Let's start with the basics...
What is meal prep?
Meal prep (or meal prep'ing) is short for Meal Preparation and is extremely popular with those that are looking at having a set intake of food for days or weeks at a time.
Meal prep by definition involves planning and preparing some or all of your meals ahead of time.
For many people this may take place as a cook up once or twice per week in order to have meals ready for the coming days.
Some people might choose to prep breakfast and lunch, while cooking dinner at home. While others might prep all of their daily meals plus snacks.
The theory behind meal prepping is that it should save you a considerable amount of time throughout the week, as well as saving you money and generally keeping you on track for a healthier diet.
Let's take a look at a few reasons to meal prep.
Meal Prepping to save time
You might choose to prep your entire weeks worth of meals in one or two sessions during the week. This might mean spending one afternoon making an array or meals which you’ll then store in the fridge or freezer and have ready to go.
You might choose to prep one meal in advance and freeze it. This might mean making a curry on Sunday night for dinner but making enough for five portions and then freezing the other four portions for later in the week.
Or you might partially meal prep. This might mean making a pasta sauce ready for dinners and then only needing to cook the pasta when you get home after a long day. For many people, this takes the stress and thought process out of having to come home or stop at the supermarket during the week.
In short, meal prepping can save time in the kitchen.
Meal Prepping to stay on track
Meal prep is a great way to stay on track with healthy eating.
Some people may be terrible at making good choices when it comes to buying their lunch or they may not always have access to healthy options. But preparing a healthy option ahead of time means they don’t have to be tempted by bakery treats as they don’t need to venture to far.
When it comes to dieting and reaching physical goals, meal prep is fundamental for staying on track and not getting caught out hungry and making poor choices.
The best meal prep options for good health will include a protein source like chicken or fish, green vegetables and a carb source like rice or sweet potato.
These meals are often smaller than an average meal but are eaten multiple times during the day rather than snacking.
Meal Prepping to save money
Meal prep can also be a money saver.
We all know that eating out every day can quickly add up. If you consider buying your lunch for $10-$15 a day, plus a coffee or drink that’s just $20 on lunch. Then dinner might start at a minimum of $20 even if you’re just getting Thai. So all up that’s about $40 per day.
If you do this just on weekdays that’s $200 for five days, and weekend dining out will often include alcoholic beverages which boost that bill up even more.
While a single person buying groceries for the week to fund their lunch and dinners may only cost around $60-$100 depending on their diet. That’s a considerable difference!
This doesn’t mean that dining out shouldn’t happen, but maybe once a week with a friend or work colleague for lunch and save dinners for your Friday or Saturdays to relax.
It’s a huge money saver and can help you stay on track with your diet.
The best ways to meal prep
Firstly consider what meals you might want to prep for. For me, I want to prep breakfast, lunch and snacks for work, but I’m happy to cook my dinner when I get home each night.
I like to prep my breakfast mainly because I get to work early, so I normally have this at my desk. But maybe you have kids who play sport until 7pm, so to come home to dinner already made would be perfect.
Then, consider what you like to eat for these meals. For breakfast I like oats or smoothies, then lunch I’m happy to be pretty boring and have either leftovers like curries or stir fried meals. For snacks I like fruit, nuts, hummus with veggie sticks, protein shakes etc.
Now the best way to meal prep and get bang for your buck is to also use cross over ingredients. This means you aren’t left with 1/2 a cauliflower, 1/4 of a capsicum and a half a can of chickpeas at the end of the week! So this means planning and thinking ahead of your weekly menu.
When you think about it, humans have really been meal prepping for a long time. It’s likely your parents did it too. But only recently have we bothered to label it so for a diet purpose!