Meal prepping is the art of preparing multiple meals all at once, which you either refrigerate or freeze until you’re ready to eat. It may sound difficult and time consuming, but the reality is that it will save you both time and money. And it’s not that difficult. There are a few steps that will allow you to get through it quickly and a few hacks that will make it easier. Here’s what you need to know:
1. Meal Plan – Simplify your meal plan by limiting your variety. You can of course change things up from week to week and plan and plan, but keep it simple within each meal prep cycle. This will not only make it easier to prep, it will save you money at the grocery store because you won’t need to buy as many ingredients.
2. Choose wisely – Select meals that freeze or keep well. Luckily cooked food tends to last longer than certain uncooked foods, but be mindful of how far out in advance you’re prepping your food.
3. Start Prepping – If your meals for the week include rice, cut and/or cooked vegetables, or other items that need to be cooked, make them all at once. For instance, you may choose to have a breakfast sandwich with an egg every morning. You can prep your eggs in advance by scrambling several of them, baking them or even poaching them in the oven using a muffin pan. Make your eggs all at once so they’re ready when you start assembling.
4. Assemble Your Meals – For the meals you’re going to pack like sandwiches, lay all the ingredients out on the counter. If you’re making five turkey sandwiches, lay out ten slices of bread, swipe some mayonnaise or mustard on each slice, add your turkey, cheese, lettuce, and tomato, then top them all, cut them, and wrap them individually. Five sandwiches made all at once will take far less time than making one every morning. You can do the same with egg sandwiches for breakfast.
For dinners, try to plan meals that you can make in your slow cooker or on a sheet pan. Cut all your vegetables for the week and pack the veggies for each meal into a baggie. Clean your meats and package them in baggies for each meal too. If possible, double up when making a meal so that you only have to cook once and have ready-made meals for a few nights.
5. Store Your Meals – Now that all your food is prepped and packaged, you need to store it in your fridge so that it’s easy to find. Use some plastic bins to store your breakfast meals and lunch meals so that you can easily grab-and-go in the morning. If you’re packing extras like yogurt or chips, place those together too (of course your chips should be portioned out into small baggies to make them easy to grab).
Store your vegetables and meats for dinner in a designated area as well so after a long day you can just grab your baggies and throw dinner in the skillet or on a sheet pan and cook. Or you can toss everything into the slow cooker on your way out the door in the morning.
Meal Prepping Hacks
- Don’t over complicate your meals, look for simple ideas to reduce the amount of prep.
- Cook two different dinners at once by dividing your sheet pan with foil and baking each meal in its own foil pouch.
- If your meal requires re-heating, try to keep items relatively similar in size to help them heat evenly. For example, individual pieces of chicken will heat up faster than a whole breast of chicken.
- You may want to consider separating out any significantly moist ingredients to prevent the rest of the meal from becoming soggy.
- Use clear storage containers to make everything easy to see.
Taking some time on the weekend to meal prep for the week ahead will not only save money on groceries, but it will make it easier to get through the week knowing it’s already done.
For simple, effective tips on grocery saving, check out our definitive, pain-free guide to reducing your food spending.