Meal planning is a great way to eat well, lose weight, plus it’s easier on your wallet too!
Another perk? More time and less stress. Preparing meals ahead means you’re taking a break from the daily hassle of wondering what to fix for dinner or having to run out the door without breakfast because there’s nothing in the fridge.
Here are some meal prep hacks, tips, and tools to help you shop, cook and divide your meals into easily manageable choices for the days or week ahead:
Essential Tips for Meal Planning
1. Choose one time per week to cook. If you can, shop and cook your meals on one particular day and time each week. This means that the oven will only be heated once, the mess of chopping and slicing meats and veggies happens only once and you’ll have time during the week for things you want and need to do.
2. The Internet is bursting with slow cooker or pressure cooker recipes that can save you time, effort and money. Or – create your own recipes by tossing in some meat, veggies and yummy spices (plus liquid) and do your own thing while it cooks.
3. Plan for snacks. We all love to snack between meals and that can be deadly to a diet and fitness routine. Rather than leaving your fate to the vending machines, invest in some healthy pre-planned snacks to keep all week for when hunger and cravings hit unexpectedly.
4. Another good hack to know when it comes to meal prep is to know your foods’ timeline for freshness. Some foods, such as apples, become brown as soon as they’re exposed to oxygen. Some foods look and taste better if you wait to cut or slice until you’re ready to use them in a recipe.
5. Also, it’s okay to repeat meals during the days or weeks ahead. Enjoyment of your food is key here – and when you love a recipe or enjoy eating leftovers, it’s perfectly okay to make up a batch and serve it later on during the week.
6. It’s important to organize your refrigerator before meal prepping. You don’t want to be in a hurry to get out the door and have to rummage through the refrigerator for your carefully prepared breakfast.
You’ll think of more tips and ideas to make meal prepping fun and enjoyable as you go along. The Internet and meal prepping blogs are also good ways to see what others are doing.
Essential Gadgets for Meal Prep
The art of meal prep has never been easier with the wide array of gadgets and ideas to make your life easier and ensure that every meal is served as nutritious and delicious as possible.
Proper meal preparation helps you avoid fast food, sugary snacks and last minute frustrations – and also helps you meet your fitness and health goals. There are five essential items that will help you on your way to becoming a master food prepper.
1. Create a comprehensive grocery list. One item you should never overlook is the essential grocery list. It only takes a few minutes each week to put together ingredients for your pre-planned meals – and the time it saves will make it well worth your while.
2. Check out some apps online that are designed to help you eliminate costly and unplanned purchases, reduce waste and add healthier foods to your diet plan. Not only will you save time with your grocery list, but you’ll also save money.
3. Measuring devices are important. Portion-specific containers, measuring cups and spoons and a food scale are all helpful when preparing your meals. There are so many helpful choices available that you shouldn’t have any trouble choosing a variety that fit your needs.
4. Invest in a good cutting board. Every good chef has his or her favorite type of cutting board. It’s a good idea to have two boards to keep one for meat preparation and one for such foods as vegetables and fruit.
5. Choose from inexpensive, plastic or wooden ones to meet your chopping and slicing needs. Eventually, you’ll likely want to try other types and sizes, but in the beginning, just have the basic two on hand.
6. Oils, herbs and spices will enhance any of your pre-planned meals by adding flavor to your meats and vegetables. Spices such as oregano, cilantro, garlic, sage and rosemary bring flavors to life in your recipes, while olive oil or other types of flavored oils keep you healthy.
7. Get a good crock pot or electric pressure cooker. One of the best essentials you can add to your repertoire of meal prep essentials is a set-it-and-forget-it cooker. It will save you tons of time and effort during busy days and provide your family with nutritious meals.
8. Make sure you also have on hand some sharp knives, wooden spoons and other helpful gadgets you’ll use to speed up and simplify your prep time.
9. A variety of containers are also helpful to keep you organized and on track for portion size and nutritional value.
10. If you’ll be preparing on-the-go meals for you and your family, a portable carrier is also an essential you’ll need to consider. Some are insulated and have compartments for beverages.
If you’d like more simple ideas, check out my Meal Planning for Beginners post.