It’s the middle of the week, you have work deadlines looming, kids’ baseball practice in the afternoon, and you need to meet the electrician at the house at 5 p.m. When will you have time to cook a healthy dinner for the family?
Meal prep to the rescue!
Instead of relying on unhealthy fast food or prepackaged dinners, try taking time at the beginning of the week to plan and prepare healthy meals. A few hours of planning and prepping can help your family eat better, reduce food waste and save you money.
Not sure where to start? Our nutritionists have ten tips for becoming an expert meal prepper:
1. Plan around your calendar
Before you start your grocery list, look at the week ahead. Which days do the kids have practice? Do you have any appointments or events? Keep these in mind as you plan out your meals for the week. It’s also a good idea to establish a meal pattern – how many meals will you plan to have each day? Not everyone sticks to three meals, and that’s okay! Find what works best for you.
2. Designate a prep day
Pick one day to shop and prepare your meals for the week. You may want to do this at the beginning of your week, but do what’s best for your family’s schedule. Spending a couple of hours chopping veggies and portioning out proteins can save you loads of time during the week.
3. Don’t tackle too much at once
If you’re new to meal prep, start slow by planning and preparing for two or three days during the week and work your way up from there. Or, start by planning only dinners or breakfasts.
4. Portion out what you need
Plan and set aside the portions you will need for each dinner during the week. Then, take any excess and freeze it for future meals—it’ll give you a head start on next week!
5. Store smart
Take advantage of reusable containers to store your meal components, so that you can reduce waste from plastic baggies or plastic wrap. If possible, try to store meal components together or in the same area of the refrigerator or freezer, so putting dinner together is a cinch.
6. Plan for leftovers
If possible, plan meals that will have leftovers that keep for a couple of days (like veggie lasagna or turkey chili). You can use these leftovers for lunches during the week.
7. Build your own cookbook
Try to log your weekly meal plans and favorite recipes in a notebook or app. You can add recipes with healthy edits (cutting down salt, switching to whole grains, etc.) Then, you can reference your favorites when it’s time to prep another week. Remember that not all recipes will be winners—keep trying and eventually you’ll find what works for you and your family.
8. Pick theme days
Setting a theme for certain days of the week can make planning even easier. Try out “Meatless Monday,” “Taco Tuesday” or “Pizza Sunday.”
9. Remember the snacks
Take advantage of your meal prep day and make healthy snacks for the week, too. You can use this time to wash fruit, cut carrot sticks or portion out hummus.
10. Get the kids involved
Kids are more likely to eat what they make, and getting them involved can help reinforce the importance of healthy eating. Plus, you can use this time to explore new foods and expand their knowledge of different flavors.
Looking for more advice on healthy meal prep? Talk with your doctor or dietician about ways to incorporate healthy eating into your family’s daily life. You can find a primary care doctor in our provider directory. Or you can search for one in your area.