Is meal prep just a trend or can it really help you boost some healthy eating habits? I’m sure you’re aware that this is the latest trend but meal prepping has some great benefits.
Generally there are tons of benefits of meal planning but why is meal prep important? In this article, we dive in into how meal prepping can help you live a healthier lifestyle, the containers you’ll need and a few of my top tips!
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Meal planning is a great way to take away some of the stress from your life.
Although some may find the idea of meal prepping overwhelming, the benefits definitely outweigh the work! When you know what you’ll be having for your meals, you’ll be less likely to stress about it.
I used to think that meal prepping was only for body builders and gym rats but when I discovered that families can also benefit from this, I became obsessed.
Some people (me 🙈) try to figure out what to cook for dinner all day long.
However, if you take just a few hours during the week and figure out a menu, you’ll be a lot less stressed. Here, you’ll discover why meal prep and planning is essential to stay healthy and how you can get started!
Is Meal Prep healthy?
So, how exactly can meal prep and planning help you stay healthy?
Well think about this: You’ve just got home from the school pick up, you still need to take your son to soccer and get homework done plus you’re potty training your youngest so for simplicity you stop to pick something up to eat on the way home after practice.
Usually by the time you stop at the grocery store, you’re hungry, tired and just want something quick.
So, you grab the frozen pizza, because it’s quick and easy when you get home.
By making a menu and planning your meals, you can avoid most of these trips.
Instead, you’ll make stops at the grocery store once a week when you have a plan and grocery list.
A grocery list that will also help you save money and say no to the snack items that you’ll ultimately buy if you don’t have a plan.
When I started meal planning, I realized that with all the money I was SAVING I was actually able to afford a lot of items I would normally leave behind.
By meal planning and prepping, you’ll be able to decide what you eat.
This will help you to stay healthy because you’ll have control over the recipes that you’ll make, and and the ingredients you’re using.
Meal Prepping Benefits
Are you thinking of trying meal prep but you’re not sure whether or not it’s worth the hassle?
Meal prep is often considered something you do when you want to lose weight, or if you are trying to save time. However, there are plenty of reasons everyone should add meal prepping to their routine.
Doing a little meal prep every week has helped my family (and my sanity) tremendously. Many times I relied on processed snacks on busy days to fill up my kids.
But now with foods ready to be served, I know I can just give my kids something healthy without spending loads of time cooking.
Let’s uncover the benefits of meal prep and how it could potentially change your life for the better.
1. You Save Money
One of the top reasons to start meal prepping is that you will save money.
Consider how much you would save by purchasing your meat and veggies in bulk, instead of just buying small portions that you need for one or two meals.
You can then prep your meals, freeze them or store individual ingredients for later.
Meal prep also make sure you don’t throw away as much food. When you don’t plan your meals in advance, it can cause you to forget about the ingredients and foods you have, causing them to expire or rot in your fridge. 🤮
So, if you want to save money and cut food waste down, meal prep can prove essential.
Not to mention the fact you’re saving money by not making as many different meals throughout the week or indulging in expensive fast food.
This was the biggest way our family saved money.
If I’m being honest, our family LOVES junky food especially pizza! We would eat it everyday if we could (yes we love it that much).
But for a family of 5, every time we get anything fast food related it’s at LEAST $30 per meal. So imagine if we ate out twice a week; that would be $240 EVERY month
2. Save More Time During the Week
As a mom of three (and wife to one 😂) my days can get crazy. It’s always either loads of laundry, someone getting sick or doing all of the school projects and assignments on time!
So, if you’re someone who often skips making home cooked meals during the week because you don’t have a lot of time, meal prepping will be perfect for you.
Choose a day when you have some extra time, then prepare or cook most of the meals for the week. I usually don’t cook entire meals because I don’t trust that it’ll preserve all week.
Instead I will cook ingredients up or side dishes that I know we can eat all week. For example we go through a lot of rice, beans and pasta so I will definitely cook that. I might also throw chicken in my Crockpot for shredding.
That way, all that needs to be done is to put your meals together and some minor heating up or cooking, each day of the week.
3. Eat Healthier
Meal prepping also ensures that you will eat healthier meals, since each one is very carefully planned out.
You will be making multiple healthy meals at a time; often using fresh or frozen produce, lean protein, and other natural ingredients.
It also helps you to learn portion control if you use meal prep containers which include separate compartments (more on that below). These are so useful for separating portions of different food groups.
As you can see, meal prepping really isn’t that difficult to do. It provides a wide range of benefits; especially if you’re trying to stick to a healthier diet.
Not only will it help you to lose weight, but it can also be used to ensure you’re getting the right nutrients to stay healthy overall.
Meal prepping tips
When you first get started with creating your menu, it is going to take a little time to figure it out.
Count on spending a couple hours putting your meal plan together.
The first step to getting started with meal prep is meal planning.
In order to fully be able to take advantage of all the benefits of meal prepping you’ll need to have meal ideas.
The time this takes will depend on whether you already have some ideas in mind, or if you plan to use cookbooks for recipes to try.
I have a Master List of all the meals I have tried and my family loves. It has made it easier for me to glance at and determine what I can cook that week based on what I have at home and my grocery list.
Easy Meal Prep
Once you have meal plan and groceries for the week, it’s time to cook! Cut out a couple hours and your least busiest day.
I know a lot of people choose Sundays but Tuesdays are actually more ideal for me. Choose whats best for you.
