Meal Prep will change your world.
Done right, it’s like God himself is in your kitchen. Done wrong, it’s the opposite–stressful, expensive, and will turn out to be something you resent. Meal prep properly–with joy.
5 Reasons to meal prep
It saves you money
So many people I know go to the store for “just one thing,” that turns into another hundred dollar visit. I know people who stop at the store on their way home from work to pick up something for dinner. That detour costs them every day. Worse, they’re hungry, tired, and cranky. That’s no time to shop for dinner. Not only will you buy junk your body doesn’t need but you’ll spend a lot in the process.
Go to the store once, get the things and categories of things that are on sale, and plan your meals backwards from there.
It avoids unnecessary takeout
I’m not against takeout. I’m against “boredom takeout” or “disorganization takeout. If I go out to eat, I want to do it on purpose, go to a real chef, and plan for it, not just because I opened the fridge forty times and can’t decide what to eat.
The average takeout meal for one person ranges from ten to twenty dollars. Pizza treat night at my house used to be fifteen bucks but now is close to thirty five with all the extras and the fact everyone wants something different. Chinese takeout–thirty bucks, easy.
Here on the Poser Homestead I learned to make most of my old favorite takeout–and it turns out I cook better. But when I go, I want to go because I specifically want Apsara’s (my favorite Cambodian restaurant in Providence) nime fried, not because I am starving and need to fill up.
Unnecessary takeout is just that–unnecessary. It ruins the budget and is bad for the environment–bags full of other bags, containers, plastics, and wraps. Spend the money on something you wanted and keep the plastic out of the landfill. Go out to eat properly, when you plan it.
It saves time
Going out for takeout wastes time. Opening the fridge door like you’re looking for the little man who turns off the light doesn’t cook your dinner for you. Having a menu and prepped food does.
Having meals ready creates a structure and flow to mealtime you’ll appreciate. Whether you have entirely planned meals, a menu, or the major elements of a meal prepped and ready to go, you’re on a mission. That saves you time and aggravation.
There’s no arguing or confusion
I have vegetarians, carnivores, and picky eaters. If dinner is clear I don’t get any “I don’t what that!” nonsense. That’s a good thing. Sometimes I give a choice. “Want beef soup or chili?” That’s not because I’m not meal planning–it’s because I have five things set for the week and it doesn’t matter if my carnivore husband chooses Thing One or Thing Two.
It helps get out the door for work
I used to toss five apples in my bag and go. “I’ll want these at lunch time.” I NEVER wanted those at lunch time. A good meal in the middle of the day is priceless. It resets the afternoon. I’m working from home now but lunch is still my favorite meal of the day.
Then, I bought some Weck jars and stackable Rubbermaid squares. Instead of making one salad, I made five. I stacked them in the Beer Fridge (the downstairs fridge that sometimes has beer but usually has my meal planning stuff and a five-gallon jar of pickles). That was lunch for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Each had a little pile with the snacks, dressings, and extras on top. I’m a grazer. I planned accordingly.
Bad planning makes for bad eating. I had a job working on the road. If I didn’t plan ahead, I got unhealthy food on the side of the road–convenience food, candy bars, chips. That’s what the body craves in those low-sugar unplanned moments.
Truth is, I don’t like that food. Here at the Poser Homestead we’re not the food jury. But part of the reason I started doing this was because I noticed it tasted better and was healthier. If I want candy, I’ll get the best or I’ll make a batch of toffee and eat the whole thing. I don’t need roadside swill. I’d rather have the hummus and carrots I packed or a homemade chocolate chip cookie waiting for me in the jar.
It’s healthier (and tastier) all around.
Here’s the secret…
Don’t waste your weekend. I know some people who plan out their entire month–it’s called “Once a Month Cooking.” It’s brilliant, but they waste their whole weekend and most people I know that do this do it to avoid cooking the rest of the month.
I love food. Cooking is relaxing. I cook when I’m in the mood, I cook extra, and I don’t waste. I plan short cuts and efficiencies into my routine instead of adding “meal prep” to the chore list after cleaning the bathroom floor.
Here are some of those shortcuts.
Store leftovers properly
Don’t waste your leftovers. You’ll get a few meals or lunch leftovers from them. Plan for it. Cook accordingly.
Make triple of most things
Don’t make a little leftovers–make a ton. Especially if you have freezable or cannable food. It takes me no more effort to make three frittatas than it does one. I slice up the extras into meal-sized portions, and use that in my meal planning. It gives me months of variety.
Here’s an example: Chicken week. Whether you’re harvesting your own or you catch a sale, do this:
Don’t cook one chicken. Cook five. If you freeze a bunch, what you get is a little ice ball that takes four days to thaw. But if you cook a bunch–roast them, make bone broth, make different flavors of chicken–barbecue, tandori, jerk, curry… then freeze them in meal-sized portions… now you’ve got the foundation for forty meals in just a bit more time than it would take to make one. The extra time is mostly in the wrapping.
Chop for the week
I never make myself one salad, I make several. The base layer’s always the same, then I can toss some gourmet ingredients in one or two to make bleu cheese raspberry vinegarette, taco salad, chef’s salad, Greek salad… I save time by pre-prepping all the basics.
I’ll chop an entire container of onions, carrots…whatever. I know I’m going to use them.
With a little creativity, your meal prep will be fast, fun, and amazing, and you’ll eat like a gourmet foodie all week.