Meal prep isn’t just a health trend. More people are catching onto the perks: cook once, eat all week, and save money. Who wants to cook at the end of a long day, anyway? Prepping meals limits the temptation to dine out or order in. It’s a great technique – if you avoid some common mistakes.
The goal of meal prep is to make life and healthy eating easier. There’s nothing more satisfying than having a home-cooked meal, ready to go! Most people like to cook everything on a day off, such as Sunday. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can even make extra and freeze. It sure beats a frozen TV dinner. Yet, like all healthy habits, meal prep takes practice. Avoid making it more complicated by dodging these beginner blunders.
1. Not Planning The Meals
Go to the store with a plan. There’s nothing worse than wandering around, trying to think of what to cook. Planning stops you from wasting time and money – especially if food never ends up being used. You don’t have to create a recipe like a master chef. The web is full of healthy, simple ideas. Small adjustments can be made based on allergies or preferences.
2. Preparing Meals That Are Not Balanced
While planning and cooking, make it complete. Don’t just prep tons of broccoli or bowls of quinoa. Think of the bigger picture. Every day, you need three macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Remember that each one has “good” and “bad” kinds. Go for whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fat like avocado.
Make half your meal fruits and veggies, and choose whole grains over white. If you eat meat, reach for lean protein like turkey or fish.1
3. Not Mixing It Up
Meal prep doesn’t have to be boring. If you get sick of recipes quickly, find ways to make each serving unique. Spices, herbs, and sauces are great for this. You can even plan two different recipes with overlapping ingredients. For instance, vegetables can be split between veggie burgers and quesadillas.
4. Cooking Without Counting Days
Doing the math is important, but don’t worry, it’s not calculus. Simply count how many days you’ll actually need meals. Do you have a work lunch on Tuesday, or a date on Thursday? Are you out of town for a few days? Take that into consideration.
Otherwise, be sure to freeze anything extra. This may not work with food like oatmeal, but it’s great for quiche, veggie burgers, or soup.
5. Adding Sauces Early
Sauces can really amp up a meal – extra points when it’s homemade dressing, hummus, or marinara! But if you’re not careful, this will end up in a soggy mess. Salads are prone to this. Adding dressing will wilt the veggies, creating an unappealing dish. Store sauces in separate containers and mix before serving or heating.
6. Using Big Containers
When you make a lot of food, large containers seem smart. But this just slows down the morning rush. Portion meals beforehand. Invest in single-person containers, or buy a variety of sizes for options. This will also make defrosting easier. Let’s say you want to make breakfast quiche. Instead of using a pie plate, bake in a muffin tin. Then, re-heating will be a breeze.
7. Having A Disorganized Fridge
Meal prep also involves storage prep. Avoid throwing everything in the fridge and keep things organized. Food that will be eaten earlier should be in the front. This way, you don’t have to rummage when it’s time to eat. While you’re at it, toss food that’s gone bad.
Mastering meal prep takes time. Be patient with yourself and see what works for you. One day’s of hard work will be worth it.