Meal prepping can be scary. You’re probably picturing some gym buff / yoga instructor type and thinking this can’t be for me. But we’ll wager you’re a meal prepper and you didn’t know it. If you’ve ever saved leftovers, you’re halfway there!
What is it?
Let’s not overthink it. Meal prepping is simply planning and preparing meals. Typically, 3 days to a week’s worth of food is prepared at a time (any longer and ingredients start to wilt and lose flavor). But at INKA we like to think of “Meal Prepping” as anything you do to make meal time easier whether that be pre-chopping veggies and storing them in the fridge, or simply doubling your dinner recipe to eat the next day.
Why Do It?
Meal prepping saves you time (compared to making every meal from scratch) and money (compared to eating out). It also makes it easier to eat healthier and reduce waste because it forces us to think ahead. No more letting food rot in the fridge or reaching for a sugary mid-afternoon snack.
What You’ll Need
Before you can meal prep, you’ll need two things: food containers and a plan. Luckily for you, we’ve got you covered on the first front. As for the plan, here are our tips:
1. Pick a Meal. Any Meal
Start slow. We recommend choosing one meal to prep for. You’ll see the biggest difference if you prep for the meal that you typically order out or skip altogether. If lunch is your standing take-out order, start there. If breakfast gets ignored, overnight oats might be in your future.
2. Make a Little Time
The biggest hurdle to meal prepping is committing the time. But remember, time spent now is time saved later. Make time to do these three things: 1. Figure out what you’ll be cooking and make a shopping list (inspo here). 2. Stock up on your next grocery store run. 3. Do the cooking. Sunday evenings with a little wine and a podcast are our favorite.
3. Choose Your Approach
There are three types of meal prepping. Whichever you choose depends entirely on you!
Type 1: Batch Cooking
If leftovers are your thing, batch cooking might be the way to go. All it means is that you cook like you’re feeding a family of four, but dish it out for yourself during the week.Think turkey bean chili, curries, and traybakes.
Type 2: Individually Portioned
A bit more type A, but well worth the additional effort. This approach requires you to separate your batch out into smaller portions so you have ready-to-go meals throughout the week. A classic grain bowl formula - protein/legume + grain + veggie - is always a solid bet.
Type 3: Prepped Ingredients
The most literal interpretation of meal prepping. Maybe you prefer a little crudité action over pre-cooked meals. This mode of approach means lots of chopping and cutting that makes for faster cooking during the week. This is a great option if you hate the prep but enjoy cooking every day.
4. Be Strategic with Your Ingredients
Meal prepping naturally limits the scope of what you might eat on any given day. The last thing anyone wants is to pull a wilted and soggy salad out of the fridge on day 4 of prep. So, here’s a short list of the best types of food for meal prepping:
Pro tip: save your greens for a last-minute edition. And frozen veggies are a lifesaver. Avoid softer fruits and veggies as well as crunchy items (they are prone to sogging in the fridge – yuck!).
5. Mix it up
Get bored of eating the same thing everyday? Us too. Luckily, there are plenty of ways you can spice up your meal prep routine. An easy hack is switching up your dressings, condiments, and spices. For example, using turmeric instead of cumin in a curry gives it a totally different flavor! If you opt for the prepped ingredients approach, choose ingredients you can make a variety of easy dishes with. Pre-chopped squash makes both a lovely side salad and curry.
The great thing about meal prepping is that you’re in control. And you get out what you put in. Truth is, you are probably already doing most of this without calling it meal prepping.
Words by Emilie Swan