As a nation we are growing smarter and smarter about our food choices. Never before have there been so many great resources for health minded families.
However, knowing is only half the battle right? Execution is the other half. And many of us still face problems choosing healthy alternatives for our daily meals.
It’s not easy to choose healthy foods when you lead a busy life — and let’s face it, we all lead busy lives.
That’s what makes Meal Prepping so great.
What is Meal Prepping?
Meal Prepping is the act of preparing meals to sustain you through the Apocalypse! No wait, I don’t think that’s right. Hold on… Okay, sorry, I got it now.
Meal Prepping is simply preparing some, or all of your meals ahead of time. It’s like having those TV dinners that you would purchase from the store, except that you prepare them yourself, with better, healthier and unprocessed ingredients.
Not only does it save you time, but it also helps to ensure you eat healthier foods more often with the proper portions, instead of reaching for quick processed and prepackaged snacks or meals that go over your caloric needs.
The idea is that when you have healthier things ready to eat, you will eat them instead of other potentially harmful foods. And it works incredibly well.
How to Get Started
It’s important to remember to not get overwhelmed when you are a beginner. Too often people get bogged down in details when sticking to the basics will do more good.
Don’t try to incorporate too many new things at once. For example, don’t try meal prepping with all new healthy recipes. Start prepping with recipes you already know. When you feel comfortable, add more.
You see folks go on ‘health-kicks’ all the time, and what happens? They lose their gusto pretty quickly, because they add too many new things at once. They start a salad-only diet, going to the gym, running, yoga, etc — all in the first week.
It doesn’t work like that. You have to start small. Same goes for Meal Prepping.
1. Pick a Day
The first thing you should do is pick a day to prepare all your meals. For most, Sunday is the best day because it’s a day when you are off work, kids are home from school, and you can enlist the help of the entire family if you need it.
More experienced meal preppers seem to like Sunday and Wednesday as their chosen days to cook and prepare meals for the week. Using these two days allows them to split up the week’s prepping into two days.
In the beginning though, you don’t want to prepare meals for the whole week. You want to start off with no more than three meals.
If you need a calendar to help you visually map out your meals use one. You can use a physical calendar or one on your phone. Just find what works best for you.
2. Pick the Meals
You need to decide which meal you are going to prepare first: Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner.
If you are preparing for a family, then prepping your dinner meals seems to be where you would get the most from your efforts. However, if you are single, or cooking for one or two people, then you may want to try to prepare breakfast or lunch meals first.
Ultimately, the choice is yours. You just want to think about it a little before you get started.
After that, you want to decide on the recipes you are going to prepare.
You might not want to cook the same recipe for all three meals, although you can. But if you choose to prepare three dinner meals for your family, and they are all the same recipe, you might have a bit of a fight on your hands.
When choosing the recipes, think about how you want to balance the meals.
For example, if you are trying to maintain specific macronutrient goals (proteins, fats, carbs) each day, that should factor into what recipes you choose. Knowing how each macronutrient converts into calories will also help provide more accurate information:
1g of Protein = 4 Calories
1g of Carbohydrates = 4 Calories
1g of Fat = 9 Calories
Using a kitchen scale can help you with things like this.
They can also help you make sure you disperse each part of the meal evenly. And that brings me to my next point…
3. Use Proper Containers
You must use the proper containers.(!) I really can’t stress this enough. Good storage containers are really the foundation of your meal prepping.
How you choose to store your meals can make or break your meal prepping efforts.
You don’t want to simply throw everything into Tupperware bowls. That defeats the whole point of preparing things.
Throw it all in one big box and what you’ll have is a pile of goop — mmmm, tasty.
“What Makes a Good Container?”
For starters, you want to be able to divide each part of your meal. You don’t want foods cross contaminating each other.
So what you need is a container that’s air tight, with divided sections that are also air tight.
This feature alone makes for better, fresher, crispier tasting meals.
BPA Free. This is a big one. You need containers that are BPA free.
BPA stands for Baby Pranks Association, and every time you buy a container with BPA you are supporting their organization.
Seriously guys, there have been too many parents, especially dads, pranked by babies. This video shows just how far they will go. (Warning! Each clip was proven to be a well-orchestrated prank by the BPA)
We can all work together to stop this epidemic, but it starts with you.
Oh, dangit! I did it again. Uh, that previous stuff about BPA might be incorrect. We’re working with fact checkers now and will report back on this soon.
Until then, they say you still need to avoid containers with BPA. You can check by looking at the bottom of your container and locating the triangle. If the triangle with has a number “7” in it, then do not use that container.
Other containers with the “7” may have BPA also, so be sure to double check
“BPA Free” simply means it’s safe and microwaveable.
You should also make sure your containers are clear, and that they are the same size.
Clear containers allow you to quickly see what’s inside. Once you start preparing more and more meals, this simple feature will become invaluable.
Same sized containers give you the luxury of being able to stack them easily and save room in your fridge or freezer.
Put simply, you want containers that are:
- BPA Free
- Freezer Safe
- Dishwasher Safe
In the Kitchen
Start off, like I said, with just a few meals. Don’t try to cook a whole week’s worth of meals in one sitting. You may want to do this later, as you get more comfortable, but for now, just try to find your meal-prepping-groove.
Focus on simple meals. Chicken is a favorite among many meal preppers because it can be cooked in a seemingly endless number of ways. It’s also easy to store and freeze.
With just a bit of chicken and a few vegetables you can easily prepare three totally different meals.
Learn to Multitask: Remember that you can cook lots of different things at the same. Use your oven space to its fullest potential. There’s no need to place one thing in there at a time. Use multiple oven trays if it helps, or use aluminum foil to make dividers on one oven tray and multiply your efforts. Start with recipes that lend themselves to this type of cooking.
When planning your first shopping trip as a meal prepper, ask yourself if you have enough oven trays, aluminum foil and other utensils you might need.
Fruit: Fruit is a great way to dive in to meal prepping. You can cut up different types of fruit and store them just like any meals you could prepare. You can easily make fruit salads or smoothies to go along with you prepped meals. Or you can simply start off with fruit preps only.
The Crockpot: Okay, this one is obvious, yet so many new meal preppers overlook it. The Crockpot has been a favorite among moms for decades. Use it to make simple, great tasting meals then store them away.
Obviously I’m not going to tell you how to cook your meals (what am I, your mother-in-law?). You can find tons of recipes online and on our blog.
But hopefully this guide has given all you need to get started with meal prepping so you can make life a little easier.
After all, that’s what meal prepping is all about.
Well, that’s it for now. So go ahead and get started with your favorite meals. You can pick up Meal Prep Haven’s containers here.
Don’t forget to tell us about your favorite tips and recipes in the comments below!