It’s incredible what meal planning can accomplish to help us get through a challenging week. Making meals quick and simple to prepare not only lessens stress but also increases our likelihood of cooking when we are tempted to order pizza.
How to prepare a week’s worth of meals, meanwhile, isn’t always straightforward. To help make the process simpler and smoother, we wanted to share our best weekly meal prep advice with you.
What does meal preparation mean in practice?
But first, what does meal preparation entail? Why is meal planning beneficial?
Some individuals define “meal prep” as making entire meals or dishes in advance. It usually refers to prepping materials or portions of meals ahead of time so that cooking or assembling your meals may go much more quickly.
Meal preparation is, in other words, the washing, peeling, and cutting of vegetables that will be used later on in the week. Making marinades or vinaigrettes is what it is. It involves cooking grains like rice or other grains so they are prepared for use when needed. And certainly, there are occasions when it involves making complete dinners or recipes that reheat nicely.
Making a home-cooked supper may be accomplished in a matter of minutes if you do as much as you can in advance. Knowing that all you need to do on a hectic night is sear some meat, put together a salad, or reheat a prepared soup with pre-made wild rice is a lifesaver. Additionally, because you can be more strategic and organized with your activities when you prep in advance, you spend less time cooking each week, waste less food, and therefore spend less on groceries, and it is much simpler to maintain a balanced diet.
Are you convinced yet? Next, let’s discuss the advice!
Prior to meal preparation…
Unbelievably, the majority of the preparation labor for a meal occurs before you begin cutting and mixing. You may make dinner preparation much more successful and efficient by being prepared each week. This will also lower the likelihood that you’ll waste food you’ve previously worked hard to prepare.
Discover how to create a food plan
First things first: Prior to planning your meals for the week, you must decide what you will consume. Meal planning is therefore a crucial initial action.
Of course, some people choose to live dangerously and improvise. We strongly advise meal planning as a strategy to save money on groceries and lessen food waste, however, you can absolutely prepare enough vegetables to last a week and figure out how to utilize them afterward.
Try not to “go big or go home”
Okay, so you’re probably already at home if you’re meal preparation. But here’s the thing: It’s alright to start off modestly. Don’t expect to prepare everything you’ll need for the entire week every week if you want to make meal planning a habit. You’ll appreciate having a head start for the week even if you only prepare one meal, chop a few veggies, or make a pot of noodles. Meal preparation is a habit that you may develop once it becomes established, but all habits take time to form.
Buy lots of containers for meal preparation
You need more refrigerator space and meal prep containers when you prep. We adore these glass containers for dinner preparation since they may prevent aromas from ruining the fridge and because of their tight seal, which prevents liquids from leaking. Metal is heavier but less reliable than plastic, and plastic makes it more difficult to recall what’s inside. Regardless of the kind, make sure to get containers in a range of sizes. To make sauces, spice blends, marinate meats, and other things, you’ll need a variety of sizes, from large ones for chopped root vegetables to tiny ones for minced garlic.
Establish a regular time each week
You can only prepare meals if you set aside time for it. Set a time for your preparation today and repeat it every week on your calendar or in your reminder app. This will increase your likelihood of sticking to your plan and make developing a habit of weekly meal preparation much simpler.
Figure out how to cut effectively
Knowing just how to prepare and cut any fruit or vegetable you’re using will save you a ton of time while preparing meals. Long-term benefits will come from taking the effort to acquire and practice these abilities now. You may just be preparing for this week, but you’ll still need to eat again the following week, the following month, and the following year. By honing your abilities today, you’ll be doing your future self a favor!
Keep your blades sharp
Your preparation will go more quickly if you use the right tools and take care to keep them in good shape. If you can, get your knives professionally sharpened every six to a year; if not, sharpen them yourself at least once every few months. Although some individuals are terrified of sharp knives, you are safer when using ones that have been properly honed. If the knife slides, you’ll need to apply less pressure to the object you’re slicing, making it less likely that you’ll get hurt. A sharp knife is also less prone to slip.
Understand how long components last
Within a day or two after being sliced, cucumber becomes soft. In the refrigerator, tomatoes get mushy. However, most marinades may be prepared a full week in advance. Preparing items that will get rancid, mushy, or sour before you can utilize them will waste your time and effort. Know how long your ingredients will last, both whole and after preparation, and when you want to use them in recipes. Some components are simply not worth preparing ahead of time!
It’s time to begin your preparations now that you have a strategy! Here are some suggestions for speeding up and streamlining the actual preparation so you can go on with the rest of your day.
1. Your jobs should be batch processed
Making a list also makes it easier to identify areas where you can group chores. For example, if you’re chopping broccoli and bell pepper for a supper, chop the vegetables directly after the sweet potatoes so you don’t need to wash the cutting board twice. To avoid constantly pulling out and putting away the same bottles of vinegar, soy sauce, and oil as well as washing measuring spoons before you’re finished using them, prepare any vinaigrettes or sauces at the same time
2. From the firmest to the messiest
When cutting vegetables, start with those that are firm and don’t contain a lot of liquid. Then go on to a slightly messier vegetable, and eventually conclude with vegetables like tomatoes that will ruin the cutting board. By doing this, you may save time by avoiding the need to wash and dry the cutting board and knife in between each vegetable. By chopping raw proteins last, you may clean your cutting board afterward and/or put it in the dishwasher to lessen the chance of raw meat and vegetables becoming contaminated.
