You’re busy, so use these ideas to keep meal prep quick

Quick notes:

  • Hectic work weeks make it challenging to eat healthy, cost-effective meals
  • With the right planning, meal prep can help you avoid bad spur-of-the-moment food decisions and keep your diet on track
  • Look out for overlapping ingredients in your recipes to cut down on prep time

Eating well is a huge part of living a healthy lifestyle, right? But fixing up your diet is easier said than done, especially when you’re trying to find something nutritious that also aligns with your beliefs and dietary needs.

When you’re out all week navigating the stressful time constraints of a 9-5 job, for example, food offers will tempt you from around every corner. If you’re tired of the same Falafel every day because the local supermarket offers perhaps two semi-decent vegetarian options, and you’ve been consuming deep-fried vegetables like a manic rabbit on the sofa each night, then it might be time to rethink the meal-prep situation.

If you’re looking for some tips on how to jump into this new money and waist-line saving adventure, then read right on! Just follow these five guidelines to make sure you prep meals in a healthy, cost-effective way every time.

1. Plan ahead

For meal prep to work, you need to be organized. Make sure to allocate about an hour or two each week at a consistent time to prep your meals. Many do this on a Sunday when the week is right ahead. Know what your week is going to look like and what your food needs will be: Will you need breakfast, lunches, and dinner? Are you planning to eat with a friend or go to an office lunch? Adjust your meal plan accordingly. Write a shopping list from the recipes you have picked and stick to the list when you go shopping. Plan freezer-friendly food so you can cook double batches and eat them later – your wallet will thank you. 

Unsplash/ eesteejanssens

2. Use overlapping ingredients

Try to find a few dishes that use overlapping ingredients. This is where cost-efficiency comes in. Thrown out food is thrown out money, so make the most out of all the ingredients you buy and avoid getting items that will serve one dish only. You can have spinach in a salad one night and in pasta another. Or make falafels one day, and chuck those remaining chickpeas into a curry a few nights later. 

3. Mix things up

Prepping one dish for the whole week is easiest, but perhaps you don’t fancy eating the same thing three times in a row. Enjoyment is essential to making this useful life-style trick sustainable, so create some variation in your meal prep. Prep three different dishes that you can alternate during the week, or choose plates you can have with various sauces. A vegetable stir fry can be enjoyed with rice and soy sauce one night, and work with a spicy tomato sauce another. Having a few different dressings at the ready helps a great way towards variety.

Unsplash/ annapelzer

Also, keep in mind the 1+1+1 rule: Each meal should include one protein, produce, and a portion of a starch-rich ingredient. If you prep variations of each section separately, you can pair them as you wish later on in the week.

4. Keep it organized

Preparing several dishes at once is not easy, but here are a few tips on how to go about it:

  • Chop your fruit and vegetables beforehand. This makes it much quicker and easier to use them later on.
  • Use gadgets such as slow cookers and steamers to take care of some of the cooking while you do something else.
  • Roast. Roasting a large batch of vegetables and carbs is easy and time effective, and you can use your roasted foods in a variety of dishes during the week. Roasted vegetables work in salads, pasta, sandwiches, and buddha bowls. Roasted sweet potatoes make for an excellent carb-centric side during the week.
  • Be freezer friendly. Store away portions of ingredients you won’t use until later on at the beginning of the week. Keep your dishes in plastic containers so you can freeze and organize them easily.
  • Freeze portions, not the whole batch. That way, you can take out just one dish without having to unfreeze everything else. This is also a great way of making sure you’ll eat no more than the right amount each time.

5. Enjoy!

Meal prep is meant to make it easier for you to eat healthy, delicious food during the week. Learning to organize your diet takes time, so don’t stress out if every week doesn’t always turn out as you planned. Enjoy the process and take this opportunity to get creative with your recipes!

And of course – Bon Appetit!

A deeper dive — Related reading from the 101:

Test for fresh eggs and cook them in the best ways

A few tips on how to plan and host a perfect dinner party