Meal prep is for anyone! But I totally understand if you’re a beginner a need a little bit of a starting place. That’s why I put together How to Meal Prep for Beginners. Meal prep is basically any preparation of your food that you do ahead of time. Any amount of prep at any time counts. It can be your whole week of meals or just pre-cutting your veggies. Anything that saves you time. If you’ve written down your meal plan for the week, take one more look and see what you can prep ahead. Or maybe you planned your meals based on what’s easy to prep. Either way, you can meal prep! It’s not hard, it just takes a little time (but will save you so much later!).
1. Evaluate your situation.
Before you dive in for the first time, think about the following:
– Do you have containers to store the food you prepare? Storing food in airtight containers is important for freshness. I would recommend 4-cup Pyrex containers for lunch meals prepared ahead.
– Think about your favorite cooking methods and new ones you’d be willing to try. Try one new thing at a time.
– Think about your favorite foods, and which foods you’d be willing to eat for at least a couple days in a row. For example, if you don’t already like roasted broccoli, you might really hate it after a few days.
– Consider your dietary needs. If you don’t know where to start, here’s a macronutrient calculator. For example, the meal plans on Project Meal Plan aim for 30% carbohydrates, 35% fat, and 35% protein. You can also use My Fitness Pal to figure out what’s right for you.
2. Make a meal plan or outline.
Think about this:
– What does your week look like? Think about when you have the least amount of time, or when you normally resort to eating out, and prep for THAT.
– Prep for only what you need. You don’t have to prep every meal.
Start simple (meat, veggies, grain).
– For examples of meats, grains, and veggies to get started, I love this infographic from Precision Nutrition, How to Create the Perfect Meal with plenty of ideas for protein, veggies, and smart carbs.
– Keep in mind food safety and storage times.
– For more variation in your prep, gather and keep recipes that you like. Be aware of the number of portions made from each recipe. Use Yummly, Pinterest, or just make bookmarks to keep all your recipes in order. You could print them, but it’s more environmentally friendly just to save them online.
– Each week, specifically look for recipes with similar ingredients. Avoid things that call for tiny amounts of ingredients when you have to buy a large portion.
– If you’re prepping/cooking multiple meals, pick items with different cooking methods so they can cook at the same time. Invest in a slow cooker to make things like Easy Slow Cooker 4-Bean Turkey Chili.
– Think about possibly prepping on a couple days later in the week, since everything won’t store until Friday. Plan to make some overnight oats or a smaller meal later in the week if you run out of prepared food.
3. Make a list and go shopping.
– Don’t shop hungry.
– Don’t underestimate the power of a good shopping list.
– Do buy sales. Be flexible if you can and utilize your freezer. Breakfast sausage on sale? Try the Make-Ahead Freezer Friendly Breakfast Burritos. If you find good deals on fruit, you can freeze it to make your own Berry Protein Smoothies.
– Start shopping in bulk. If you meal prep regularly, you’ll start to notice certain spices or oils that are running out. I’d suggest buying things like that at Costco to make your meal prep cheaper.
4. Prep and cook.
– Prep whole meals. Start with whatever takes the longest to cook, or has the most downtime (rice cooker).
– Prep parts of meals. Chop veggies. Portion out spices. Cook meats. These things sometimes all happen on Sunday. I might talk about Meal Prep Sunday a lot, but meal prep can happen on any day of the week.
– Portion your food into small airtight containers. Use a scale. Take the entire amount you started with and divide it into how many servings you want.
And that’s how to meal prep for beginners! I’m currently working on a resources page to give you more help with meal prep and planning 🙂 Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions!