It’s often difficult to take the time to prepare and enjoy nutritious meals. Especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with unpredictable work schedules and hectic family lives, many people turn to more convenient (and often unhealthy) options to feed their families. That’s why many busy and health-conscious folks are turning to meal prepping as an alternative solution for a more wholesome food lifestyle.

What is Meal Prepping?

Whether you need to plan breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the next week or make a bulk recipe to freeze and use over time, you’re doing a type of meal prepping. Meal prepping is simply the method of preparing meals ahead of time. However, beyond convenience, there are several other reasons to evolve your meal prepping process. 

Benefits of Meal Prepping

Save time

Try brainstorming a week’s worth of meal ideas in one sitting. Make a list of dinner options and highlight each night you’d like to cook a meal at home.  Ultimately, meal planning is much easier than deciding what to eat for dinner each night or to overbuy at the store. Make a list of what you have already and what you need to pick up at the supermarket for each meal.

Save money

Strategizing your food budget can save a ton in the long run. If you create a weekly or monthly meal plan and stick to it, you’re less likely to make impulse (and unhealthy) purchases. It also cuts down on food waste in general when you buy for specific meals.

Eat healthier

Planning meals ahead is an opportunity to make healthier food choices. Without a plan, it’s easy to fall into munching on whatever is around. If you’re starting a new weight-loss program or want to make better choices in general,  meal planning can help with portion control and make it easier to opt for fresh-food options.

4 Tricks for Easier (and Faster) Meal Prepping

There are endless ways to prepare a meal, and everyone does it a little differently. Focus on your priorities (health, time, ease, etc.). Here are a few common ways to meal prep.

Make-ahead meals

Casseroles, stews, and soups are perfect make-ahead meals that can satisfy the whole family on a busy weeknight. If you know that the beginning of the week is always crazy, set aside time over the weekend to prepare a one-pot recipe or two that you can quickly pop in the oven for a stress-free dinner any weeknight. 

Frozen bulk recipes (batch cooking)

Another quick meal prepping method is known as “batch cooking.” Prep any soup, chili, rice, or other family-style recipes and use them over time. Many foods will last in the freezer for three to six months. Thaw overnight or the morning of use and add to your meal of choice.

Individually-portioned meals

Prepping pre-portioned meals ahead is excellent for on-the-go eaters. Indie meals are also perfect for health-conscious folks who like to prepare weekly meals for weight loss and overall diet and wellness goals. To start, create a  meal plan with foods you like balanced with fruits, vegetables, and proteins. Make a large batch and then separate out one-meal portions. 

PRO TIP: Search for recipes that cater to smaller quantities, such as one or two-person meals. It’s much easier to divide portions and fill lunch or dinner meals for the week.

Pre-prepped ingredients

If you still want to cook meals right before serving, you can always prepare the ingredients ahead of time. Save time on cutting, chopping, and measuring during the week by doing it all at once. Try using similar ingredients across different meals. For the kids, chop fresh carrots, broccoli, peppers, and other healthy bites. Later, use the same chopped ingredients for dinnertime soups, stews, or pot roasts. 

4 Tips to Take Meal Prepping to the Next Level

Now that you know a few easy ways to prep meals across the dining spectrum, here are a few additional pro tips to take meal planning to the next level. 

Create a meal plan

Having recipes picked out for the next week’s meals is a great way to organize your shopping list, budget for groceries, and save time. Create a schedule for whichever meals you’re planning and create corresponding grocery lists. Be sure to check the pantry for items you may already have. Take note of ingredients you need frequently and buy in bulk. 

Start slow

To gauge how much you’ll realistically cook and eat, choose recipes for just one or two meals. Figure out how long it takes you to make each. That will help you know how much you really need in a week. 

Invest in storage

Proper storage is key to successful meal planning for freshness, consistency, and portion control. From reusable plastic containers to earth-friendly reusable bags, make sure you have the right tools to keep everything organized — and store different foods appropriately. Mason jars, all-metal containers, and wooden bento boxes are great, too.

Organize your recipes

This is all about catering to your own personality. If you like printed or hand-written recipes, organize your collection with a binder. Online, most cooking sites let you easily search and save favorites. Create a folder on your browser with links to your favorites or start pinning on Pinterest.

Start meal prepping for a more stress-free, healthier diet and lifestyle.

Whether you’re looking to improve overall health with smarter food habits or take the stress out of cooking for your family, meal prepping can change your life for the better. Use these tips and advice to start meal prepping today.