Preparing entire meals or dishes ahead of time is known as meal planning. It’s especially popular among busy people because it can help them save a significant amount of time.
Preparing meals ahead of time can help you stick to your nutrition goals by reducing portion sizes. You’ll avoid unhealthy options like TV meals or takeout if you do it this way, especially if you’re stressed or tired.
Meal planning can also lead to more healthful meal choices over time because it requires you to plan ahead of time what you’ll eat.
Despite popular belief, there are a variety of ways to meal prep that do not all entail spending an entire Sunday afternoon preparing meals for the following week. You have the option of selecting the ways that suit you best.
Meal Preparation Options
Cooking meals for the week ahead may appear to take up a significant portion of your weekend.
You don’t have to stand in the kitchen for an entire Sunday afternoon, either, because there are other ways to meal prep. Anyone can find a food preparation method that suits them.
Meal preparation is done in a variety of methods, the most common of which are:
Meals that may be prepared ahead of time and then refrigerated and reheated at mealtimes are known as make-ahead meals. This is especially useful for meals served around dinnertime.
Cooking in batches
Making big amounts of a certain dish, then dividing it into individual pieces to be frozen and consumed over the course of several months. Warm lunch or dinner choices abound with these.
Individually portioned meals
Preparing fresh meals and portioning them into individual grab-and-go servings to be refrigerated and consumed over the next few days. This is very useful for lunches on the run.
Ingredients ready to cook
To save time in the kitchen, prepare the materials needed for specific dishes ahead of time.
Your ideal strategy will be determined by your objectives and daily routine.
If you want to simplify your morning routine, for example, make-ahead breakfasts can be the way to go. Keeping batch-cooked meals in the freezer, on the other hand, is especially beneficial for individuals with limited evening time.
Depending on your circumstances, you can mix and match the several meal-prepping strategies. Begin by picking the strategy that appeals to you the most, then gradually try out the others to see which one works best for you.
Choosing the Appropriate Number of Meals and Variety of meals
It can be difficult to determine how many meals to prepare and what to put in each.
The easiest way to prepare ahead is to select which meals you would like to focus on and which meal-prepping method best suits your lifestyle.
Then look at your calendar to figure out how many breakfasts, lunches, and dinners you’ll need for the week ahead.
You can also use a smartphone app to help you decide what to cook. For example, the WW app now features a new function called “What’s in Your Fridge?” that suggests recipes depending on what you have on hand.
Also, keep in mind when you’ll be eating out, such as on dates, breakfast with friends, or client dinners.
It’s recommended to start with a small number of recipes you’re familiar with when deciding which meals to prepare. This will make meal planning much easier for you.
It’s also vital not to limit yourself to just one recipe for the entire week. This lack of variety can lead to boredom and vitamin deficiency.
Choose meals that include a variety of veggies and protein-rich foods, as well as complex carbohydrates like brown rice, quinoa, or sweet potatoes. Another approach to create diversity is to include a vegetarian or vegan dish in the mix.
Cooking Time Saving Suggestions
Few individuals relish the prospect of slaving away in the kitchen for hours on end. This is only natural, given that saving time in the kitchen is the primary motivation for meal preparation.
The strategies listed below will help you save time when it comes to prep and cooking.
Maintain a Regular Routine
When it comes to meal preparation, sticking to a routine is key. Knowing when you’ll do grocery shopping and meal prep will help you develop a good routine.
You’ll be able to establish a nice routine if you know exactly when you’ll go grocery shopping and prepare your meals.
Sunday mornings, for example, may be used for grocery shopping and meal preparation. Alternatively, Monday evenings may be set aside for preparing weekday meals.
You set the schedule, and it should fit into your weekly routine. Remember that setting out specified times and sticking to them will make the decision-making process easier, freeing up mental room for other things.
Choose the Proper Recipe Combination
Selecting the proper recipe combination will assist you in being more efficient in the kitchen.
Choose dishes that require various cooking processes to save time. Too many recipes that call for the same appliance, such as the oven, can limit the number of dishes you can make at once. When picking make-ahead meals or batch cooking, this is very crucial. Stick to one oven meal and no more than two cooktop dinners at a time, like loaded baked potatoes, stir-fry, and soup. Then add non-cooking meals like sandwiches or salads to the mix.
Scheduled time for Preparation and cooking
In the kitchen, a well-planned workflow can save you a lot of time. Start with the recipe that requires the most cooking time to order your prep and cooking periods. Typically, this is a soup or an oven-baked dinner. Focus on the rest of the dinner after it’s started.
Cold meals should be made last because they can be prepared while the other meals are cooking. Double-check the ingredients for all recipes before beginning to save even more time. You’ll be able to chop the entire number of diced onions or julienned peppers at once if two recipes call for them.
Using automated appliances like a rice cooker or a slow cooker can help you save time and effort.
Prepare a grocery list
Shopping for groceries can be a time-consuming activity. Keep a precise grocery list sorted by supermarket categories to cut down on the time you spend shopping.
This will save you time by avoiding the need to return to a previously visited section.
Limiting your grocery shopping to once a week and using a supermarket delivery service are two other strategies to cut down on your shopping time.
Choosing the Appropriate Containers for Storage
Food storage containers can make the difference between a great dinner and a mediocre one.
Here are a few suggestions for storage containers:
Ready-to-cook ingredients in airtight containers: For keeping ingredients crisp and foods fresh, washable, reusable silicone baggies and stainless steel containers are ideal.
Microwavable containers that are BPA-free: These are handier and healthier. Some nice possibilities include Pyrex glasses and collapsible silicone containers.
Containers that can be stored in the freezer include: These will help to keep freezer burn and nutritional loss to a minimum. Wide-mouth mason jars are perfect, as long as you leave at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) of headspace to allow for expansion of the food as it freezes.
Containers that are leak-proof and compartmentalized: These are ideal for lunches or dishes that require last-minute ingredient mixing. Bento lunch boxes are one good example.
Containers that stack or are similar in shape will help you save room in your refrigerator, freezer, or workbag.
Meal Preparation Steps
For first-timers, preparing a week’s worth of meals can seem difficult. It doesn’t need to be difficult, though. Below is a simple step-by-step strategy to help you streamline your meal prep.
Choose a meal prep method: This can be a mix of strategies and should be based on your lifestyle and dietary objectives.
Follow a set of guidelines: Each week, set aside one day to plan your meals, go grocery shopping, and cook.
Decide how many meals you’ll have: Keep in mind your weekly schedule and the restaurant meals you’ve booked.
Choose the best recipes: Keep an eye out for different types of food and preparation methods. When you’re just starting out, stick to recipes you’re already familiar with.
Spend less time food shopping: Make a grocery list sorted by store sections or purchase online for goods.
Spending less time in the kitchen is a good idea: Based on the cook times, decide which meals to prepare first.
Keep your meals in the following locations: Use proper chilling methods and containers. Refrigerate meals that will be consumed within 3–4 days, then label and freeze the rest.
So, what do you think? Tell us any other strategy of meal planning you have in your mind.