Here are my top 10 tips for making meal prep easier for you as well as just some ideas that work well for me.
I work different hours than the usual 9-5 job and sometimes don’t get home until 8 or 9pm, and as well as that I train hard and often and need to get the calories in for recovery , so meal prepping has become a very important part of my life.
Remember, as with everything in life: Failing to prepare is failing to succeed!
As a general weekly rule of thumb I like to do my meal prep on Sunday and Wednesday night and this will last me for my lunches for the week. I cook up the meat, some staple starch dishes our and add my veggies fresh! Then a few snacks like muesli bars, banana bread, little egg quiches or oat protein cookies etc. usually for me and for Ashley’s lunch boxes.
It won’t happen overnight, but eventually a routine will form and you will start to rely on it. It also helps to save on bills, shopping time and kitchen prep!
If you don't have the time to set aside a few hours per week to do an all-inclusive meal prep, that doesn't mean you can't benefit from any prep whatsoever. Sometimes all I have time for is just chopping up veggies for the week and putting a roast in the slow cooker to divide into meals later. This in itself makes life so much easier.
Also if you are strapped for time, prepping the meals that need top priority for you is best, like lunches at work or late dinners when you get home really late and can’t be bothered cooking. For these times, meal prepping will make all the difference in the world.
I like having all my veggies peeled, chopped and/or spiralized in advance, as that way I just add them to the dish that I am reheating and they cook perfectly so they are still crisp and not overcooked. I also use them for juices and smoothies. Zucchini noodles & butternut squash noodles will stay fresh in the fridge for 3-5 days, and chopped vegetables like carrots, onion and pepper will last a week when refrigerated properly.
When you reheat food regularly, you quickly learn what isn’t and isn’t nice reheated. Some dishes were almost made to be eaten as leftovers, and others just go mushy or lose their crisp etc.
With meal prep, try and stick to making the dishes that reheat well, otherwise you might find yourself wasting food because you don’t like it and aren’t able to
Some of my favorite "safe choices" are soups, curries, stews, chicken dishes, rice & other grain dishes, meat patties and meat balls etc.
Foods that I find don’t heat up well are: egg dishes, steak (can get too tough), veggies that are already cooked (they go mushy and overcooked), ready made burgers (bread gets soggy) etc.
For the last couple of weeks I have been wanting to add smoothies back into my diet, but I find it’s a bit of a hassle to take everything out to make them, so I decided to pre-assemble the ingredients in ziplock bags (you can freeze these bags easily). By measuring it all ahead ahead of time (i.e. your berries, nuts, greens, coconut cream, etc. all in one little bag) it will make it so easy to chuck it all in the blender and go. Your shake will be perfectly portioned, every time, with less mess and less to put away too.
Protein is essential for muscle recovery after a tough workout and it’s really important to include it in all your snacks and meals. I like to make energy protein balls, bars and cookies during my meal prep. I’ll whip up a batch and store them in the fridge for up to six days.
I often keep a list of my preferred primary sources of protein, carbs, and fats separately and then I can work off that list along with my favourite recipes.
For example, my list would look like this:
Protein: Chicken, pork, turkey, eggs, lean beef, tuna, protein powder
Carbs: Fruit, potato, sweet potato, vegetables, rice, oatmeal, quinoa, beans, couscous
Fats: Olive oil, chocolate, nuts, meat, dairy, fish oil.
When you're new to meal prepping, stick with recipes you've made many times and are comfortable with. It’s a good idea to have a list of your go-to recipes that provides enough variety but that are easy to make and always seem to work and turn out well.
This prevents wasted time and money on recipes that turn out bad and allows you to focus on being organised and getting the meal prep done.
*If you want to continue expanding your menu (like me :), try to experiment outside of your planning and prepping. I like to leave a couple dinner "slots" open each week when I am home and I can go to town with experimenting in the kitchen.
Putting your chicken, salmon or beef into portions and putting it on wooden skewers can help you control how much you’re eating in one sitting and is a super easy way to meal prep. I find if you marinate your meat ahead of time and then cook it on the skewers it tastes amazing. *If you’re using wooden skewers, remember to soak them in water so they won’t catch fire in your grill or oven.
I make a big batch of fresh vegetable stock & keep it in the fridge, it lasts in an airtight container for 6 weeks. This is my base for a lot of meals and makes the food taste amazing. You can make the stock from scratch using nothing more than vegetables, Himalayan salt and water!
Other than that, if you keep a list in the kitchen of spices & herbs that go well together it will make it easier for you, especially if you aren’t especially talented with flavours and cooking. I posted some ideas of good combinations a little while ago & I will include it here for easy access.
If you are strapped for time or don’t want to add any extra calories or change the macros of the food, you can easily flavour meat, fish, chicken, even vegan friendly foods like tofu, tempeh etc.
And to finish off this post, here is my "cheat sheet” for you of my favourite flavour combos (both dry rubs and marinades). These are so easy & you can pretty much use any type of meat/veggies & go to town, without changing the nutritional profile of the food you are eating much at all (so you can track your macros easily).
Once you have the idea of these flavour combos down, you can get creative and experiment (know the rules so you can break them!:). The sky is the limit and it will make your food so much less boring. Let me know in the comments your favourite spices and herb combos.
-Mexican: 1 tablespoon chili powder, ½ teaspoon mild paprika, ½ teaspoon dried coriander, juice of one lime, salt and pepper
-Greek: 1 tablespoon Oregano, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons lemon, salt and pepper
-Mediterranean/Greek: 1 tablespoon rosemary (fresh or dried), 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper
-Italian: ½ tablespoon oregano, 3 cloves garlic or ½ tsp garlic powder, ½ tsp basil, salt and pepper
-Indian: ½ teaspoon cumin, 1 tablespoon curry powder, ½ teaspoon coriander (or 1 tablespoon fresh coriander chopped finely), salt and pepper
-Chinese/Japanese (this makes a marinade or stir fry sauce): ½ teaspoon grated ginger, ¼ cup light soysauce, 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, 3 cloves garlic or ½ tsp garlic powder, dash red chili flakes, 1 tbsp honey
-Thai: ½ teaspoon grated ginger, handful fresh chopped coriander, 3 Green or red chilies chopped finely, seeds removed, 2 cloves garlic, salt and pepper.
Join the other 10,000+ who get my best fitness, diet & mindset tips.