Want to rock mealtime like the goddess you are? It’s time to learn about meal prepping. This technique, which your mom or grandma may have practiced, slashes time spent in the kitchen. Here’s the busy woman’s guide to meal prepping.
Meal prepping is the process of preparing ingredients and recipes in batches so you have fewer kitchen tasks during the week. Some people like to prepare an entire week’s worth of recipes in one day, making it simple to heat-and-eat throughout the week. Others prefer to prep the ingredients so when it’s time to eat, it’s easy to combine the prepared ingredients and cook them.
Let’s get started with our guide to meal prepping!
1. Plan your meals.
Ever reach into the fridge while making a recipe, only to find that ingredient you could have sworn you had is nowhere to be found? Set aside time every week to plan meals, so when you’re ready to meal prep, the ingredients are ready, too! Begin planning with Meal Planning Resources and Menus.
2. Build weekly menus based around shared ingredients.
One of the easiest ways to streamline meal prep is to use like ingredients during planning. For example, plan Seared Chicken and Quinoa Salad and Breakfast Quinoa for the same week, so you can prep a larger batch of quinoa on one day and then use the remainder later in the week.
3. Plan for leftovers.
We share plenty of recipes that make delicious leftovers, including Slow Cooker Texas Chili and Skinny Lasagna Rolls (before cooking the rolls, freeze a few for an easy lunch or dinner another week). Plan to get creative with leftovers, too. For example, shred one night’s Chicken Roast with Lemon & Rosemary into the next day’s lunch salad.
4. Pick a shopping and meal prep day.
Many meal preppers find it easiest to prep on the same day as their large weekly grocery trip. This allows you to prep ingredients, like fruits, veggies, and herbs, while they’re at their freshest. (Don’t forget to use these 10 Money-Saving Grocery Tips while you shop!)
5. Prep and cook the recipes.
If you’re making all your recipes in one day, get cooking and then skip to step 8. If you’re preparing your ingredients to cook later in the week, then move on to steps 6 and 7 in our guide to meal prepping.
6. Slice produce.
With fruits and vegetables, plan to slice, dice, or chop on at least two days during the week. Prepared peppers, broccoli, and carrots can last for up to a week, but others, like cucumbers, will go bad after about three days. Store prepared produce in airtight containers. If you’re portioning out leafy greens, like lettuce, wash and dry the leaves well, then place them in a bag with one or two paper towels to absorb water. Learn more in How to Store Fresh Produce.
7. Cook the meats.
Prepare as much of your protein as possible on prep day: brown ground turkey, grill chicken, etc. Consider cooking them with minimal seasoning, such as garlic or pepper, so you can add recipe-specific flavor when you heat up the meat later in the week. Everything Roasted Chicken is a fantastic recipe that yields a versatile chicken for meal prepping.
8. Store in labeled, stackable containers.
Always label prepared ingredients and/or recipes so you don’t get stuck playing “Hey, when did I make this?” Use stackable containers to take some of the hassle out of storing them in the fridge or freezer. Another way to save time is to pack prepped lunch recipes into pre-portioned serving sizes, so you can grab lunch as you walk out the door in the morning.
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