If you’re ready to spend less time in the kitchen, have healthier meals, and save yourself some stress over cooking, you’ll probably want to try meal prepping. Meal prep can range from preparing and cooking entire dinners for the next week to simply putting together the ingredients for each day’s lunches or breakfasts.
Prepping your meals in advance might sound like a huge chore. But, once you have a system in place, it can save you a ton of time and frustration. Here is a beginner’s guide to how you can meal prep for an entire week.
1. Decide on a Meal Prep Strategy
Your goals and schedule will likely determine what meal prep method will work best for you. There are several options:
- Make-ahead meals — If your time for cooking meals during the week is limited, you can prepare them entirely in advance, so they only need to be reheated.
- Ready-to-cook ingredients — If you’d rather cook your meals just before you serve them, you can prep the ingredients (chop vegetables, marinade meat, etc.) in advance to reduce prep time.
- Batch cooking & freezing — This is when you prepare multiple “batches” of a recipe so you can freeze some to use as meals in the weeks or months to come.
- Individual portion meals — If someone in your family has dietary restrictions or certain preferences, you can prepare individual meals for that person in advance.
2. Write Out Your Daily Menus
Once you’ve figured out your ideal meal prep type, it’s time to start planning. You can’t prep anything if you don’t know what you’re going to cook. Sit down and create a menu for a week, several days, or whatever time frame you choose.
If you’re new to meal prepping, choose some dishes you’ve cooked frequently in the past to get started. Keeping things simple in the beginning will reduce your stress and make this entire process more manageable. As you get more comfortable with meal prepping, you can broaden your horizons.
3. Take Inventory and Shop
With your menu list on hand, make a list of every ingredient needed to create your dishes. Then, do the following:
- Take an inventory — There’s a good chance you already have a lot of the items you need in your kitchen pantry. Before heading to the grocery store, take an inventory of what’s in your kitchen and refrigerator. This can save you a lot of money and reduce waste.
- Build your grocery list — Based on what’s left, create an efficient grocery list that is organized by department (dairy, meat, produce, etc.). Doing this can help you navigate the store quicker.
- Get the right containers — Don’t forget to stock up on some quality containers to store your prepped meals. This can include plastic containers and Ziploc freezer bags.
4. Prep Meals and Store
Now, it’s time to prep and store your meals. Here are some tips to make your meal prep go faster.
- Start with the foods that take the longest time to cook, like rice.
- If two recipes require the same ingredients, like chopped tomatoes or onions, prep those items at the same time and divide them as necessary.
- To avoid having to repeatedly wash your cutting board, cut all raw meat first. Then, wash the board and cut other items.
- For the best quality, freeze foods like casseroles, soups, cooked grains, and chilis. If you don’t freeze them, many ingredients will only stay fresh for around three days in the refrigerator.
5. Enjoy the Benefits of Your Meal Prepping
The whole point of meal prepping is that it will make your life easier. With some practice, you’ll soon discover a strategy that fits your needs and works perfectly for you. Whether you decide to prep every meal, just dinners, or something else, the effort you put into this will pay off in more free time, cost savings, and even some healthier meal choices.
Shop for Your Meal Ingredients at Nick’s of Clinton
Once you’re finished with your weekly meal prep, it’s time to stock up on the ingredients to create those delicious items. Nick’s of Clinton provides a one-stop shopping experience for all your grocery needs in the Waldorf area.
Our family-run business has been serving the local community for over 50 years. We offer a full-service meat and deli department as well as an extensive selection of beer, wine, and spirits. We also offer a signature line of Nick’s products, including sauces, seasonings, and pastas. Visit us today or give us a call at 301-843-4825.