Meal-prepping is a time-saving approach to cooking. Rather than starting each meal from scratch, meal prepping involves preparing large batches of food to store and then retrieve to eat over time. A little extra time spent prepping can save a lot of time later on.
Why Should You Meal-Prep for the Week?
The thought of meal-prepping can be intimidating. Just think of all of that food that you have to cook in one sitting! And the cleanup? Yikes!
First, let’s look at the benefits of meal prepping.
- To save time
Will meal-prep take a few hours? Yes, but only once a week. Many meal-preppers dedicate a few hours over the weekend, typically Sunday, to shop, organize, chop, cook and store the week’s meals. Place meals in the freezer or refrigerator, so it is easy to pull out throughout the week without prepping and cooking each time. The nightly contemplation of what’s for dinner with nothing in the refrigerator will no longer be a daunting task.
- To save cost
Meal-prepping can save money. Often groceries purchased weekly may not be fresh by the time you are ready to prepare it. By planning and cooking ahead, you save yourself the mental battle of daily decision-making and preparation. Did you know Americans spend more at restaurants than they do on groceries? Millennials use 40% of their food budget eating out. Also, when cooking in bulk, it makes sense to purchase in bulk, thus saving money upfront.
- To be able to easily multitask
Meal-prepping and getting ahead of the week allows you to multitask. While you are planning dinners, go ahead, and prepare lunches as well. And if you also plan for weekly snacks, impulse snacking can be at a minimum. Dedicating a few hours once a week to prepping all meals can help avoid any surprises later in the week.
- To make shopping easier
Typically, we all walk through grocery stores aimlessly picking up more groceries than initially planned. Meal-prepping requires you to make a list. A newer alternative is purchasing pre-cooked and pre-packaged meals from delivery services. Either way, shopping for groceries becomes a breeze, saving you time and money while helping you reach your goals toward healthier eating.
- To save calories from eating out
For those who don’t like to cook, it’s easier to order in or eat out. But if your meal is prepped and ready to eat, what’s the excuse? Meal prepping encourages you to eat less junk and enjoy healthier food easily. Also, meal prepping allows you to factor in portion control, leaving fewer opportunities to overindulge.
Types of Meal-Prep
Let’s look at four different types of meal prep. Which one best fits your needs?
- Full make-ahead meals
This method allows you to cook a full dish and store it in your freezer or fridge for later consumption. An example would be making your lunch or dinner the day before because you know you will be too busy to cook the next day.
- Batch cooking or freezing
Batch cooking means you’re preparing several meals at a time, after which you portion and store them in the fridge or freezer. When should you use batch cooking? This type of meal-prepping is best suited for recipes that can be made in large quantities—for example, pots of soup, mashed sweet potatoes, rice, etc.
- Meals for one
This meal-prepping approach requires you to prepare enough food for more than one meal and then portion it into single-serving containers. If you have prepped several meals in this manner, you may have a nice variety. Think left-overs, intentionally.
- Ingredient prep
A less time-consuming meal-prepping option is ingredient prep. This involves prepping parts of recipes to use when you’re ready to cook them. For example, chopping veggies, marinating meat, mixing spices, etc., can be done in bulk and then stored. Not only will this save you time when you are ready to cook, but it can also make veggies last longer. Prep the vegetables and store them in the freezer.
Meal-prepping can be very beneficial in helping you reach your fitness goals. Not to mention, if you are tracking macros, meal-prepping is an easy way to use your calculated daily macros and structure your meals the same way a few days in a row. Learn more about macronutrients here.