Meal Prep Hacks - Make Your Prep Easier!

Prepping your meals in advanced is a great way to make sure that you're keeping your nutrition in check. Not only does meal prep save time in the long run, but it also means you're less likely to give in to the temptation of sneaking a 'bad' lunch at work or ordering something not-so-healthy for dinner. Depending on how much food you're cooking and for how many people your weekly (or bi-weekly) prep can take anywhere from 1-3 hours, so to make your meal prep a little bit easier I've written some tips that I've learnt along the way.

By selecting the meals you want to eat before you even step foot into the grocery shop or markets, you know exactly what you need to buy. 

Eating a variety of foods is essential to ensuring that your body is getting all the nutrients it requires to function well, so I would recommend rotating recipes and trying one or two new ones each time you meal prep, but then also have some staple favourites that you rotate between. Having a few 'go to' recipes that you are very familiar with can reduce some of your prep time because you won't have to spend too much time thinking about what you're doing to get the old favourites cooked.

Don't go creating elaborate meals that take four hours to prepare for your meal prep. To reduce your prep time try to find recipes that can be cooked in a simple manner, because you're not going to be able to focus on one meal at a time, which takes me to my next point:

Cooking one meal at a time just won't cut it with meal prep unfortunately. You're going to need to be cooking multiple meals at once. Try to do all the vegetable slicing together, and then fruit, if possible cook meats at the same time and separate them for flavouring/spicing after. Curries are also a great idea because they only require one pot, and one stove element while other things are cooking around them.

Some ingredients are not going to be too nice if you prep them and then leave them in the fridge, the best examples that I have personally encountered are spinach, avocado, and corn. These guys won't last too long. Consider how long your ingredients will last for and add some of them just before you serve the meals, rather than keeping them in the prep containers. 

Full meal prep may not be for everyone, and you might enjoy having salads for lunch/dinner, or cooking at dinner time. In this case, consider prepping just the ingredients before hand, doing the washing, chopping and then storing them away in the fridge or freezer to cut down on meal preparation time in the future.

Make your food more interesting by adding in spices, you won't regret it!

If you're meal prepping for more than one person I'd recommend placing a small sticker or label on some of the containers so you can identify which meals belong to which person. Because I prep for both Beau and myself I have to do this, his meals are twice the size of mine, and it wouldn't be good for him to take a Rachel-sized lunch to work, he'd be starving in an hour.

Ideally you only want to store 2-3 days worth of food in the fridge, anything else should be kept in the freezer for the sake of longevity. Anything that sits in the fridge for too long will go off, or not taste too good, and why waste your hard work and food.

Choose your meal prep containers carefully, this may mean the initial investment may be a bit more expensive, but if they're going to last longer it will be cheaper in the long run. Some things that I like to look for in a meal prep container:
- Clear lid (so it's easy to see which meal is inside)
- BPA free (if plastic) - alternatively you could be using glass containers, but I don't like the added weight in my gym bag
- Does not stain easily
- Can survive heat and cold (you're going to be freezing, maybe dishwashing, maybe microwaving - depending on how you like to heat your meals, so you want a very durable container)