Learning to Cook

Meal Prep 101

The term meal prep is commonly used in the fitness world. Coaches and trainers provide you with an exercise plan and a meal plan to produce the best results for your fitness goals. What I’ve discovered though is that meal prep is not only for ambitious athletes but also for the average Joe. Meal prepping can be useful not only for people who have a strict diet but also for those people who like to be creative with their meals. For me personally, I have three reasons for meal prep:

  1. It saves money because we actually end up eating at home more often than eating out.
  2. It saves me time. This means I can be lazy and don’t have to fuss around in the kitchen everyday (thank God!)
  3. It helps me eat healthier.

For the full story on why and how I started to meal prep take a look at this article: Eating Out vs. Cooking at Home

Meal Prep 101 - See how meal prep can simplify your life and get you eating healthier and more delicious food.

How Does Meal Prepping Actually Save You Time?

Batching

A lot of cooking is not the actual putting ingredients together. It is about preparing those ingredients and then waiting for them to cook. Once everything is cooked, there is also the question of cleaning all of the pots, pans, and other tools used to prepare the food.

The way that meal prepping helps you save time is by batching your work. This means getting similar tasks done together. For example, while my cutting board and nice cutting knife are out and clean, I will try and cut up all of the veggies I could possibly cut up. The cutting board and knife are taken out only once, are used to cut up a ton of veggies, and then washed once at the end. Much better than the normal route of taking out and then washing the cutting board and knife 5 or more times throughout the week.

Less cleaning!

The same applies for the pots and pans. Instead of cooking just one portion, getting the pan dirty and having to wash it, you just go through that process once to make multiple meals. I’m pretty sure that I don’t have to convince you that doing less dishes is a great bonus of batching your food prep. The next perk helps your tastebuds.

Better focus = Tastier Food!

When you focus on one task, such as chopping veggies or boiling pasta, you will be able to do a much better job of preparing that food. I used to make one meal at a time and food used to burn all the time, not to mention my frustration by the end of the cooking time. When you have just two pots boiling, one with let’s say pasta and the other potatoes, there is much less chance of food burning or getting out of control. Learning to simplify what you do in the kitchen will make it so much more relaxing, with the end result being so much tastier.

The goal of meal prepping for the average person is to simply prepare the food so that when it comes time to eat, the meal is practically done and you have little to do. Think of your home like a mini restaurant. Unless you go to a super fancy restaurant, the kitchen partially prepares the food so they could serve you faster. A pizza place has the veggies cut up, dough mixed and ready to roll out, and the meats cooked enough to be able to just heat up. This is what your meal times could look like too. Instead of washing and cutting up veggies, and cooking raw meat, you just deal with throwing together the ingredients and heating it up. Now doesn’t that sound so much more appealing?

Prepare Your Environment for Success

Do you know that famous argument about the environment or DNA? Whether you’re naturally inclined to eat certain foods or whether it’s because of your environment. Well, let me tell you, A LOT has to do with our environment. Imagine this scenario: you come home from work exhausted and hungry. You look through your kitchen cupboards and fridge and find cookies (easy to grab) and uncooked/ unwashed produce in the fridge (loads of work to do before enjoying). Which would you probably gravitate to? Most likely the cookies, even if you’re watching your weight. WHY? Because our mind is great at helping us achieve the goal while exerting the least amount of energy (thanks brain!). This is wonderful news for survival except that it isn’t the best for our health.

This is where meal prepping comes in handy. By preparing food, you naturally work with your mind’s intuition to exert the least amount of work (aka being lazy). Except, because you have healthy food prepped, you will actually be fueling your body with what it needs. In our house, I love to prepare celery and carrot sticks. They’re super convenient, whether as a snack or add to cook further in a meal. My hubby, who hates salads and veggies, actually took a bag of celery sticks to dip into peanut butter as a snack. Why? He was hungry and we had no chocolate chips or cookies or other convenient sweet snacks. Celery sticks were the easiest option.

Make Healthy Eating Super Easy

This reminds me of a TED talk my brother showed me a while ago. It’s about a guy who helped his younger brother to lose weight by changing up the environment, changing what food is available in the house. You can take a look at the video below. To summarize, meal prepping in this case, helps you to work with your natural instincts and busy lifestyle, while still providing your body delicious and healthy meals. I believe that’s a win-win situation.

The 2 Types of Meal Prepping

Pre-Portioned Meals

One way to meal prep is to prepare pre-portioned meals. In one container you would have a protein, carb, and veggie – one complete meal for one person. Now, of course, you don’t need to structure your meals like this, do whatever is best for you. When I prepare my meals, I have found that looking at these 4 main categories helps me to simplify meal prep.

Take a look at this article: Meal Planning Using the Big 4

This type of meal prep is especially beneficial for those who are on a strict diet or simply want to limit the amount of food they eat. Because everything is pre-portioned, you simply would grab and go. It works better if for singles or couples, but gets tricky with larger families. When I tried doing this type of meal prep, I kept getting unpleasant surprises of half my portioned meal being gone. For families, I recommend the next type of meal prep. The next type of meal prep is also great if you like to have more variety in your meals.

Prepared Ingredients

The second type of meal prep is a partial meal prep. For this, you cook and prepare basic ingredients that would be used in a variety of dishes throughout the week. For example, you could wash and cut up the veggies for easy salads and cooking throughout the week. You could cook the rice and pasta and then simply add protein and sauce to it for a quick dinner. Cooked protein, like baked chicken and hard-boiled eggs.

My meal prep ingredients ready for the week. Pasta and rice are boiled. Instant Pot Mexican Chicken, taco beef, and meat balls. Cut up cucumbers and lettuce.
This is what my partial meal prep looks like most weeks.

The beauty of this type of prepping is that you get over all the dirty and messy part of cooking in one day. The rest of the days when I prepare meals, it’s simply taking already cooked ingredients and throwing them together, with different sauces and spices, for a variety of meals. This is great for families who have picky eaters as well. Simply leave out an ingredient from their dish and add it to everyone else’s plate.

This type also provides flexibility with scheduling. Let’s say you are very busy on one day and can only allocate 30 minutes to do this – not a problem! Sometimes, meal prepping for me consists of simply of washing and then chopping up veggies. Then on another day, I focus on cooking the meats and grains. The goal is to batch similar tasks to reduce the amount of time that it takes around the work.

How to Start Meal Prepping

You might be thinking, this is great, but where do I even start? The beauty of this is that we don’t even need to be a good cook to be able to meal prep. Start simple and then learn to make more complex dishes.

I have prepared a 5 Day Challenge to take you through the steps of creating your own meal prep routine. You could sign up below or learn more by clicking the link:

Free 5-Day Meal Prep Challenge

White plate with steak and vegetables

To learn more about meal prep, take a look at these articles:

Meal Planning Using the Big 4

Easy Meal Prep Ideas

Hard Boiled Eggs Made 5 Ways

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