How to meal prep


By: Jennifer McMillen Smith, MSSA, LISW-S, Division of Infectious Disease and medically reviewed by Ann Avery, Infectious Disease Physician at Metrohealth Medical Center

Between Pinterest and Facebook, you’ve probably heard of meal prepping. Maybe it’s always seemed like something out of reach, but I have good news for you: it isn’t! In fact, prepping your meals ahead of time comes with a ton of benefits.

Not only does it help reduce waste and stress in your life, but it also helps you save time and money. Prepping your meals allows you to keep better track of the food you eat and stay healthy.


What can I meal prep?

In the beginning, meal prepping might be a little confusing. You might be concerned about what meals are the best and easiest to prep ahead of time.

When you go to prep your meals, there are a few things to think about.

  1. Prepare foods you like so you’ll be excited to eat them each day.
  2. Make foods that won’t spoil fast once it’s stored. This includes things like soups, meats, roasted veggies, sauces, and nuts. Anything crunchy is going to get soggy and cut up fruit will begin breaking down.

Try to mix things up and swap foods out for something else, or prep a different meal altogether. If you prep a few meals at once, you can freeze some, so they won’t go bad. Get a little variety in your food life!


Storage Matters

The kind of storage containers you use to store your meals are really important. You want ones that are good quality so if you can, invest in some good ones.

If you are storing food that needs to be reheated in the microwave, avoid plastic containers. Glass is best. It’s OK to use plastic for foods that stay cold, like a salad, but when buying plastic containers, make sure to find ones that are BPA free. BPA stands for bisphenol A and is an industrial chemical used in some plastics. Microwaving plastic made with BPA causes the container to break down over time and leech into the food you eat. Gross! What’s worse is that studies have found links between BPA and cancer, miscarriages, infertility, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and more.

If you use glass or stainless steel containers, you won’t have to worry about BPAs at all. Just remember to check if your containers are microwave or dishwasher safe before exposing them to heat.

According to the Food and Drug Administration’s food safety guidelines, most of the meals you prep will stay good in the fridge between three and five days. If you freeze them, they’ll stay good a lot longer.


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Choosing recipes

Picking the recipes to cook is one of the fun parts of prepping your meals.

It’s easiest if you choose the meals you plan to eat throughout the week and even pick the days you want to eat them. You don’t have to cook everything all at once, or even prep all your meals.

Looking through your pantry to see what you already have and basing your recipes off that is really helpful. Add what else you need to finish the recipes to your grocery list, and you’re good to go!

When you’re looking for recipes, look for ones that are not only healthy but recipes you’ll also like. What’s the point of making food you don’t look forward to eating? There’s nothing wrong with sneaking a comfort food in there once in a while.

In the beginning, you’ll want to make easy, dependable recipes until you get the hang of meal prepping and become a whiz at it! Here are a few to try:


Timing is everything

You’ll need to schedule a time to both do your shopping and cook. We recommend one or two days, so you don’t have to do everything all at once.

Cooking multiple things at once can also help! You can make something in your oven while also have something going in the crockpot or stovetop. This will save you a ton of time.

Make sure to account for different events like birthday parties, dinner at a restaurant, or work lunches that you won’t need to prep for. You don’t want to waste food.


Meal prep can be fun

It’s okay if you’re still feeling a little overwhelmed when it comes to meal prep. The best thing to do is just start. The more we do something, the better we get at it.

Besides, meal prep can actually be a lot of fun. Get a friend or loved one to pitch in or even meal prep their food with you, crank up the music, and have a blast. In the end, you’ll see just how much prepping your meals is worth it.

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