To get started with meal prepping, you’ll want to take out meat or freezer meals that are already in the freezer, that you’ll be using that week.
You’ll also want to get as much stuff ready as you can.
You can boil pasta, cook beans, cut up vegetables and cook the meat ahead of time. Get all of your containers ready to go before you begin.
Along with prepping your meals, it’s also a good idea to prep your snacks for the week too.
Take a day during the weekend and cut up all your snacks for the week. Yes, this will take time, but you’ll be thankful that you have a grab and go snack when you’re heading out the door.
As you can see, being prepared for the week to come will help you stay healthy and save money. You’ll get to have great recipes all week long that will keep your family fed healthily and on budget.
Meal Prep Containers you need
Whether you’re looking to stick to a healthy diet, or you’re simply looking to save time during a hectic week, meal prep can prove invaluable. However, in order to get it right, you need to ensure you’re choosing the right containers.
When you’re choosing meal prep containers, you’ll want to consider the different types of meals and ingredients you’ll be working with. Different types of meals often require containers of different sizes.
To help you decide, here are some of my favorites different sized meal prep containers to consider getting.
The first type of container you can use for your meal prep is a mason jar. There are different sized mason jars to consider, though the 16-ounce wide-mouth glass mason jars, are often preferred.
The 16-ounce jars are small enough to fit in your lunch box or bag, but also large enough to hold single servings of vegetables, salads, soups, and other ingredients.
You can also get the larger 32-ounce mason jars if you have a high level of meal prep storage you want to do.
Just make sure that whichever size you do opt for, you get the wide-mouth version. This makes it easier to store anything you want, and you won’t need to worry about spilling the meals down the sides of the jar.
Compartment containers are perfect for meal planning. I personally use these all the time for myself when I am trying to lose some weight.
With these, you aren’t just saving big batches of meals or boxes of chopped produce, but you’re actually putting individual meals together.
These come in different sizes. but the 32-ounce containers tend to be best.
These are good for breakfast, school lunches or dinner. The compartments are the perfect portion size for the different elements on your meal.
It has 3-4 separate compartments for things like your protein, a small side salad, veggies and dip, or even sliced fruit.
So, if you’re dieting, compartment containers are highly recommended.
I also like to use these if I decide to send my son to school with lunch. He usually gets food from the cafeteria but has lately been requesting boxed school lunch.
Pyrex containers are made of glass, which makes them especially ideal for meal prep.
While plastic containers are cheaper, they’re not considered as safe to store food in, especially for long periods of time.
Plastic is also not great for the environment so when I can make simple sustainable changes in my home I will.
With Pyrex containers, there’s various shapes available. However, the rectangular ones tend to work better for meal prep.
They are available in 3-cup, 6-cup, or 11-cup size containers.
These are ideal sizes for soup, stew, casseroles, hardboiled eggs, chopped veggies, and salads.
The above are just 3 sizes of meal prep containers to get.
Remember to take into account the types of meals you’ll be creating and how many people you’re prepping for.
These storage containers are all things that have helped me meal prep for my family. But if you are single or have less kids then adjust accordingly.
3 Tips to Quick & Easy Meal Prep
Meal prep can seem intimidating at first.
A lot is involved in the process; meal planning, chopping and cooking ALL AT THE SAME TIME.
It’s easy to see why people can think it’s just not worth the time. But, the truth is, with a few simple tips, it can be a stress-free process.
Here are 3 tips you can use for quick and easy meal prep:
1. organize first
The absolute first thing you need is your meal prep lunch or dinner ideas.
Get a grocery list together based off of what you have, need and can reuse for multiple meals.
Once you’re ready to cook, make sure you have all the ingredients out in front of you. The last thing you want is to have to stop in the middle of your prepping time to run back and forth from your fridge or pantry.
Print out any recipes, take out a Sharpie, Ziplock bags and all your containers that you’ll be using for the meal prep.
It’s easier to get all of the equipment out ahead of time, because when you’re in the process of prepping, you don’t want to waste valuable time searching for something.
So, it’s best to get organized first.
Meal prepping in general can take up a lot of time so eliminate any unnecessary time suckers.
2. Involve the family
Depending on the age of your kids, they can help with your meal prepping.
Some simple things can be like cutting, stirring or putting food in containers.
While it may not sound like much, when you’ve got so many meals and snacks to prepare for, it all adds up.
You can set up an assembly line and assign each person a responsibility.
When you have multiple children like me, having them help will really speed up the process.
Plus, if you have picky eaters sometimes involving them in the process actually gets them more excited to eat it! BONUS!
Not only that, but you’re teaching them lifelong skills – both in how to prepare healthy food, and the life skills they’ll need when they leave home.
3. Make extra
One easy way to meal prep is during the week while you’re cooking meals.
If you are really overwhelmed by the idea of cooking for an entire week, then batch cooking is a great alternative!
Instead of making one casserole, or enough soup for one meal, make enough for two or even three and then freeze the extras.
Also, start freezing extra food that might go to waste otherwise. I like to periodically check my inventory and see what may be going bad.
Are my bananas starting to brown? Well then I’ll freeze them!
You can freeze things such as tomato paste, diced tomatoes, noodles, beans, cooked chicken and ground hamburger after it has been cooked. All of these can be used quickly and easily to create meals when it is a busy or late night.
If meal prep is overwhelming, start small by doing it only a few times a week. You’ll start to get the hang of it and want to do more often once you realize what a time saver it really is.