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What Are Meal Prep Hacks and How Can They Help Me?



Katie Breazeale, MS, RD, LD

 

Meal prepping is a great idea to get ahead for the week and set yourself up for success.  It can also be a little overwhelming if you have never done it before.  I am here to help.  I have discovered, from trying and failing with my own meal prep, that there is more than one right way to do it and there are tricks to make it easier and faster as you go.

 

Why do I love meal prepping?  Because I hate cooking during the week with crazy schedules!  It also gives me better odds at eating healthy than if I didn’t meal prep.  I don’t like food to go to waste and if I know I have something waiting for me I am 98% more likely to just go home.  Sometimes the 2% wins and is saying feed me Chinese, pizza, or wings.  Would you be more likely to go home and eat a nutritiously balanced meal if you knew all you had to do was heat it up?

 

I have two meal prep styles with hacks to make it easier for you.  We will look at the one a day prepper for the week and the one day ahead prepper.  These methods share a few tricks that are essential for meal prepping.

 

1. Plan your meals for the week.  Keep it simple till you get the hang of it.

2. Base what type of meal prepping you will be doing on space you have.  It sounds great to have all your meals ready to grab, but if you have a tiny refrigerator and freezer that is going to be an interesting puzzle fitting it all in there.

3. Make a grocery list and do your shopping at once.  This will save you money planning what you need to buy.  This way you do not buy items you already have begging to be used by you.

4. Cut up all veggies and fruits you will need.  If one recipe calls for 2 bell peppers and another 1 bell pepper for another recipe, do it at once.

5. The tip above works well for protein too.  For example, shredded chicken is used in a lot of recipes.  Boil and shred all of it once so you are ready to create your meals.

6. Work smarter, not harder.  Did you know your food chopper can shred chicken?  Talk about time saved!!  Sadly, I did not learn this tip early on.

7. Be prepared for a day that you do not want what you cooked.  It happens.  You have made all this amazing food but come Friday you want to eat out. Do it! Eat your food tomorrow when you are ready for it.

 

The One Day Do It All Prepper

Quit the title, right?  It sounds overwhelming and kind of exhausting when you are thinking about cooking all your meals for a week in one day.  This was the first method I tried.  I will be honest, by the time I had cooked all my meals for the week I did not want to cook dinner that night and we got takeout.  I learned, slowly, some tricks for this method.

1. Do a crockpot meal for dinner that night.  It cooks while you cook and easy clean up.

2. Have a cooking plan. Cooking recipe by recipe can be more time consuming.  Use the tricks above for prepping all your veggies at one time while your meat cooks. 

3. Plan what cooking methods each recipe requires.  If you need five pots and you have 2 you have a new challenge. 

4. Try to use similar sides for your meals.  You may only want salad or broccoli for your side not a different veggie every night.

5. How many servings does your meal make?  I made this mistake in the beginning more than once!  If it makes 4-6 servings and there are only 2 people eating it why do I need a new meal for every night of the week?  My freezer filled up quickly so all meals wouldn’t spoil because I cooked too much.

  

Once I got sick of prepping all meals in one day while wrangling children, I switched gears to being a day or two ahead in my meal prep.  I really liked this method because if my schedule got away from me or I didn’t feel like cooking my dinner had been prepped the day before. 

 

1.  If you can, start on a day you are not working.  Let’s say it is Sunday, you would prep for dinner on Monday.

2.  If you have the time prep veggies, cut up meat, cook pasta for the day after that.  It is the prepping that keeps on giving! Each day is made easier by the 30 minutes or so you put in the day before.

3.  If you use up your prepped meals plan for an easy meal while you recharge and get ready for meal prepping the next day.   Easy days can be turkey tacos, chicken burgers, or homemade pizza.

  

What do you think?  Are you inspired to meal prep and get ahead for the week?  This is a great strategy for busy schedules.  Let’s be honest, there are some nights you don’t want to go near your kitchen.  That is the greatness of having your meals prepped!!  Here’s to less work during the week.

 

My goal for you is to try and plan your week of meals.  Don’t forget snacks!  Pick a meal prep method that works with your lifestyle.  Try it for a couple of weeks and then think about what you loved and what you hated.  Then try again! 

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