September 14, 2016

Meal Prep 101 – Basic Steps to Get Started

What does it mean to meal plan and prep, and how do you it?
Meal prepping is when you prepare and store your meals in advance. Some people prepare for an entire week and others simply portion individual fruit and snack servings for the week. Meal prep is what you make it.
I started meal prepping about five years ago and learned tips and tricks along the way. For me, I alternate between prep methods often on a weekly basis. Based on my Sunday schedule, is how I decided what and how much prep will occur. Some weeks, I have time to prepare entire meals for multiple days. As a mama to a very active toddler, lately I’m doing good to get veggies washed, chopped, and portioned.

The most important piece of advice I can give is keep it simple and do what works for your schedule. Do what you can do, when you can do it. Every little bit helps you get ahead of the coming week!

Here are basic meal prep steps to get you started. It will get easier the more you practice, and you will learn as you go.

Plan Your Menu and Prep Day
  • In order to know what you are going to prep, you must first plan a menu, shop for your groceries, and then decide when you will prep.
  • Next, determine what day you will meal prep. A very effective meal prep session can be done in 2 hours. Maybe not complete for the week, but you can a lot done in that time.

Grocery Shop
  • Once you set your menu, hit the grocery store like a stealth ninja…with a list. Ha! Seriously, I recommend focusing on your list and even setting a limit on how much time you will spend in the grocery store. If I have a solid list and don’t get distracted with all the flashy sales signs, my average grocery shopping time is 45 minutes.  
  • Only shop 1 – 2 days in advance of Prep Day to avoid food spoiling.
Clean Out the Fridge
  • Hopefully, you did a good job planning portions for the previous week and don’t have a ton of unplanned leftovers. If you do, it’s time to make the call – freeze or trash.
  • You need that valuable real estate to store your next week’s menu items.

Clean Up Everything Else
  • Get all the dishes out of the sink, empty the dish washer.
  • Clean off your counter tops, and make sure essential kitchen utensils and items are clean and readily available.

Create a Workspace
  • Kitchen islands and the space on each side of your sink are great areas for a prep workspace. I love my kitchen island. It’s my preferred workspace.
  • Choose a space close to your trash can or have a dedicated bowl or bag on the counter for scraps and packaging.
  • This will be home base for chopping, measuring, and portioning.
  • Cover your workspace with parchment paper to make clean-up a cinch!

Work Efficiently
  • If your meals for the week include like ingredients, then focus on ingredients and not so much the meal.
  • For example, two of my meals last week included zucchini – Squash Au Gratin (Recipe Here) and Meat Marinara over Sautéed Zucchini (Recipe Here). I washed enough zucchini for both recipes, sliced the amount needed for the Au Gratin and cut rest in large chunks for the Meat Marina. I then placed each in separate Ziploc storage bags and stored until time to cook.
  • The same thing can be done for meats. If your meal plan calls for ground beef, go ahead and cook double or triple for future use.
Stock the Fridge and Freezer
  • Package based on the type of food and when you plan to eat it during the week.
  • Divide fruits into individual servings using storage bags.
  • For cooked meats and vegetables, store the amount needed for the current week in the fridge and freeze any extra prepped portions in 1-2 cup increments for recipes in the next couple of weeks.
  • Fresh fruit, vegetables, rice, and quinoa keep fresh in the fridge for the week.
  • I recommend freezing raw and cooked meats if you plan to eat the second half of the week.
The most important piece of advice I can give is keep it simple and do what works for your schedule. Do what you can do, when you can do it. Every little bit helps you get ahead of the coming week!

I hope this helps with your meal prep!

1 comment :

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