If eating healthier is one of your New Year’s resolutions, meal prep may be just what you need. By preparing healthy meals in bulk, you’ll be able to get through the week without having to rely on vending machine snacks or take-out lunches. Looking to save time and build a better you in 2023? Getting started with meal prepping is quite simple.
What is meal prep?
Meal prep basically means carving out a few hours each week to prepare enough food to last multiple days. EatingWell contributor Carolyn Hodges notes meal prep breaks down into several different methods, including cooking meals you can reheat throughout the week. Meal prep can also be something as simple as chopping vegetables or marinating meat to cut down on cooking time later in the week.
One of the main goals of meal prep is saving time. If, for example, you cook a week’s worth of chicken and rice in one afternoon, you’ll minimize the amount of effort it’ll take to eat healthy throughout the week. Meal prep can simplify healthy eating habits and help you break the habit of eating out.
Start with a plan
You can’t meal prep without meal planning. Kelli Foster, the senior contributing food editor for Kitchn, suggests you begin your journey into meal prepping by figuring out what recipes best match your wants, needs, and flexibility. The meals you prepare may be different depending on your priorities, whether it’s saving time, saving money, or aligning with a specific type of diet.
No matter what kind of food you prepare, one thing should be common: It’s something that will keep in the refrigerator or freezer. The fundamental basis of meal prep is food that will keep for upwards of a week, so you’ll want to avoid anything that will get soggy or spoil quickly.
Hodges recommends writing out a menu for the week if you’re planning multiple meals for the week ahead. This also helps ensure you’re getting the right balance of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. And just as importantly, it simplifies shopping and ensures you don’t forget any key ingredients.
Make sure you have the right tools
As much as a thorough shopping list is key to effective meal prep, you won’t be able to make the most of it without the right equipment. Among the most important, Foster notes, is food storage containers. If you’re relying on old, worn-down plastic containers, it might be worth it to upgrade to higher-quality glass containers — especially if they’re safe for use in the microwave, oven, or freezer.
As you get serious about meal prep, you may find yourself needing more cookware and appliances. Dutch ovens, carbon steel skillets, and pressure cookers are examples of kitchen equipment that can come in handy for meal prep. If you can get it at a good price and it helps save time during the preparation process, it might be worth adding to your arsenal.
Speaking of time, that’s the absolute most critical tool for effective meal prep. Hodges recommends doing your meal prep on the same day you go shopping, which also helps ensure freshness. Another great tip is to make meal prep a regular part of your weekly schedule. If you build three hours into every Sunday for meal planning and prep, you’ll be able to build a strong habit that keeps you accountable.
Meal prep is a great way to achieve your wellness goals in the new year. With plenty of healthy meals to go around, you’ll feel better and more satisfied throughout your week.