Meal prep or the process of getting foods ready to eat or cook offers busy people extraordinary benefits such as time savings, lower costs and faster home-cooked meals. In restaurants, the practice of prepping food is called mise en place and explains how restaurants can cook lots of different orders so quickly. Beginners can start slowly by prepping their favorite recipes for meals for one or two days before tackling meals for a week or attempting challenging new recipes.
Benefits of Meal Prep
The benefits of meal prep include better nutrition and easier food preparation during the work week when hectic couples usually don’t bother to cook. People who are dieting or trying special diets for their health can spend a little free time prepping food and have healthy food choices available all week. Other benefits of meal prep include:
- Cost savings by buying foods in bulk
- Easier planning of healthy, nutritious or special-diet meals
- Natural way to lose weight by eating unprocessed foods
- Food available to take along on outings or to work for lunch and snacks
Getting Started with Meal Prep
When getting started with the concept, it’s best to stick with recipes that you know. Don’t try to prep for a week, or you might get intimidated or discouraged. Plan what you have time to cook, and take a quick inventory of your kitchen staples to see what’s needed from the grocer. A good strategy includes the following steps:
- Plan meals for special occasions or when having guests.
- Incorporate any special preferences or dietary restrictions when planning shopping and preparation.
- During planning, incorporate foods on sale and seasonal specialties that sell at lower prices.
- Tally how many meals you want to attempt, and write down all the ingredients needed.
- Plan to wash, peel and chop vegetables and fruit, cook large portions of meat in a crock pot and sauté ground meats and chicken and beef strips for multiple uses.
- Make sure you have plenty of airtight containers to store portions for different dishes, or use plastic bags or a food-sealing system.
- Freeze ingredients or precooked foods that will be used later in the week.You can make dishes like meatloaf and meatballs in advance and freeze them for cooking or baking later.
- Food processors help to chop, dice and slice large amounts of vegetables fast and painless.
Once you begin thinking strategically about meal prep, you’ll find dozens of ways to save time and money while becoming more efficient at prep work. Choose one or two days a week for prepping, but don’t forget to set aside time to relax or take a day for personal reasons.
Follow Your Own Path
Everyone preps at different levels, so choose what works best for you. If you prefer to bring all the ingredients together just before eating, plan accordingly. If having something ready to reheat in a microwave suits your schedule, or you have family members who eat at staggered times, then you might want to prepare foods that are ready-to-eat.
Meal prep opens a world of culinary choices that you can prepare at home no matter how hectic your week. You can enjoy good, healthful meals with fewer calories and additives or plan special diets for health. Life has a way of changing plans, but prepping ingredients for high-quality meals throughout the week helps to keep your menu plans on track.