Dietitian Meal Hacks: Meal Prep 101

It goes without saying that one of the best perks of using N4L’s farm to fork healthy meal plan delivery service is that it makes things simple — someone has already prepared your meals for you! While we take great pride in our meals, we also know there will be days our customers aren’t eating our food. We want to make those days easy as well! Meal prepping is a great strategy because it gives you one less thing to worry about during your day-to-day. Here are some easy meal prepping 101 strategies to get you started! 

1. Make a Plan.
This is the most important step in meal prepping. There’s no way to prep if you don’t have a plan. During this phase, you’re going to want to first determine what meals you’ll be preparing for the week and then create a grocery list. Never go into the grocery store without a list in hand or while hungry. This can lead to a stressful or unintentionally expensive shopping trip!
When planning recipes, try to diversify what you’ll be making but also look for common ingredients. For example, if a pasta sauce calls for only a ½ cup of vegetable broth, look for a soup recipe that you can use the rest of the container in. Variety is key for keeping meals interesting, but you don’t want to buy ingredients you’ll only ever use once! 

2. Find Exciting Recipes.

This ties in with making a plan, but make sure the recipes you’re selecting excite you! Exciting might mean something different to everybody; some like new and exotic recipes while others like quick and easy classics. Knowing what you like and occasionally pushing outside your comfort zone will help you select recipes that are good for you, while also saving you time and money.

Also, keep in mind what food groups you want to include. Everyone’s needs are different, but a well-rounded, healthful plate will feature most food groups. This can be much easier to achieve if you’ve already set a plan. If you’re following the Longevity Diet, try to prioritize fruits, vegetables, and whole grains over protein in your meals. For more info on The Longevity Diet, check out this blog post

3. Take Advantage of Free Time

Because of the busy schedules we live, it can seem impossible to find time to actually prepare meals. However, meal prep doesn’t necessarily mean cooking three full meals for the week on Sunday evening (though you certainly can if you have the time). Even if you only have an hour for meal prep on your day off, you can utilize that time to get ahead for the week.

Often the most time-consuming part of cooking is the cutting and measuring of ingredients. But if you know what you’ll be making that week, you can do some of these steps in advance. Does a chili recipe call for a blend of 10 different spices plus chopped onions, peppers, and mushrooms? In that one hour of prep, you can mix the spices together in a small jar and place the chopped vegetables in an airtight container to use later in the week. 

4. Have the Right Tools for the Job

You don’t have to go crazy, but certain tools can make meal prep much easier. For cooking, slow cookers and pressure cookers (aka InstaPots) are unrivaled. Slow cookers allow you to set up a recipe before you leave in the morning and come home to a fully cooked meal. Pressure cookers can drastically speed up cooking time by using much higher temperatures than your stovetop can achieve. Since these are both such trendy tools, there are countless recipes online to explore.

Having a way to store your prepped ingredients and meals is also essential. Buy what works for your budget and style. You’ll want to make sure you have larger containers for prepping, but also smaller ones so you can take individual portions on the go. Mason jars are also a great option — check out our guide for how to layer a mason jar salad. Make sure you’ve got room in your refrigerator/freezer for prep and ice packs/an insulated lunch box for taking meals on the go as well!

5. Utilize Leftovers

Leftovers are a great way to get ahead on meal prep. Freezing extra portions of a meal for a quick weeknight dinner is a great place to start, but it goes beyond that! When making your plan for the week, you might see you’ll end up with an extra ½ an onion. Instead of throwing it away, look at your other planned meals and see where you can add it in. We actually already have some tips and tricks on how to repurpose your leftover veggies. 

If you really can’t find a way to utilize leftover ingredients, why not chop and freeze them for another week? This will shorten your future shopping lists and save you money. It will also cut down on food waste, helping you keep your kitchen more eco-friendly!

6. Enjoy the Process!

This may not seem like an important step in the meal prepping process, but it is! If you absolutely hate the thought of meal prepping and go in with a negative attitude, you won’t be able to stick with it for very long. If that sounds like you, try starting small. Plan out just one meal for the week and do some of the prep beforehand. Even if you don’t love cooking, you’ll likely enjoy the time and stress saved! 

Changing the environment can help too. Grab a friend or family member, play your favorite songs, or make a recipe you really enjoy. Anything you can do to help make cooking positive will make you more likely to do it in the future!

Overall, meal prepping is a way to reduce stress, save time, and encourage healthy eating habits. The best part is that it gives you more time to focus on the other important things in your life. Happy meal prepping everyone! And for healthy meal plans delivered directly to your door, get started with one of our healthy meal plans, available from Nutrition for Longevity