Meal Prep the Right Way
Content by: Jamie Rinaldi, RD, MS in Applied Physiology & Nutrition
Wondering how to meal prep the right way? Confused about putting all the pieces together for healthy meals throughout the week? Read this article for tips on planning and preparing meals for a whole week. Download the infographic, save or share with others.
Don't wait until the last minute to figure out what you are going to serve for dinner. Last minute decisions lead to less-than-ideal choices. The following suggestions will help you more efficiently plan and prepare your food each week.
Spend some time browsing the internet for appetizing and nutritious recipes that appeal to everyone in the household. Search for preferred cooking methods and what cooking equipment you have in the house. Store recipes together for easy review.
TAKE INVENTORY OF YOUR KITCHEN
Clean out and organize the refrigerator and pantry. You may find some surprises! It is a good habit to do this monthly, so you know what is in your kitchen. Use items before they expire.
MAKE A GROCERY LIST
Check your grocery store circular for what is on sale. Write out your list and follow it as you shop. Use your meal plan and recipes to determine what items you need to purchase, keeping in mind what you already have in your house. Organize your list based on where items are located in the supermarket. Consider including some convenience items, like frozen produce or individually wrapped chicken breast fillets to help shorten the time spent in the kitchen.
MAINTAIN A WELL-STOCKED KITCHEN
Always have the items that have long shelf life and will be used frequently when cooking.
- Flour, cornstarch, baking powder and baking soda
- Canned goods (beans, lentils, other vegetables, tomatoes, tuna)
- Whole grains (brown rice, whole wheat pasta, quinoa, oats)
- Cooking spray, oils and vinegars
- Honey and other sweeteners
- Nut butters
- Herbs and spices
- Bread crumbs
WRITE YOUR MEAL PLAN
Print out a blank calendar and detail your meal schedule for the week. Keep in mind the food you already have in the house. Review the recipes you will use to determine what other foods you need to buy. Consider variety and nutrition when planning each day. Make a theme for inspiration: Slow Cooker Sunday, Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday and more!
MAKE PLANS FOR YOUR LEFTOVERS
Leftovers common. Anticipate and consider how you can repurpose leftovers. Transform them or freeze them for future consumption. Label and date leftovers. Keep a list of what needs to be eaten.
- Transforming leftover spaghetti into a pasta stir-fry or frittata.
- Using the remains of roast turkey or chicken for soup, chili, pot pies or quesadillas.
- Making chowder with leftover seafood.
- Rolling uneaten pork or beef into tortillas for fajitas or tacos.
- Sautéing leftover rice with veggies and egg for a "fried" rice.
START YOUR FOOD PREPARATION
Starting from scratch on a daily basis is time-consuming and unnecessary. Wash and chop all your fresh produce as soon as you return from the grocery store. You may wish to even cook prior to storing. Store your prepared produce in air-tight containers in the refrigerator. You can also cook your proteins and store them in airtight containers to grab throughout the week. Freeze whatever you won't be using within the next few days. If you're a fan of smoothies, you could prepare individual servings of ingredients in resealable plastic bags. When you're ready to make a smoothie, dump the bag of ingredients in the blender along with some almond milk, peanut butter and ice. You can have a delicious meal ready in under a minute!