Between busy work/school schedules, long commute hours, the desire to have quality family time, food prep can be the last thing you feel like doing. The Failing to prioritize cooking a healthy meal has brought about an increase in takeout food which is often full of unhealthy ingredients and not pocket-friendly in the long run. There’s an abundance of ready-made food however, nothing beats a homemade meal prepared with love. That’s why meal prepping can help you bridge the gap of cook time and exhaustion.
Meal preparation or prepping is a concept that involves preparing several meals or dishes ahead of time. There are different ways of going about it.
- Make-ahead meals. Cooking complete meals and heating them during mealtime
- Batch cooking involves making multiple meals and going ahead to portion and store
- Individually portioned meals. These are prepared meals portioned into individual grab and go bits and eaten in the next few days
- Ready to cook ingredients which includes prepping parts of the recipes beforehand as a way to reduce cooking time
Whatever method works for you and your family, the benefits of preparing meals in advance are;
- Time-saving since there is reduced time spent on cooking and figuring out what meal to prepare next
- Cost friendly because the ingredient planning process cuts out any unwarranted expenses for ingredients not required
- Meals prepared are often made with nutrition in mind, and this promotes healthy living
- Storage of the meals based on portions that are enough for each individual hence reducing food wastage
- Reduced stress because you are not constantly thinking about what to eat
While there are multiple benefits for this method, several concerns need to be addressed. The food is either chilled or frozen over a while, deterring those who prioritize freshness. Additionally, it may involve eating the similar meals over a duration of days a few days. However, the secret lies in finding what works best for everyone.
If planning to start meal prepping, it is worth noting that the best foods to work with are pulses, lean protein, whole fruits, nuts and seeds, stiff vegetables, and whole grains such as oats. Sample menus can be overnight oats and chia pudding for breakfast, grilled chicken breast, meatballs, blanched vegetables, boiled beans or lentils, and githeri for lunch or dinner.
Meal preparation tips
- Have the appropriate storage containers; preferably airtight containers
- Pick a day to do your meal prep
- Determine how much you want to prepare
- Take stock of what is available and shop for what is needed
- Choose a meal you would like to prepare for like breakfast, lunch, or dinner
- Be mindful of storage life. If in chilled conditions, the food can last for two to five days and when frozen up to six months. The concern lies in the type of food and ingredients used
- Cook recipes you will eat
- Make enough food to fit your plan to avoid cooking in between
- Pick versatile ingredients to ensure variability
- Start simple to avoid getting worn out and ditching this plan
- Portion the foods to save yourself from eating too much
- Make it enjoyable
- Stay organized. Label each container with its contents and date, keep stuff that has been there longer near the front, and put food that spoils fast at eye level to avoid forgetting it
The hustle and bustle can be overwhelming. However, to get by life such that you are present in all of life’s happenings, this is one hack you ought to try.