Dietitian’s top tips for meal prepping
Life can be busy and demanding. And with all the pressures of the day the last thing most of us want to do is come home to cook- it’s inconvenient. While trying to manage time, have a work-life balance, save money, and make healthy decisions, it can be difficult to decide what to eat.
If this is you (and it is many of us!) you may have heard of meal-prepping. We’re going to share some top tips and tricks on how to stay on top of your meal prep game; saving you time, money, and the hassle of telling the delivery driver your order is wrong!
What is meal prepping?
Meal prepping is short for meal preparation which is essentially planning and making your meals ahead of time. It is a great way to save time spent in the kitchen, plan nutritious meals, and save money.
There are different methods of meal prepping dependent on the variety of food you want, the amount of time you have for preparation, and how flexible you want to be with your meal options.
- Batch-cooking: cooking a specific recipe in bulk and portioning it into containers to be refrigerated or frozen. This works well if you don’t mind having the same meal on repeat.
- Preparing ingredients: for example, prepping vegetables that can go into a quick stir-fry or alongside your main meal.
- Making individual meals that can be refrigerated for the week. This is probably the most popular option and gives you some much needed variety.
Here are our top tips:
- Know what you already have at home
Planning your meals based on what you have at home already will help you reduce food waste, and it means you will buy less when you go food shopping. A quick look through your fridge, freezer, or pantry can unleash new meal ideas; for example, that old can of red kidney beans at the back of your cupboard can be made into a delicious chilli or a stew that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways.
- Organise your shopping list
Supermarkets are built to make you stay there for a long time. The longer you stay in a store the more items you’re likely to buy-whether you need them or not.
Creating and organising your list according to supermarket aisles can help you buy only what you need. For example, you can expect to find your tomatoes and spinach along the same aisle so make sure they are written next to each other on your list.
- Go shopping at home first
Once you know what you’re cooking and what you need to buy, check your kitchen/ pantry for what you already have. Again, this will help you reduce food waste as you will use the ingredients you have at home more immediately and it stops you buying things you do not need.
- Consider each food group
Preparing your meals ahead of time is an easy way to ensure you create healthy and balanced meals. As you have time to plan what to cook and buy the ingredients, you can intentionally plan meal ideas based around eating more fruits & vegetables, complex carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats.
Incorporating foods from each group in the correct portions and considering the overall portion size of your meal will help you create a nutritious diet that can optimise your energy levels and keep you satisfied once you have eaten.
If you are unsure how to do this, remember we can certainly help you out with this, so do not hesitate to reach out to us today.
- Make a menu
Food fatigue is real! Eating the same thing repeatedly will make you tired of that food- scientifically proven (1). So switch it up. The need for variety is a major reason why we as a nation order take-away food (2).
Deciding what to eat can be stressful and time consuming and that’s before you even start cooking.
However, making a list of foods you enjoy cooking or eating, can save you time when making this decision. You can also try new recipes that are easy to follow and can be ready in minutes. Experiment with new foods and flavours from other cultures. Try a meatless Monday for example or take a look at our “10 ways to slowly ease into veganism” blog for some ideas on how to adapt your favourite meals.
You can also find some easy snack and meal ideas on our Instagram page.
Have you ever noticed that your favourite food delivery apps have a list of what you recently ordered and suggestions of what to order next? They’ve made you a menu which makes it easier for you to pick and you can do the same.
- Batch-cook a versatile base that can be used in many different meals
You might be meal prepping for a group of people who have different palates and don’t often agree on what to eat.
Try cooking a base that can be used in many different fast meals for a week day dinner. For example- a tomato based sauce is versatile and a staple in British homes. This can be used as a sauce with pasta and cheese, can easily transition into a soup, or can be used as a pizza base instead of your Saturday night takeaway.
- Use containers with compartments
Once you’ve cooked your food you need to store it. And in order for your meal prep to be worth it, you want to be able to enjoy it as though it is fresh.
Using containers with compartments allows you to separate foods and maintain optimum freshness, taste, and texture. You might want to store your rice and stew separately to preserve the structural integrity of your meal.
- Food safety is key!
Finally, after your hard work putting your meals together, you need to store your food safely. Ensure that you cook, cool, and store your prepared foods the right way.
Before freezing foods that you’ve cooked, ensure that they are cooled and labelled with the date you made them on so that you can easily tell which meal you made first when looking through your freezer.
Know the shelf life of foods you are cooking- read the labels to know which foods are suitable for home freezing and for how long.
Check that your fridge and freezer are at the correct temperature. Fridges should be 3-5 degrees Centigrade, and freezers should be -18 degrees (3).
Lastly make sure you reheat your food evenly. Some foods like meat dishes may need to be thawed in the fridge before being warmed in the microwave. Check that food is piping hot before you eat it.
We hope you find these tips helpful and that they save you time and money. If you would like more support, our team of registered dietitians are on hand to help!
By Esther Longe, Dietetic Student, revised by Reema Patel
To book a 1-1 consultation with one of our dietitian specialist, click HERE