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Top Tips to make Meal Prepping work for you
By Rebecca Mezzino Professional Organiser and Declutter Coach
Meal prepping essentially involves cooking or preparing all or part of your meals beforehand to save time, money and energy and reduce reliance on takeaway. It can be applied to any or all of your meals, for all or some of the days of the week.
For some, it means going to the point of having every meal stored in the fridge, portioned and labelled. For others, it’s having most of the hard work done first, and a general plan of what you’ll be eating each day. You can make it whatever works for you.
Here are my favourite tips for getting meal prepping to work well for you:
Make a master list of recipes that you can refer to
This is a HUGE stress-reducer and time-saver. Having a list of meals to refer to at the start of each week means deciding what meals to make is a lot quicker and easier. You can also pick and choose depending on the weather and your activities for the week, and make sure each family member gets a favourite some time during the week.
Get a meal-planning system happening, and a regular shopping day. And keep it simple!
It doesn’t need to be complicated – just scribble down some meals on the back of your shopping list each week. Knowing the meals means you don’t over-buy “just in case” stuff when you shop, which can cause pantry clutter and food waste.
Shopping at the same time each week helps it become a habit, and gives you consistency in volumes of food.
Make sure you check what’s in your fridge, freezer and pantry before you set your meals, so you can use the stuff you already have.
Have quality storage
Owning quality containers for your chopped veges, cooked portions and frozen meals are really important for longevity. The last thing you need is Friday’s lunch smelling funny by Wednesday!
You can use re-usable, BPA-free plastic, glass, or even silicone to store your food in. Mason jars are great for salad (quite popular too, you’ll find loads of recipes and how-tos online).
For your frozen meals, containers that can go straight from freezer to oven or microwave are really helpful and save washing-up time.
And don’t forget to label them so you know when you’re eating and what!
As soon as you get home from shopping, wash and chop your vegies according to the meals you’ll be having. You’ll have some cubed, some diced, some julienne. You’ll need your meal list handy.
Pre-chopping vegetables can lessen the stress of cooking during busy week nights.
Make sure you store them properly once you chop them up – you don’t want them drying out. Clear containers are best so that you can see easily what’s in them. The EcoPocket or Stasher Silicone Bags are ideal for portions of chopped vegetables and fruits.
Don’t be afraid to freeze meals or portions of meals so you don’t have to have them one night after the next. You can space them out a bit. Most soups, stews and sauces freeze well so use it!
It’s okay to freeze in glass containers if you’re going plastic-free, just do your research first as it’s a little more challenging than plastic or silicon. If it’s made for the freezer like the Lock & Lock range at Howards it will be fine, just be careful with more general-purpose glass like mason jars.
It’s worth figuring out what ingredients are going to really ruin the others in your meals if they’re left hanging out together for too long. Salad dressing is a real limp-inducer for lettuce, and cheese in with your crackers will make them unpleasantly soft! Use separate containers until the last minute for things like that.
Cook double portions of regular meals
If you’re having a “non prepped” meal, take advantage of the time you’re taking and double or triple up the portions for an impromptu extra meal for next week.
Buy some containers that hold exactly the serving sizes you need so you don’t have to guess, or accidentally make up too little per container and leave everyone hungry!
Pre-cook as much as possible
For the meals you have planned, as well as seeing what you can chop ahead of time, see also what you can cook ahead of time.
Roast veges and some grains are great for cooking in batches then having cold later in the week. Same goes with meats (who can resist some cold, sliced up BBQ chicken?) and rice noodles.
Use sauces and condiments for freshening up duplicates
If you’ve made up a huge batch of roast vegetables, they might get tired by the last lunch of the week. Mix them up with different accompaniments such as sauces and condiments to turn yesterday’s dish into something almost completely new.
Keep some ingredients till last minute
Some fresh ingredients like avocado won’t play nicely chopped up in the fridge so it’s best left to add to your salad at the last minute. Pasta often gets gluggy and is better freshly cooked, too, if you can manage it.
You can also have some things set aside to add to dishes last-minute if you want to bulk them up, like a little stash of boiled eggs, bacon chips, or pickled vegetables.
Rebecca Mezzino is a veteran Professional Organiser and Declutter Coach and a member of the IOPO.