Meal Prep Made Easy: Tips and Techniques

When it comes to cooking, many people don’t want to be bothered, but a few hours in the kitchen once or twice a week can really simplify your life! When you make your own meals, not only can you control how much and what you put in them, but you can save lots of money on buying food outside of your home. Does meal prep and cooking at home seem like too daunting of a task? If so, follow these simple steps to make meal prep a breeze.

Have a plan. Know which foods you want to make, write them down on a piece of paper, and then determine whether or not you want to create simple recipes or if you want to cook up everything a la cart style.
Create your grocery list at home. That way, you know which foods you have and which ones need to be replaced. Include any items from recipes you may want to cook.
Do some math and purchase what you need for you and your family for a week. For example, a good guideline is 4-6 ounces of lean protein per adult family member at meal time. If you want to make Chicken three nights a week for two people, buy 1 1/4 to a pound and a half of chicken breast for the week.
Once you’ve set a predetermined day or two each week to cook and meal prep, choose what foods you will make. If cooking multiple meals, maximize your time by cooking each meal with a different cooking method. For example, prepare a chicken stew in the crock pot, bake fish and vegetables in the oven, and prepare some stir fried chicken on the stovetop to toss into a fresh salad. That way, you’re never waiting for oven space or another burner on the stovetop. Everything can be cooking at the same time.
Set up a small box, container, or plastic trash bag on your counter. This seems like such a basic step or something you may not think about, but you can use it to throw in any food scraps, waste, and trash you may have. It helps with clean up, it saves time, and it will free up much needed counter space while you’re cooking.
Have your mise en place for each dish or recipe. Take out all items you will need and prepare them accordingly. Ensure you have appropriate measuring utensils and whatever herbs and spices you may need handy. Chopped vegetables in one bowl, chicken strips in another, and measure out the other ingredients you will use so everything is easily accessible when you need it. There’s nothing worse than running around the kitchen looking for that herb or spice mix when the chicken is cooking on the stove!
Once everything is simmering or baking away, begin the clean up process, but ensure you’ve set the necessary timers. Put used dishes and utensils in the sink or dishwasher, return herbs and spices to the rack, put trash in the garbage, and give the counter a good wipe down. The next step is to portion out your meals, so everything doesn’t have to be super clean yet- you may still have some washing and wiping to do, especially if you spill something!
Get out that Tupperware or storage containers of choice and separate each meal evenly into the containers based on intended serving sizes. If the chicken stew in the crock pot serves four, evenly divide it into 4 containers. Now you have four meals ready to go. If you baked fish and vegetables, place each fillet into a container, add the vegetables, and refrigerate.
If you kept some meals simple, like the plain baked fish and vegetables previously mentioned, keep some healthy oil based dressing or sauce of your choice to add different flavors throughout the week. One day you can make guacamole and garnish with lime and salsa, and another day you can add some balsamic vinaigrette, capers, and goat cheese for variety.
When all foods are in their proper containers, finish cleaning up whatever kitchen supplies are still out. Wipe down the counters, give the floor a good wash with the stiffer, and turn on the dishwasher.

All of this may seem like a lot of work, but it’s really not. In fact, cooking once or twice a week will save much more time than cooking every day and it will certainly save money when compared to eating meals out. So, put together that grocery list and get cooking at home today!