you’re making. To maximize your efficiency throughout the week, you’ll want to portion everything out in advance instead of storing dishes in large communal containers. Instead, pack individual lunches and set aside specific servings for family dinners.
The good news is there are tons of options for meal prep containers. Mason jars, stackable glass storage containers, reusable bags, and more give you flexibility to accommodate your needs and maximize space in your fridge or freezer.
Find Recipes That Use Leftovers In Creative Ways
One of the biggest reasons people resist the idea of meal prepping?
They don’t want to eat the same thing every single night.
Good news – you definitely don’t have to do that!
Instead, with a little creativity, you can come up with all kinds of different ways to use the things you meal prep. Roast a chicken? Use some for chicken salad, make chicken wraps, shred some and serve it on a bun with some BBQ sauce, incorporate it into a quesadilla… the options are virtually endless.
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More Ways To Organize Your Life
Now that you know how to meal prep, here are some more ways to organize your life. It all boils down to your mindset.