Updated: Jan 21
It's a new year and it's a fresh start to meal prepping! Read below for my top 10 recommendations to make meal prep a breeze - whether you are a stay at home parent, like me, or you work a busy schedule and need to ensure you and your family are ready to eat nutritious meals when you walk in the door.
Meal prep - some people love it, some don't, some tolerate it and some won't. Wherever you land on the spectrum of meal prep enjoyment, there are some quick and fast ways to implement meal prepping without having to set aside hours on a weekend or weeknight prepping away. Read below for my top 10 quick meal prepping ideas!
"You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces, just good food from fresh ingredients" ~Julia Child
1. Obtain safe containers to store your meal prepped items in
Mason jars are great for storing jar salads, granola and cold items like chia seed puddings
Glass containers with sealed lids are great for storing leftovers, chopped veggies and fruit and grilled proteins
BPA free plastic resealable bags are great for storing cooled leftovers intended to freeze, pre-made smoothie bags and portioned fresh protein
2. Create jar salads for lunches
The best way to layer a mason jar with salad fixings are in this order:
Dressing on the bottom
Next add hard veggies
Then add your diced protein
Add soft fruits and vegetables
Add your cheese, nuts and seeds
Top off with your greens
Close off with a mason jar lids
I recommend making three at a time, that way your food doesn't spoil while in the mason jar
3. Cook extra, freeze extra
When you cook dinner, and your meal calls for, example, grilled chicken, purchase a family sized pack of chicken and cook all of your chicken at once. Then, you have protein for the week.
When you are making soups or stews, make an extra batch and freeze the extra batch for a quick "freeze ahead" dinner.
4. Freeze cooked protein
When you make extra protein, such as chicken, slice it into strips, separate on a cookie sheet, and freeze in your freezer. Once frozen, place the strips of protein into a BPA free plastic resealable bag. Then, you can take out what you need, when you need it. I did this often for my kids when they were little - a quick side of protein, some chopped veggies and some rice was my go-to lunch for them.
5. Pre-chop fruits and vegetables
Pre-chop a few days worth of veggies and fruit. I find this extremely helpful for when I'm making my boys their lunches, or when I want to make a quick snack between after school and dinner. I can throw some veggies on a plate with a scoop of hummus and they have a great after school snack that holds them over until dinner.
6. Overnight Oats & Chia Seed Pudding
There are many recipes on the internet for overnight oats and chia seed pudding. You can create a few of these in mason jars for a few days ahead, then just top with your favourite sliced fruit and you have yourself a nutritious breakfast or snack.
7. Meal Plan
This one takes some more time, but if you are able to meal plan your meals ahead of time, you can shop in one visit at the grocery store for all of the items you need. I often try to find recipes that use the same ingredient more than once - that way I am not purchasing 20 different items of produce and instead, using up the entire bunch of scallions, for example.
8. Prep for more than one meal
If you meal plan, and you know that you will be using the same produce for multiple recipes, you can prep for those other recipes as well when you are cooking your first meal. So if two recipes call for chopped carrots, chop the extra amount and store it in a container for your next night - that's one less thing you have to do!
9. Prepare smoothie and crock pot meal bags
If you like to have smoothies, or you are planning on making a crock pot meal, the night before, chop all of your ingredients and store them in a BPA free plastic storage bag. In the morning, dump your bag in your blender or your crockpot, add the liquid, then blend or turn the crockpot on. Easy clean up, virtually no mess.
10. Order from a meal prep delivery service or prepped fresh meal kits
You can order fresh food, either cooked or ready to cook from delivery services. They are the rage right now, and you can get pre-chopped and prepped fresh meal kits or even pre-cooked meal prepped meals. They tend to be more pricey, but if you outweigh the cost of this vs what you would spend going out for dinner, you may find that it's not much different or even cheaper! (ie $40 for two meals at a restaurant or $40 for 4 meals from a meal kit or delivery service). Search your local area for these offers.
I hope this helped to build confidence that you can meal prep without sacrificing a lot of extra time or energy, but just remember, implementing something new takes practice, and may take extra time the first or even second go at it, but in the end, you will see how much less stress and how much more time meal prepping - even the easy way - can save you!
Feel free to post any other ideas below in the comments to share with other readers!