What is meal prep?
“Meal prep,” or “food prep,” is all about assembling several meals and snacks all at once. Meal prep includes planning, shopping, washing, cutting, cooking, and packaging. This practice has been around for a long time. In the past, food prep and batch cooking was most commonly seen in large families; they had no other choice but to prepare large quantities of food to ensure there was something for everyone to eat. More recently, meal prep has become popular in the fitness and bodybuilding circles, where athletes trek around precisely portioned containers of food, consuming x number of calories a day to ensure peak performance. Currently, meal prep is the go-to method for people just like you and me, looking to live a healthier and more organized lifestyle.
Why meal prep?
Most people explore the world of meal prep to achieve their weight management goals and to experience the benefits that come along with healthy, whole food eating. These outcomes are guaranteed if you follow my 5 Steps to Meal Prep routine, but it’s the unexpected benefits that motivate people to adopt this habit for good. Some of these benefits include:
- the hours you regain everyday when you’re not cooking and cleaning up after every meal
- being more present during mealtimes, more specifically, eliminating the need to multitask (no more bouncing back and forth between the stove and helping with homework or juggling work tasks) while preparing food
My 5 Steps to Meal Prep Success
One of the first steps to executing a smooth and organized meal prep, is organizing your fridge and pantry. Placing commonly used items in an easy to reach location and using beautiful air-tight canisters like these will help you get excited about the next step which is to fill them up with healthy staples.
2. Food Shopping
Shopping for food is the catalyst for a successful food-prep session. Without a proper “grocery haul,” there would be no prep.
Packing your groceries in an orderly fashion will put you a step closer to food-prep success. These produce bags are great for fruit, vegetables and more. I love them because they replace disposable single-use plastic bags (finding new ways to reduce waste is one of my new year resolutions). Not only do I use these at the grocery store but I use the bags to separate and store produce in my refrigerator.
3. Clean and Cut
Washing and cutting produce in advance will keep you ahead of the game when it comes to preparing meals and healthy grab-and-go snacks. This step will also save you time and money by eliminating food waste (we can all relate to those forgotten foods at the back of the fridge or bottom of the crisper drawer.
Top tip: after grocery shopping, take your produce out of the bags and place them directly in the sink. Follow the DIY wash (below) to keep your veggies fresh and prepare them for cutting and slicing.
This mandoline slicer makes life so much easier!
D.I.Y. Produce Wash: fill a clean sink with fresh, cool water (or a plastic tub with 8 cups, or 2 L, of water) and add 1⁄2 lemon (juice and rind) and 1⁄4 cup (60 ml) of vinegar. Place your fruits and vegetables in the sink. Let the produce sit for 4-5 minutes then rinse and dry.
Obviously meal prep includes the cooking step but for the ultimate time-saving and efficiency, it’s best to cook as many items as you can at once; having two or three items cooking at once will greatly speed up the prepping process. Using a stovetop, oven, and Crock-Pot or Instant Pot at the same time is the best way to get your prep done fast. If you’re new to cooking in this way or new to prepping, this multitasking skill will take a little practice but it will become second nature (I promise).
When you are cooking multiple items in the oven at the same time, different foods will be done at varied times. Cooking times can also increase when cooking a few items at once, so keep an eye on things and promptly remove from the oven when done.
The perfect thing for food safety is this thermometer.
Another favourite prep tip is to use an oil sprayer like this to cut back on overusing oils. I have two of these that I fill with my favourite healthy oils, one for extra-virgin olive oil (great for salads) and the other for avocado oil (perfect for the air-fryer).
5. Portion and Pack
Whether you’re looking to lose weight, build muscle, or maintain your weight, using containers with appropriate portion sizes should be a priority for you. Portion sizing is one of those elusive concepts that people think they have a good grasp on; however, most people underestimate the amount of food they eat in a sitting. If you have a bunch of random containers or mismatched lids, I suggest you start fresh with this set of glass containers in varying sizes.
These mason jars are a new addition to my container collection and I couldn’t be happier with the function and style of these. With the dressing jar attached to the lid, I can create yummy salads and oats for the week without compromising freshness.
I can’t wait for you to use all these Kitchen Stuff Plus tools and experience the feeling of accomplishment as you put the lids on all your prepped and portioned meals. There is no better feeling than knowing you are prepared for the week (or at least a few days), with healthy meals made by you! Be proud of your accomplishment when you’re finished. I know I will be.
Erin Romeo is an author of “The Visual Guide to Easy Meal Prep”, nutrition coach, She’s an advocate for good nutrition and regularly shares her tips and tricks for healthy eating on Instagram, where she’s better known as the @foodprepprincess”. Erin and her meal preps have been featured in a number of publications such as: Shape.com, Health Magazine.com, Oxygen Magazine, thekitchn.com, The Daily Burn.com, Buzzfeed, Brit+Co and was voted one of the “Best meal Prep Accounts on Instagram” 2018 by Popsugar.