By Rosemary Marchese
Physiotherapist and mum of 3 fit kids
10 meal prep tips for beginners
Meal prep in my house is really important. But that doesn’t mean I want to spend my whole weekend in the kitchen. I’m always learning and getting better at doing things though. And I’m not scared to change things around to suit my lifestyle. For example, I’ve switched my grocery shopping from earlier in the week to later in the week now. Why? I find that with three busy kids, and the ‘life’ that revolves around this, it really helps to have food in the house when we hit the weekend.
My meal prep involves planning meals and a grocery list first. I usually do this on Wednesday night. I used to do this on Saturday and then head out shopping. You can choose to do what you like here but I like to use the weekend for actually meal prep rather than the shopping part. You could choose to have your groceries delivered though. Pick a day that suits your lifestyle.
Ok, so back to my meal plans and shopping list. I do the list and planning Wednesday and then order online whenever possible. Depending on how my week is looking, because I like to be home to receive, I’ll get a deliver on Thursday or Friday. Some weeks I will go and physically buy the groceries but usually every few weeks to make sure I can get everything I need. This breaks the task up into small, manageable chunks – plan and order Wednesday, unpack on Thursday or Friday, and then cook and prep on Saturday or Sunday.
When you first start out with meal prep it’s important not to overdo it. Why? You’ll never do it again if you spend your entire weekend cooking and cutting! My general rule for myself is to give myself about two hours over the weekend to do meal prep. I use this time to prepare one to three meals and chop some vegetables in advance, if appropriate. A lot of people have asked me about all the ‘storage’ options for fruit and vegetables and so I’ll do another post for storage tips.
Overall, if you keep it simple you are more likely to make it a habit. Just like my seven habits for success in my book and ebook it’s important to make meal prep a part of this. If you have enough time to cook during the week, and it doesn’t stress you, that’s great. But you still need the ingredients in the house. This is where a meal plan and grocery list is super important.
Tips for meal prep for beginners
- Sit down once per week and do a meal plan for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for most days of the week.
- Use the grocery list to do an online or physical grocery shop on a set day.
- Consider the best day to do that planning and shopping. It should be 1-2 days before you meal prep, unless you want to do it all on the same day.
- Have plenty of containers suitable for freezing. Smaller portions are better for freezing to keep food fresher for longer.
- Cook an ‘oven’ dish for your busy nights. Any dish that can go straight into the oven and be served with a simple salad is a winner in my books. I like my ‘oven dish’ to be ready to go for Monday nights. So, if I make a Shepherd’s pie for Monday night I can pop it in the oven and get my week off to an organised start. It’s also a great option for really busy evenings. Is there a particular evening during the week where you or the kids get home late? This can be a great night to have a pre-prepared dish ready to go.
- Double-batch cook whenever you can. Buying fresh at least once per week can help with this. So if you are making a Bolognese make a double batch and freeze one batch for one night in a week or two.
- Keep at least one of your meals frozen ready to be used each week. This can be your ‘cooking-free’ night. For me this is often Thursday or Friday night as my energy levels wane!
- Use a slow cooker! If I’m working from home during the week then I may throw an easy soup or casserole together and let it cook the day away as I work. If you are home then this is a great option. If not, try this on the weekend. It’s one of my favourite things in my kitchen!
- Learn how to store chopped items. As I said, I’ll post about this shortly so stay tuned.
- Keep snacks really simple. Have plenty of fruits and vegetables available ready to be eaten as they are or simply chopped up. After school snacks don’t have to be luxurious and complicated recipes. See my after school snack ideas here. http://thefitbusymum.com.au/5-after-school-snacks-for-active-kids/