Long day? Mustering the energy to cook is often the last thing you feel like doing. Enter meal prep—an easy, budget-friendly way to get organised and have healthy meals ready-to-go. As well as saving time and money, clever meal prep can help with weight control, improve your diet and reduce stressful dinnertime decisions.
However, knowing where to start can be daunting. Nutritionist Trish Guy shares her guide to tackle the first week of meal prepping.
If cooking for a full week feels a little overwhelming, start with one dish to make the week’s meals quicker and easier. Our beginner’s tip is to roast a tray of veggies on a Sunday and then add them to dishes like hearty salads and nourish bowls throughout the week.
Plan it out
When you’re ready to tackle a full week, planning is key. Make sure your main meals include protein such as legumes, tofu, nuts/seeds, wholegrains or starchy vegetables, and a source of heart healthy fats. A table or spreadsheet can be a useful tool to map out your week of meals and can be the basis for your shopping list.
Keep it simple
Use recipes that you know and love making to help get you into the habit. Foods such as curries and veggie stews are great for meal-prep as they hold their quality with refrigerating/ freezing and reheating.
Now for the cooking! Set aside some time and start preparing all your ingredients. While foods are frying or steaming on the stovetop, chop vegetables and fresh fruit, or wash greens for later in the week—this will cut the time you’re spending in the kitchen.
Keep it safe
Prepped meals can be kept in the fridge for two days. Always make sure that you reheat the meals until they are piping hot. This is generally to around 75oC.
Meal prep 101
Pack it up: Split your daily lunches and dinners into containers so they are easy to grab and go or freeze for later in the week. Aim to make each meal with 50 per cent non-starchy veggies (think carrots, broccoli, peas, salad etc), 25 per cent carbs and 25 per cent plant protein.
Mix it up: Serve dishes like curries with a variety of sides and bases—one meal with rice and another meal with zucchini noodles. Give a base dish a new twist by adding different herbs or a new veggie like broccolini.
Snack it up: Pinwheels and muesli slices are great to prep in advance and freeze. They’ll be ready when you need, but not so tempting they’ll be gone before the week begins. Dips like cottage cheese are ideal for snacks and can double as a tasty addition to meals. A DIY trail mix or a handful of nuts are always handy, plus don’t forget fresh fruit—no prep required!