Food & Nutrition

9 tips to meal prep like a pro

Whether you’re packing lunch for yourself or the whole household, try these tips to get it done faster.
Published 13 April 2020

Although meal prep might feel daunting at first, just a little bit of planning, a good set food storage containers, and a few dedicated hours can turn you into you a meal-prepping maven. Here 9 tips to get you meal-prepping like a pro in no time:

1. Make time to plan

Spending 15 minutes to plan out your meals will not only help you stay inspired and focused on your eating plans, but it also minimises the challenge of thinking about what to have for lunch or dinner each day. Weekends are ideal for meal planning – with the extra time, you can prep, shop and cook in one go. If you have children, get them involved and prepare a recipe together. Writing your plan down can help cement intention and keep you on track. Place your plan somewhere easily accessible. The fridge door is a good spot because it’s at eye-level and usually in a prominent position in the kitchen.

2. Save time with batch cooking

While batch cooking might require a little time upfront, the time and freedom it returns to you later can be very rewarding. There are two main methods of batch cooking. The first is cooking up large quantities of a dish that can then be portioned and frozen to be enjoyed gradually across multiple meals. The second is preparing bulk amounts of a given ingredient, which can later be used in other dishes. For example, you could roast pumpkin and use it in soup on the following day or perhaps toss it into a salad or a frittata. Bulk preparing snacks and meals is a great way to ensure you have something healthy ready to go when you’re feeling hungry. Here are some more ideas:

Three ways with...

Soy-poached chicken breasts

Tenderly poach a batch of skinless chicken breasts in an aromatic Chinese-style broth, and you’ve got the perfect foundation for three winning chicken dishes.

Three ways with...

Rich beef ragù

This beef ragù is a must-have standby in your freezer. By spending a bit more time on the base recipe, you’ll then be prepared to throw together many ‘no-fuss’ meals like spaghetti, pies or bakes. It’s a family favourite that’s always a winner.

Three ways with...

Quinoa-crusted fish cocktails

With a crunchy quinoa and parmesan crust on the outside and juicy, tender fish on the inside, these tasty fish cocktails are totally worth the effort. Preparing a triple batchmeans you’ll have plenty stashed in the freezer to create a number of quick and versatile meals for those busy weeknights.

3. Get clever with food prep

When it comes to batch cooking, look at the ingredients you can easily prep in bulk. Items that come in handy might include a tray of mixed roasted veggies, poached chicken breasts or boiled eggs. Use them for quick lunches or dinners throughout the week or add them to stir-fries, stews, soups, grills, salads, curries, frittatas or pies. A food processor or stick blender with mini-chopping attachment can be a great tool to help reduce the time spent prepping veggies like onions, celery and carrots. Buying in bulk can save money and any leftover veggies can be frozen. Alternatively, the freezer aisle in the supermarket is great for pre-prepared frozen vegetables.

4. Keep some simple swaps on standby

Try these smart swaps:

  • Try spray oil instead of bottled oil to minimise the quantity you use.
  • Swap noodles or pasta for spiralised veggie noodles or, alternatively, do half/half with your favourite pasta.
  • Swap mashed potato for mashed cauliflower or parsnip.
  • Enjoy chicken breast fillets where recipes call for chicken thighs.
  • Try yoghurt instead of mayonnaise or cream in recipes.
  • Thicken sauces with skim milk or cornflour instead of cream.
  • Swap coconut milk for coconut-flavoured evaporated milk.

5. Invest in good reusable containers

Don’t cheap out on a set of soft plastic containers where the lids don’t stay on properly, stain, smell and are made with who knows what - instead, consider investing in some durable glass containers with strong lids. You’re going to be storing fresh ingredients that will turn into healthy meals so use containers that will retain the freshness throughout the week.

6. Properly store fresh ingredients

When you bring home fresh produce from the shops, don’t wash it right away. Instead, store it in the fridge until you’re ready to prep. When you are ready, thoroughly wash all of your leafy greens and fresh fruit and then pat it all dry with a paper towel; the less moisture after washing, the better. Another tip is to try and keep your fresh ingredients separate until you’re ready to eat. Find out more tips for making vegetables last longer.

7. Plan for disruptions

When it comes to meal prep, one thing is for certain – sticking to the schedule never goes according to plan. Some evenings you need to work late, sometimes there’s a spontaneous event you need to attend, and sometimes you just can’t make the meal you had planned. Life doesn’t follow a specific path, and your healthy meals don’t need to either. When you’re prepping your meals for the week, prepare to have some of your plans disrupted. Just be conscious of the healthy options and try your hardest not to miss a meal.

8. Have some fun

There’s this common misconception that meal prep is tedious and boring, but it doesn’t have to be. The great part about meal prep is that you’re in control and you can make your meals as colourful, tasty, fresh and fun as you want.

9. Boil some eggs

Cooking up a batch of boiled eggs at the beginning of the week is a great way to make sure you have a healthy snack on standby, as well as a quick protein boost for salads and sandwiches.

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