3. Keep a trash can nearby
As you work, have a dedicated location for biodegradable garbage. In addition to saving you trips to the trash or compost bin, doing this will keep your workspace free so you have enough room to prepare food without tipping anything over.
4. Think about what you can prepare together
Are you baking some fish for supper tonight? You could maybe bake the chicken thighs for the salad for tomorrow at the same time. This won’t need much more work and will prevent you from having to preheat the oven more than once. Using one side of the sheet pan for today’s vegetables and the other for later works great for roasting vegetables.
5. Double your grain intake
It’s entirely OK to use the same grain for both recipes if one calls for rice and the other for barley. Create two batches today to ensure that you’ll be ready later on in the week, or just create extras to keep on hand for lunches. Extra cooked grains may be frozen, which can come in handy in the future if you run out.
6. To label containers, use dry-erase markers
Not remembering what’s what during dinner preparation is one of the biggest frustrations! To make sure you don’t use the incorrect sauce in a dish or wait a little too long to cook a meal you prepared, label your containers with the date and contents. Our preferred method of labeling is with thin dry-erase markers, which may be applied on glass, metal, or plastic and are simple to remove after the contents have been utilized. Just make sure to thoroughly dry wipe the container’s outside before labeling!
7. Make it enjoyable!
Play a podcast, get a drink of wine or tea, and ask a friend to join you (or do a meal prep via Zoom). The time will fly if you engage in pleasurable activity while preparing, and you’ll begin to look forward to all the chopping, dicing, and mixing. Additionally, unlike with usual supper preparations, meal preparation is often not done when you’re hungry or under pressure to keep to a timetable, which makes it an inherently less stressful activity. If you approach meal preparation as something you get to do rather than something you must do, you could find that you begin to look forward to it.
How far in advance can you safely prepare meals?
Planning out your meals, including portion sizes, is a component of meal preparation, which begs the issue of how long in advance you should meal prep. Will the meals you prepare sustain you for the entire week? In terms of safety, you shouldn’t prepare meals a whole week in advance if you’re putting them all in the fridge, regardless of whether you wish to eat the same meals so frequently. The USDA advises that cooked meals should only be kept in the refrigerator for about four days before they become unsafe to consume.
The exact timing may differ slightly
A USDA expert claims that bacteria, mold, fungus, and yeast may begin degrading food after about four days, but the precise period depends on a number of variables. For instance, sauces containing citric acid can keep food fresher for longer. Keeping your refrigerator at 30 degrees Fahrenheit rather than 40 degrees Fahrenheit may help extend the shelf life of some items by one or two days. The shelf life of your components will also impact how long they last. For example, whereas cooked pasta has a shelf life of up to five days, rice and quinoa often last another day or two. Avoid overcrowding your fridge because it might alter the temperature overall and use an airtight container to preserve food at its freshest.
According to Insider, you should schedule two different days of preparation each week if you want to have enough food for the full week. Additionally, you may freeze a part of your prepared meals and thaw them overnight in the refrigerator. According to FDA rules, various foods keep in the freezer for varying amounts of time, but if you plan to eat them within a week or two, you shouldn’t have any issues. Just keep in mind that not everything freezes well and adjust your meal preparation schedule appropriately.
How can you tell if your meals are still safe to eat after being prepared?
There are a few things you may look out for when attempting to decide whether that fantastic, nutritious dinner you created is still okay if you aren’t getting the answer you’re searching for on the FDA standards. When discussing food safety, some of these strategies can seem more obvious than others, but it’s important to communicate too much.
Take a look at the texture of your meal if it has passed all the previous inspections. There is a considerable possibility that the food is no longer good if there has been a significant texture change or if it seems slimy.
Mold is one of the most evident indications that the food you prepared for dinner didn’t last as long as you anticipated.
If your food displays mold growth, you must discard it immediately. Believe us. There is nothing that should drive you to do anything other than throw it out, regardless of how much money or effort you spend preparing the dish.
All of us have been there. Your dinner has been in the refrigerator for a few days, and you’re not sure if it’s still good. After then, confidently take a smell.
The color of the meal that you have made is something else to consider. The hue of each component should be the same as when it was initially prepared. If the meat or lettuce is gray, brown, or otherwise strange-looking, it’s best to toss it out.
Color can be misleading, though, if the ingredients you used contained preservatives.
How can you make sure no meals go bad when you meal prep for a week?
When you prepare meals in advance, there’s a strong possibility that the majority of them will survive for three to five days. However, if you want to prepare meals for seven days, you’ll need to do it over the course of two distinct sessions each week.
The other choice is to prepare meals that freeze well. Following that, you may freeze the remaining meals and leave a couple in the refrigerator for the first three days. Then, before going to bed, you may take a frozen meal out to defrost overnight in the refrigerator, guaranteeing that it will be fresh.
Have you thought about using a meal prep delivery service?
The truth is that dinner preparation is a lot of work, despite how good it may appear on your friend’s Instagram page. Cooking may be a very laborious task for those who don’t love it. By using meal prep services, you may save valuable time while maintaining a healthy diet.
Check out our healthy customizable meals if you want to start eating better to support your exercise objectives.