Here are some of my favorite meal prepping strategies and to be honest most prep days I use all of these strategies to get the most out of my meal prep session:
Basically preparing an extra-large batch of something that is perfect served re-heated and is freezer friendly – think soup, stew, chili or curry. The idea is that one batch can be eaten the same day you prep and the second batch can be reheated on a day during the week where all you have time for is a simple re-heat. Or keep a portion in the freezer for a meal to be used in the following week or even weeks ahead.
Let’s be clear. As a family of six everything I make is already in large batches but when I speak about extra-large batches, I am talking about making enough to be consumed at least twice for that week and possibly even a third batch to tuck away in the freezer.
Have you tried my Vegan Red Lentil and Channa Dal or my Beef Barley Stew yet? They make for the best ‘batch cooking’ meals that re-heat extremely well and can last for weeks in the freezer.
What I like most about batch cooking is that for a bit of extra prep time and planning to ensure you have enough ingredients – you can walk away with not just one dinner but a second for later in the week and possibly even a third that I can add to my “freezer stash” of meals. Now that’s efficiency!
FREEZER STASH >> Building up a handful of meals in the freezer and keeping them tucked away for those unexpected late nights or when hubby is left alone with the kids – is what I like to call my FREEZER STASH. Consider this…if you make it a weekly habit to freeze at least one meal a week it won’t take long before you could build up a pretty good freezer stash of your own! After just 5 weeks of meal prepping you could have enough meals for an entire week – no cooking required!
PREP INGREDIENTS WITH LONG COOKING TIMES
Preparing ingredients that generally take a long time to cook and having them prepped ahead of time is a great time saver.
⇒ Grains like brown rice, quinoa or barley.
⇒ Starchy vegetables like potatoes and squash.
⇒ Dry beans like chickpeas and kidney beans.
Of course, when it comes to beans – you can easily use canned although I prefer to stay away from canned foods unless I’m in a pinch – this way I can stay clear of added sodium and preservatives.
The instant pot by the way is your best friend when it comes to cooking dry beans. Just thoroughly rinse your dry beans, soak them overnight and follow the instructions for cooking times. Cooking your beans via the instant pot allows for handsfree cooking while you are keeping busy meal prepping the rest of your meals.
MEAL PREP PLANNING TIP >> When you are coming up with your meal plan, be sure to include a reminder the night before your scheduled meal prep session, to rinse and soak the beans so that they are ready for your prep the following day.
When it comes to meal prepping grains, starchy vegetables and grains – I like to rotate between different varieties each week to ensure we are getting a variety of plants and therefore a variety of vitamins and minerals in our diet.
Having these ingredients cooked ahead of time allows for simple re-heat side dishes or part of your main dish ready and waiting!
PREP HEALTHY TREATS & SNACKS
When we think about meal prepping we often think about neat and organized meals for the week – but meal prepping is not just for MEALS.
Meal prepping is the perfect opportunity to prep a batch (or two) of healthy treats and grab-and-go snacks for the week ahead.
Snacks like hard boils eggs, chia pudding, homemade hummus and veggies that are already washed and cut of course and ready for dipping. These are all great whole food options to include as part of your meal prep.
If you follow me on Instagram @guidedwellnessbyangela you know that healthy treats are a must in our house so that when the craving for something sweet hits, I know I have a healthy alternative ready and waiting. Like my no-bake Twix Bars made with dates and homemade chocolate or my Tahini Cardamom Energy Balls
I find myself prepping no-bake treats a lot because they are super simple and quick to prepare. But when I have more time – I love baking up a double batch of something yummy like my Banana Oat Chocolate Chunk muffins.
MEAL PREP STORAGE TIP >> Whatever your sweet cravings are – make a batch or 2 from scratch and individually wrap your treats and store them in the freezer which makes for a really easy grab-and-go option (perfect addition to school lunches) and helps ensure optimum freshness.
MAKE A DOUBLE BATCH OF PROTEIN
Including a double batch of protein as part of your weekly meal prep can be a great meal prep strategy. Your protein of choice can be anything from grilled chicken to roasted tempeh or pulled pork. Whatever fits your lifestyle! The idea is that you prepare enough of your chosen protein to use for multiple meals and you can be creative and re-invent your prepared protein, so you are enjoying it differently each meal.
HERE’S AN EXAMPLE >> A popular double batch protein in our house would be chicken breasts. I like to cook these in the oven on a sheet pan with just a drizzle of olive oil and sea salt. Keeping the flavour simple allows for more flexibly when it comes to incorporating it into your meals. You can change up the flavour by adding your favorite or spices, fresh herbs or pesto! So if I cook up a double batch of chicken breasts as part of my #sundaymealprep. We will likely enjoy ½ of the cooked chicken breasts that same night, possibly slathered with my homemade BBQ sauce and served up with roasted veggies, a cooked grain and side salad. Then the remaining chicken will be for another night during the weeknight as maybe a Chicken Caesar Salad (with homemade dressing of course) and fresh baked croutons.
Generally some proteins can take time to prepare and cook, so including a double batch of protein as part of your weekly meal prep along with other components of your meal (in this case having your lettuce washed and cut and the homemade Cesar dressing already made) can be a great meal prep strategy. This way when you are ready to enjoy your meal – all you need to do is assemble or re-heat rather than cooking all the components of the meal including the protein from scratch which can save you so much time.
One last meal prep strategy is to try to include a salad dressing from scratch, a homemade dip or your very own BBQ sauce or homemade jam. Now you might be thinking…”Why would I waste my time meal prepping condiments?” I know, these are great convenience items to have on hand BUT one of the great things about meal prepping is that you can carve out time to prepare items that you wouldn’t normally have time for. AND once you get into the habit of making these things from scratch, I promise you won’t go back to the store bought stuff!