Let’s talk about meal prep! I’m sure you have heard this referred to many times, and have often been told to do it by annoying bloggers on the internet (guilty!). But what does meal prep really mean and, more importantly, how do you actually go about doing it?!
At the basic level it might seem obvious… you prep your meals in advance (Sherlock Holmes right here ladies and gentlemen!). But you might still have some questions that are holding you back from taking the plunge and actually meal prepping, such as how long does it take, how far in advance to prep, which meals to prep etc. That’s where this blog post comes in! Of course, if you have any other questions that aren’t covered here then please do reach out – we would be happy to help!
First things first, what’s meal prep and why should you consider doing it? This is really a catch-all phrase which covers anything from just preparing pre-frozen fruit and veg for smoothies to preparing a week’s worth of meals in advance. The idea simply being to make healthy eating less hectic and more achievable. If you have had a long day at work and can’t be bothered to cook a meal from scratch, it can be tempting to just grab a take-away or something unhealthy from the fridge, but if you have pre-prepped your meal you just need to warm it up! Not only does it make healthy eating easier, it is better for the environment and your wallet as it reduces the amount of food waste you produce! It's a win win win situation!
Bear in mind that there is no right way to meal prep – the idea is just to make things easier for you. It might take a bit of trial and error, but once you have nailed it you’ll find sticking to your healthy eating plan so much easier!
How long does it take?
This will really depend on what meal prep looks like for you. If your major struggle is getting up in the morning to make breakfast, then spending half an hour on a weekend chopping up fruits and veggies to make pre-frozen smoothie bags is going to help you loads during the week. If, however, you want to pre-prep your evening meals, this will likely take a little bit longer. I find when I am meal prepping for evening meals that cooking a large amount of around 3 different, easy to freeze, meals usually does it. So, for example, I might make a large amount of lentil daal, curry and bean chili – these are all easy to make in bulk, easy to freeze and are healthy, delicious meals that I will feel like eating when I get home from work! This doesn’t take as long as you might think. Depending on the number of pots and pans you have available, you could have all of this completed in anything from 1-2 hours. That might sound like a lot, but you will be thankful for it during the week when you reeeeally don’t feel like cooking.
How far in advance should you prep?
This will depend on a few different factors, including availability and type of storage containers, storage space, how much time you have available to spend on prepping, and the types of foods you like to eat. If you like to eat fresh salads, you should probably only prep those meals a couple of days in advance, as they will wilt and become unappealing. If you like to batch cook meals to freeze, you can prep a few weeks in advance. This again will just be a case of trial and error. You need to find what works well for you.
Which meals should you prep?
You might be starting to see a bit of a theme here, but again you need to do what works for you. Try out a few different ways of meal prepping to see what saves you the most time and at the best time of day. I am not a morning person, so prepping some overnight oats or a frozen bag of veg and fruit for smoothies works well for me (but Jonny is a morning person, so it also works well for me when he sorts out coffee and breakfast :p). We both work in London, so buying lunches at work is not only wasteful but it is super expensive. That means that it is important for us to meal prep lunches, to save both money and reduce waste.
Dinners aren’t so bad, as one of us will usually be home a bit before the other and will have time to cook. If you take a look at your own routine, you will probably see similar patterns where you notice it will make sense to save yourself time and/or money.
In terms of the types of food, you will just need to consider how well things will keep. Jonny and I tend to avoid prepping rice dishes in advance, as we are aware that we would need to be careful when reheating them. Similarly, we know that potato wedges don’t reheat particularly well, so we avoid making those. Once you have tried it out for a while you will learn the types of meals that work for you and the types that don’t.
- Prep food that you’ll look forward to eating. It’ll help you a lot if the food you make appeals to you when you are tired and just looking for something quick and easy.
- Invest in good equipment (if you can) and maintain it well. It makes a real difference if you are using a good quality, sharp, knife to chop veggies, and it will make storage a lot easier if you have high quality, reusable containers to store your prepped meals in!
- Consider that you don’t always have to prep the whole meal – your prep could consist of just chopping up and portioning ingredients so that they are ready to use when you want to cook.
- Plan ahead. It will seem much less daunting to prep your meals if you know in advance what you will be cooking/preparing. It will help even more if you plan before you go shopping, as that will save you money and reduce waste (with the added bonus that you will have all of the ingredients you need).
- Start simple! Don’t just jump right in with preparing two weeks’ worth of gourmet meals (unless you’re feeling mega confident) – chances are it’ll be too much work and you’ll feel deflated and uninspired to continue. Start slow, prep simple meals a few days in advance and take it from there. If you want to build up to more varied meals in higher quantities then be my guest, but personally I think it is best to avoid starting with this.