Cooking your own food isn’t only better for you than eating out, it can also be much cheaper! The problem for many people is time: Who’s got the hours it takes to shop for groceries and cook fresh meals every day? There’s a secret weapon that makes it easy to enjoy homemade meals throughout the week and it’s called food prep. By taking some time out of the weekend to prepare meals for the days ahead, you can be sure that you’re saving money and eating healthy without having to worry about finding the time to cook when you’re tired and hungry later in the week. Here are 4 key tips that will make meal prep a breeze!
1. Planning Is Key
This might seem obvious, but it’s the most important part of an effective meal prep program. Set aside some time during the week and research different recipes and healthy snacks. Next, use what you find to put together a menu for as many meals as possible throughout the week. And remember to think about variety! Since it can get boring eating the same thing every day, it can be a good idea to plan for more than one recipe for each meal — two different dinner options, for example. Having one recipe for Monday, Wednesday and Friday and another for Tuesday and Thursday can help prevent one meal from getting too boring.
2. Buy Food at the Same Time
Armed with a meal plan, you can head to the grocery store ready to buy everything you need for a week’s worth of healthy, frugal dining.1 This makes it easy to prep — if you planned well, you won’t get derailed by any missing ingredients — and it helps you out if you don’t have time to do as much prep as you’d like. With all these healthy ingredients in your kitchen, you’re more likely to cook at home instead of going out, saving money and doing your body a favor!
3. Prep Just Means What You Have Time For
Experienced meal preppers might spend hours on Sunday carefully cooking and storing every meal for the next week, but you don’t need to make dozens of courses to effectively prep. Every step you take on the weekend to make your meals less time-intensive during the week will make it easier for you to stick to your healthy, money-saving plan. Just pre-chopping some veggies for salads and starting to marinate some meat will make it that much simpler to start cooking when you’re ready to finish the recipe. Just because you can’t get it all done at once doesn’t mean that it won’t help later!
4. Packaging Makes Things Easier
Dividing your prepped food into single serving containers makes it easier to stick to your meal plan throughout the week. If your meal is sitting in the fridge, ready to be reheated in minutes, you won’t have any excuse to order expensive, unhealthy delivery. Similarly, small containers or baggies with healthy snacks like veggies or nuts can be carried around with you, giving you something besides junk food to eat when hunger strikes. Think outside of Tupperware, too! Mason jars with dressing at the bottom can be layered with vegetables, fruits and greens, making a ready-to-shake salad that can be carried anywhere.2
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1 Arangio, J. (n.d.). 6 meal prep hacks for any fitness goal. Retrieved May 6, 2015, from http://www.mensfitness.com/training/pro-tips/6-meal-prep-hacks-any-fitness-goal/slide/1
2 Kresge, T. (2014, March 17). The ultimate mason jar salad tutorial and recipe round up. Retrieved May 6, 2015, from http://www.organizeyourselfskinny.com/2014/03/17/the-ultimate-mason-jar-salad-tutorial-and-recipe-round-up/