Preparing healthy meals in advance is one of the best ways to stick to a clean diet (and avoid fast food detours on the way home from work or school). When your fridge is stocked with a week’s worth of healthy meals, it’s a whole lot easier to stay on track with your diet and make progress towards your fitness goals.
For most of us, though, meal prep feels like a chore. Cooking healthy, delicious meals can be time-consuming, and no one wants to give up a big chunk of their weekend to slave away in the kitchen.
So, what if we told you that meal prepping doesn’t have to be so tedious and tiring?
We’ve put together eight simple tips that will make your meal prep session quick, easy, and painless. Plus, added bonus: once you finish your weekend meal prep session, you can stay out of the kitchen for the rest of the week!
PRINT YOUR RECIPES
Before starting your meal prep session, print out your recipes and post them on your fridge so they’re easy to access. You don’t want to worry about refreshing your browser or unlocking your phone over and over again—especially if your hands are covered in raw chicken!
PREP YOUR KITCHEN FIRST
Take a few minutes to organize your kitchen before you begin cooking. This will allow you to streamline your meal prep session (and prevent a giant mess at the end). Make sure your counters are clear, your dishwasher is empty, and your sink is filled with hot, soapy water.
INVEST IN SMART TOOLS
The right tools go a long way in making the cooking process quicker and easier. While you don’t need all the newest, fanciest gadgets, investing in a few smart tools will keep you from getting frustrated with your meal prep process. A few ideas: a quality crockpot, a high-powered blender, large sheet pans, large stainless steel mixing bowls, a set of glass meal prep containers, and lots of aluminum foil.
PAY ATTENTION TO TIMING
When you’re preparing multiple recipes at once, timing is key. Before you begin, take a look at all of your recipes and decide how you’re going to schedule your cooking session. Our recommendation? Start with crockpot recipes (those typically require the longest cooking time), then start stovetop cooking (such as rice or quinoa), then start anything that needs to go into the oven (like roasted vegetables or baked chicken), and finally prepare raw fruits and veggies (such as cucumbers or strawberries).
USE SIMPLE INGREDIENTS
If you’ve been overwhelmed by meal prepping in the past, take care to choose simple recipes and ingredients. Search Pinterest for “five ingredient meal prep recipes” or “easy paleo recipes” and start a collection of recipes that feel manageable and easy. Also, when you’re buying meats, veggies, and fruits at the grocery store, choose ones that require little prep (i.e., peeling, pitting, chopping, etc.). For example, cooking with chicken breast tenders is easier than preparing a whole chicken; blueberries are easier than mangoes; green beans are easier than butternut squash.
STICK TO ONE (OR TWO) PROTEINS
Don’t try to make steak, and chicken, and burgers, and pork chops, and salmon, and hardboiled eggs. Choose one or two proteins and mix up the flavors with different seasonings, herbs, and sauces. If you get bored by the end of the week, you can choose new proteins for the next week.
BUY A FEW PRE-MADE ITEMS
We’re giving you permission—you don’t need to make everything from scratch. Choose a few recipes to prepare, and supplement with some healthy, convenient items that will make your meal prep session more manageable. A few ideas: marinades, paleo barbecue sauce, frozen breakfast sausage, frozen hamburger patties, turkey brats, rotisserie chicken, pre-cooked brown rice, and peeled and diced sweet potatoes.
If you’re just starting to meal prep, we encourage you to take it slow. You don’t have to make an entire week of meals in a single afternoon when you’re just beginning. Instead, choose a few simple dishes that you’d like to have on hand in the fridge all week long—energy balls, roasted vegetables, shredded chicken, or sliced bell peppers and hummus.
Once you find the right system and set of recipes, meal prepping is the perfect way to manage your healthy diet goals, your grocery budget, and your time. We hope you’re excited to make meal prepping a regular part of your weekly routine!