7 Practical Meal Prep Tips To Try Out
This is going to be a super short installment of the “Meal Prep For Parents” series that I’ve been writing for you, so before we get into today’s content, I would encourage you to read the first two lessons if you haven’t already – the tips ahead are super helpful, but reading up on the context leading to this point will turn a few tips into bigger picture time, money, and energy savers!
Click here to read Meal Prep For Parents: Part 1
Click here to read Meal Prep For Parents: Part 2
Ok! Now that you’re caught up to speed and we’re all on the same page, here’s what we’re talking about today!
The title says it all: “7 Practical Meal Prep Tips To Try Out.” Whether you’ve never cooked a single meal in your life, or if you’ve been diving head first into the world of meal prep for years, you’re bound to find some helpful insights in the tips below. Meal prep is less about making dozens of identical, photogenic meals for Instagram and more about making things more simple, easy, and doable for parents like us!
(PS: This list is concise – if you have any questions about the tips themselves, leave a comment below and I’ll be happy to expand on anything you want to know!)
7 Practical Meal Prep Tips To Try Out
1. Bake everything at 400-ish degrees for 30-ish minutes
You’ll find every recipe for roasting vegetables, proteins, etc. will have different oven temperatures and different baking times, but they all accomplish the exact same purpose: cooking foods all the way through while crisping up the outsides and keeping the insides tender. If you have a hard time memorizing what recipe said what temperature and what timeframe, don’t fret! They almost all range between 350-450 degrees for 25-45 minutes, so just pick something in between each range and check your food along the way! You’ll get great results every time!
2. Use/buy a slow cooker of some kind
Slow cookers, pressure cookers, rice cookers, etc. all fit in the same category and – again – all accomplish the same job by doing similar things. If you don’t already have an appliance to do this, you might be missing out on the single biggest advantage to this type of meal prep: making huge portions with virtually zeeeeeero effort. The key here is that you simply throw in the ingredients of your choice (rice, chicken, soup, quinoa, potatoes, pork, beef, just about anything really) of any kind (fresh, frozen, whole, bite size, whatever), turn the thing on, and leave it alone for the rest of the day until you’re ready to eat. Do you see how amazing this is? Do you see how easy and helpful this can be? I want to type all of this out in CAPS but that seems like it would come across as anger and not passion haha. THIS IS SUCH A GOOD TIP. The best $5 I’ve ever spent was on a big rice cooker at a garage sale when we first got married, and we’ve been using it multiple times a week since then. If you don’t already have an appliance like this, I’d recommend a pressure cooker like the Instant Pot, which can do everything we’ve talked about, an in a shorter time-frame than a traditional slow cooker. No matter what you use, it’s easier than watching a pot on the stove!
3. Cooking oil spray is a game-changer
It keeps things from sticking to your pots, pans, and baking sheets, and it doesn’t add hundreds of calories like using regular oil might do. Find your favorite type (I like good old fashioned vegetable oil spray), and you’ll be good to go!
4.Skip breakfast meal prep
If you reeeeeeally want to, you can totally prep out breakfasts for the week. However, I’ve found that most of my clients do best with simply finding a breakfast option that’s quick and easy to make on a daily basis. Protein shakes, oatmeal, eggs, and toast are all great ways to start off the day with minimal time and effort. I suppose you could prep any of these ahead of time, but they are way better fresh! On this same note, lunch tends to be the meal that most parents struggle with from a time and effort perspective, so lunch makes for a great meal to prep out first!
5. Save time on clean up
Tools like aluminum foil and skills like cleaning as you cook can all be extremely helpful in making the cleaning process easier and less tedious. On top of that, this tip is really about consciously staying on the lookout for ways to simplify your own cleaning process. This will be different for each food and meal that you’re preparing, but your meal prep clean up game will continually improve as you stay curious about ways to get better, faster, and more efficient.
6. The absolute simplest way cut your time and effort in half.
Double your recipes. If you would normally cook one chicken breast, use a bigger pan and cook an extra one. If you are already boiling water for pasta, add double the amount of pasta as usual. If you have the oven on for roasting vegetables, fill up the entire pan instead of just what you’d eat in one meal. Even if you do this for one meal each week, you will effectively eliminate the need to cook for one other meal during the week because you’ll have leftovers. Do this more often and/or cook even bigger portions to further cut down on your weekly cooking/cleaning.
7. What to do when meal prep isn’t an option
The final tip in this lesson is all about adapting! What happens if you ate your last meal prep meal yesterday, and today you don’t have anything ready to eat? Variations of this scenario happen all the time, so it’s important to be prepared to avoid “panic eating.” Here’s how you can set yourself up for success: always have some ready-to-eat ingredients on hand in your freezer and pantry. Frozen vegetable steamer bags can be thrown into the microwave and be ready in seconds. Frozen, cooked proteins like pre-packaged grilled chicken and meatballs can also be heated up in minutes. In your pantry, steamer bags of rice and quinoa can be – surprise! – microwaved and ready in seconds. Rather than frantically snacking or running over to the drive-thru, you can rest assured that you’ll have a warm, filling, delicious meal that supports your fitness goals, all within a minute or two.
Do you have any go-to meal prep tips that have been incredibly helpful for you? Share them with everybody else in the comments below!