These simple meal prep hacks will help you spend less time in the kitchen and remove the hassle of wondering what’s for dinner. Try a few today and make meal preparation enjoyable.
Preparing meals ahead of time means you’re spending a little time when you have it to make sure you’ll have healthy food even when you’re busy. No more running out the door without breakfast or going out to eat because you don’t have a dinner plan.
If you’re following a specific weight loss or eating plan, meal prep can help you stay on plan.
Here are simple meal prep hacks to help you get started.
Batch cooking is simply making large portions of food that can be mixed and matched to make various meals. Some people choose to cook only once a week and batch cooking helps them do this. This works especially good for those who work a full time job.
If you can, shop and cook your meals on one particular day and time each week. This means that the oven will only be heated once, the mess of chopping and slicing meats and veggies happens only once and you’ll have time during the week for things you want and need to do.
But don’t feel like you have to batch cook a whole meal to see the benefits of batch cooking. I’ve found that if I have meat cooked, I can easily round out the meal with whatever is growing in the garden or with things I have in my home preserved pantry.
I’ll often brown 10 pounds of hamburger while cooking dinner and freeze 9 pounds. If we have the grill fired up, I’ll bring out several packages of meat, cook it, and then freeze most of it.
Make ahead mixes are another form of batch booking. It’s super convenient to have a batch of brownies, pancakes, or scones within easy reach.
Salad and Smoothie Mixes
I love eating salads, and honestly they only take a few minutes to prepare but it takes even less time when I prepare several at once and put them in mason jars and store in the refrigerator. If you put salad dressing in the salad, put it in the jar first, then stack hardy veggies such as cherry tomatoes or corn on the bottom.
It’s the same thing with smoothies, they’re not hard at all to put together but if you have to open several containers when you’re already pressed for time you will probably head out the door without breakfast.
You can store the fruit and veggie mix in a ziplock bag or mason jar in the freezer. If you use a regular mouth mason jar and have an Oster blender, the blade assembly will fit on the jar and you can blend right in the jar.
Use a crockpot
Use a crockpot or InstantPot to save time and effort. Almost anything can be cooked in a slow cooker or InstantPot, here are some slow cooker recipes to get you started. Of you need some InstantPot help and inspiration, this is a favorite Instant Pot cookbook, see if your library has it or can get it before deciding if you need to own it.
Plan for snacks
Snacks can make or break your eating plan and your wallet. Instead of grabbing something from the vending machine or convenience store, keep some healthy pre-planned snacks available. Healthy snacks are especially important for children and teenagers – it takes a lot of nutrition and calories to build those strong muscles.
Muffins make a great snack and can be made with seasonal fruit, like these strawberry muffins. If you don’t make muffins because you’re afraid the whole batch won’t get eaten before they go bad, then freeze them. You can freeze muffins before or after cooking them.
Fresh fruit and vegetables makes good snacks, as does sliced cheese and meat. Spend a few minutes cutting up enough to last a couple of days and store them in the refrigerator.
Just know how long things will last once they’re cut up – leave apples whole, but slice carrots. Cut apples will only last a day or two but sliced carrots can last a week in the refrigerator.
Make enough for leftovers
A great way to reduce expenses is to use the dinner leftovers to pack the next day’s lunch. If you don’t have access to a microwave at work, use a wide mouth thermos or an insulated lunch box.
Cooking a big batch of dried beans and making various meals or a making a large pot of chicken soup are also great ways to use leftovers all week long.
Another way to use leftovers is to just make double or triple of what you are making for dinner and freeze a portion for another meal. I always try to have three or four freezer meals in the freezer and this is how I do it. Freezing food for later is easy, just follow a few simple guidelines.
If you’re looking for a good book on making freezer meals, Not Your Mother’s Make Ahead and Freeze cookbook is good, see if your library has it or can get it before deciding if you need to own it.
Organize your refrigerator and pantry
It’s important to organize your refrigerator before meal prepping. You don’t want to be in a hurry to get out the door and have to rummage through the refrigerator for your carefully prepared breakfast.
It is easier to rotate the supplies in your pantry when it is organized. Consider having a separate shelf or zone for baking, preserved food, and dehydrated food.
Meal planning is important when things get crazy for the holidays or when the family is visiting. You’ll think of more meal prep tips and ideas to make prepping fun and enjoyable as you go along.
What are some of your favorite meal prep hacks?