Meal prep as its become known to many might sound a but urban if not urbane but it’s one of the best ways to have ready meals prepared by yourself or others to meet your nutritional needs. It may seem peculiar to spend time on what seems an obvious topic but it makes a great deal of difference to all those looking for an improved diet and with it a better lifestyle.
What it means to meal prep
So what is meal prepping anyway? It describes many different food preparation techniques and methods but they all essentially lead to the same thing.
It is all about meal planning.
So you get home from work or a hard session in the gym, look into the deep cavern of the fridge and think ‘Oh my!’ what am I eating today. I’m starving and I don’t fancy spending the time searching through the recipe books or eating the same pasta dish I had for seven nights running. Indeed, it might be yesterdays leftover lunch or something that was prepared beforehand to meet the hunger that comes as soon as you arrive home.
That is a basic type of meal prep.
What is being achieved here is a planned effort to make cooking easy so that it fits with your daily routine, your schedule for home living.
What are the meal prep options?
If you have time then some batch cooking might be your preferred initial route. That means taking a recipe such as a curry or chili lets say and making some large batches for portioning into smaller ones. These are usually frozen and saved for defrosting or cooking later on. Most people do this type of cooking on the weekend when time rich.
If you have the time too, then make further use of the batch cooking by dividing up into portions to create individual portioned meals that can be stored in suitable containers. These are then taken out and used as necessary. Simple!
If the final meal can be prepared later then it might make sense to just sort the ingredients out. Slicing, chopping, peeling, boiling as in blanching and roasting can all be done beforehand. These will be the components for all those meals that are conjured up later on.
Why meal prep at all?
Well this is about saving time and convenience. It might also be about using time when it’s available to create some meals for variety or when take-out and restaurants are just not what is required. It’s been a useful vehicle too for engaging children with leftover dinners especially when they and you for that matter have severe dietary restrictions. Likewise, you may need to avoid binging so a well portioned out meal might offer all the nutrients in one readily obtainable setting.
Another aspect is to create variety. Judicious use of herbs and spices along with different ingredients can turn a base recipe into a variety of other dishes. It just removes the monotony of eating the same meal every day. What is key though is your time for preparation and your imagination in the creation of that dish.
Find out first of all what recipes you need and the type of menu that is desired. Have you all the ingredients and the equipment to do what is required. Having prepared all these batches, a suitable set of containers is needed. These need to be ones that will chill easily and can be stored with food in a freezer.
They would also need to be microwaveable and should be suitable for placing in the dishwasher time and time again.
Always choose containers which are easily washable and made of environmentally friendly materials. If they are phthalate and BPA free, so much the better. Perhaps of greatest importance is that they do not present a food safety hazard and are always clean before use.
Meal Prep Apps
One of the latest innovations is the meal prep app. This is a downloadable piece of software that helps you with menu preparation, recipe development, planning and organization. It is often linked to a shopping system and one which even offers timings for cooking as well as generating grocery lists. Definitely something to take with you on your mobile because many supermarkets and grocers now link recipes to ingredients which can be sought out during the weekly shopping trip.
Foods that sit well with meal prepping
- Whole grains: wheat, oats, barley, sorghum
- Pulses: beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas
- Whole fruits: oranges, apples, pears
- Protein: eggs, tofu, shredded chunked cheese, meats such as port and chicken,
- Root vegetables: parsnips, potato, sweet potato,
- Frozen vegetables: so many to choose from but peas, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, mixed vegetables
- Nuts and seeds: walnuts, almond, chia seeds, brazil nuts
Invest in a suitable cookbook and there are many out there in the marketplace just waiting to be delved into. They make good reading too as you might not find the recipe you want immediately but at least they offer some great ideas. Check out the internet. The BBC Good Food guide always has some champion ideas.
Fitpacker produce meal prep containers that allows for those everyday meals to be stored conveniently. They have a very special feature which you should look for with other containers – a SureLock seal that clicks when closed so that there is no horrible leakage in the fridge.
The brand is USA based and uses a particular type of heavy duty foodgrade plastic for just this type of application. Meets all the requirements of being BPA free and safe to microwave, freeze, and use in the dishwasher (top shelf) over and over again. Look for Fitpacker Mini Meal prep Containers with lids.
You cannot discuss food containers without thinking of Rubbermaid which has various lunch container combinations.
As with Fitpacker, these are plastic food storage containers with lids that are leak proof. The one kit we looked at includes (1) 4.7 cup container with lid, (1) 3.2 cup container with lid, (1) dressing container with lid, (1) toppings tray, and (2) half trays.
The lid is clear and has built-in vents under the latches to prevent food exploding out of the container when under pressure, especially in the microwave. Being Rubbermaid they have also thought about making sure all their plastic and other exposed areas to food are stain and odour-resistant. Also suitable for dishwashers as well as microwaves.
Seek out the Brilliance Lunch Combo kit. It is very well priced and ideal for handling large amounts of leftovers.
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