Prepare Yourself for Meal Prep

June 03, 2021

 packed meal

Meal prep is more than a fad: it's a practical method for creating tasty, homemade food that you'll want to consume every day. And, while the result is spectacular, meal prep does not entail complex preparation or tools. What you need is time and a lot of effort. 

Simply stated, meal prep is the preparation of meals. Often that means making a food plan, and other times it means cooking a range of ingredients that you can incorporate easily and quickly into different dishes.

Why?

Not only can learning how to meal prep save you time, but it would also save you costs and avoid waste. In addition, unlike frozen meals, this approach gives you complete control of what goes into your diet, making it ideal for those looking to remain on board with their health goals. It can also help simplify a hectic schedule by taking the guesswork out of what to eat during mealtimes, especially during lunch hour at work.

It's much easier to portion control and concentrate on healthier meals; eliminating those mid-week slumps when ordering pizza sounds so much better than preparing anything from scratch.

To enjoy the total rewards of meal planning, all you need is a meal plan, some meal prep storage to store your food in, and sometimes set aside to prepare and section your meals. Even an hour will set you up for success in the coming week. Meal prepping will also lead to more balanced meal options in the long run because it allows you to decide what to eat ahead of time. Contrary to popular belief, many techniques to meal prep do not all include spending an entire Sunday afternoon preparing dishes for the upcoming work week. It would be best if you chose the approaches that are most effective for you.

Who?

Meal prep will help people watch their diets or reduce their cooking time Monday to Friday. We are all too familiar with opting for what’s most convenient at work but slightly deny that they are unhealthy anyway. Most times, we're even puzzled about what's in the lasagna at the office cafeteria or how long the salad has been chilled in the deli fridge. Some types of meal preparation may not be suitable for all.

Some foods, such as salads already mixed with dressing or sliced avocados, do not keep well in the fridge for a week. Most meal preppers overcome this problem by preparing a main component, such as chicken breast, and then portioning out the ingredients that go with it. Others separate salad dressing and salads and only prepare salads one or two days ahead of time.

Another perfectly valid way to look at meal prepping is to prepare a range of ingredients that make cooking more straightforward and quicker. Prepping fruit and yogurt for your smoothie or chopping vegetables for stir fry throughout the week saves time and takes the mental load off having meals.

How?

Although single-serve meals are the most popular method of meal preparation, there are other options available depending on your schedule, preferences, and dietary requirements. Each should find a meal planning style that works for them. The following are the most common methods of meal preparation:

● Cooking in batches. Make large quantities of a particular recipe, then divide it into individual portions to be frozen and consumed over the next few months. These are common for a warm lunch or dinner.

● Ingredients that are ready to cook. Preparing the ingredients for individual meals ahead of time to reduce cooking time in the kitchen.

● Meals that are made ahead. Complete meals can be cooked ahead of time and kept in the fridge or reheated at mealtimes. This is especially useful for dinnertime meals.

● Meals that are individually-portioned. Preparing fresh meals and dividing them into separate portions to be stored in the fridge and consumed over the next few days. This is especially useful for fast lunches.

Your objectives and daily routine determine the approach that will make the most sense for you. Make-ahead breakfasts, for example, could be ideal if you want to simplify your morning ritual. Storing batch-cooked meals in your freezer, on the other hand, is particularly useful for those who have little time in the evenings.

The various meal-prepping techniques may also be mixed and balanced based on your specific needs. Begin by selecting the most promising form, then gradually play with the others to see which one best suits you.

Storage

There are no clear guidelines for determining how long your food can remain fresh. Your fridge, how you packed it, and the consistency of your ingredients all play a role in protecting your prepared food.

Start with the FDA's recommendations for fridge and freezer storage to determine how long you should store canned foods, and use common sense when packing food to ensure it lasts longer.

Your food storage containers can spell the difference between a fantastic and a mediocre meal.

Here are some container suggestions:

● Microwavable: These are both more practical and healthier for you, minus the BPA. Some good choices include Pyrex glassware and retractable silicone boxes. Glassware is the best choice if you want to eat your meal cold and can manage it carefully. Where necessary, avoid using disposable plastic containers and plastic packaging. In addition to carcinogenic BPA, even BPA-free plastics can produce estrogenic chemicals that leach into your food and disrupt your hormones. So it's important to know what you're storing and warming your food in.

● Airtight: Easy to clean, reusable silicone bags and stainless containers are excellent for preserving ingredients and foods.

● Leak-proof with compartment: These are ideal for lunches or dinners involving mixing ingredients at the last minute. Bento lunch boxes are a perfect example.

● Freezer-safe: These will help to reduce freezer burn and nutrient depletion. Mason jars with a wide mouth are perfect, as long as you leave at least an inch of headspace to let the food expand as it freezes.

Food Safety

Food poisoning, which affects a reported 9.4 million Americans per year, can be avoided by cooking, freezing, and reheating foods properly.

Here are several food safety protocols that the government has approved:

● Refrigerate fresh foods and meals within two hours of purchase or cooking. Spread cooked foods in shallow containers and immediately put them in the fridge for rapid cooling.

● The more times a meal is cooled and reheated, the greater the chance of food poisoning. Because of this, you can only reheat thawed foods once.

● Defrost frozen foods or meals in the fridge rather than on the table. Submerge frozen foods in cold tap water for 30 minutes, replacing the water every 30 minutes.

● Remember to mark and date your containers so that you can eat the food during a safe time.

● Chilled meals should be eaten within 3–4 days, while you should consume frozen meals within 3–6 months.

● Cook fish, poultry, and fresh meats within two days of buying, and prepare red meat within three to five days. Meanwhile, store them on the bottom shelf of your fridge.

Meal prep can be done in various ways, focusing on your aims, schedule, and meal choices. Making huge batches to freeze, complete meals to refrigerate, and separate parts to combine as desired are some alternatives. Meal preparation does not have to be tough. Simple steps will help you cut down on cooking time, freeing you up for more significant activities.

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