“If I had more time I would make healthy meals”.
“I’d focus on my health if I just had more time”.
“I would meal prep more often if I had the time”.
Does this sound like you?!
Meal prep can actually help you save time later by putting all the effort in the forefront.
By batch cooking and preparing meals all at once, it frees up time later on when you might be rushed to throw a meal together or otherwise get take-out.
First of all, why is meal prep important? Here is what meal prep can do for you:
- save you precious time later in the week by having food/meals already cooked
- encourage you to eat healthy
- save money by decreasing the amount of meals you eat at a restaurant (take-out, fast food, etc)
- help you learn portion control
- decrease stress
If you struggle with figuring out how to eat healthy AND feed the family without going bonkers, then meal prep is for you!
So in this blog post, I’m diving into how to save time during meal prep.
Meal prep can save you time later on and I want to save you time during meal prep! That’s a lot of time saving going on here….
Let’s dive right in to some of my time-saving tips for meal prep.
#1: PLAN. PLAN. PLAN.
I am an uber-planner, which has helped me with meal prep immensely. My #1 time-saving tip for meal prep is to have a plan.
You wouldn’t go on a road trip without some sort of plan, so don’t think you can meal prep without one. The plan can be “loose”, but the more specific you get, the more time you’ll save.
First of all, decide how many meals you need to make for the week. Do you need lunch everyday? What about breakfast and snacks? Should you prepare extra foods to make last-minute breakfasts and lunches? Go through your week to see what meals you’ll need food prepared for and on what days.
Also think about where you’ll be when you will eat each meal or snack. If you’ll be in your car around snack time, then you won’t want a yogurt parfait. Trail mix or a protein bar might be more appropriate for days on-the-go.
Next, think about what your weekend looks like and how much time you will have to dedicate to food prep. Plan to make meals based on that amount of time.
If you have 2-4 hours, then you can make several recipes that require more hands-on time and more cooking time.
Only have 15 minutes? Maybe you need to make these 15-Minute Meal Prep Chicken & Rice Bowls. You’ll have 4 meals prepared for the week in 15 minutes!
Once you have an idea how much time you’ll have, then you can think about cooking techniques.
If you are short on time, you might use a slow cooker or InstaPot to make your meals. If you have more time, then you can roast/bake/saute whatever foods you would like!
Search for recipes that will fit the time you have available, then make a grocery shopping list based on those recipes you’ve found.
Make your grocery shopping list before you head to the grocery store. I’ve tried writing mine on the fly or grabbing everything I think I need. Inevitably I end up forgetting something because I didn’t take the time to go through the recipe.
Don’t forget to defrost any frozen foods that need to be cooked. Pull them out of the freezer a few days in advance if possible so that they can defrost in the refrigerator.
A huge time-sucker can be having to deal with frozen meat or partially-frozen meat.
So before you begin prep, ask yourself these questions:
- How many meals and snacks do I need to prepare?
- How much time do I have to allocate to meal prep?
- What cooking technique will be the most appropriate? How should I prepare the food?
- What do I actually want to eat? Do I have any recipes I want to make?
- What do I need to buy at the grocery store? Do I have any of these foods in the pantry/freezer?
Make a list of the foods you want to prepare and what meals those will be served. Use this list to help you find the recipes you want to make and to write your grocery shopping list.
#2: USE “CONVENIENT” FOODS.
What are “convenient” foods? Foods that are already prepared, already chopped, fully cooked, etc.
One of my pantry staples for quick, healthy meals and meal prep are Seeds of Change Quinoa & Brown Rice with Garlic packets. They take 90 seconds in the microwave and are full of flavor!
Check your grocery store for a variety of different quick-cooking grains. Several come in different flavors and use different whole grains.
Another convenient food staple at my house are pre-cooked proteins, such as chicken, meatballs and hamburgers. Tyson has several Grilled & Ready chicken options in the freezer section and most grocery stores have some type of pre-cooked chicken available. In fact, many of them roast their own chickens these days, which is a very convenient option that can add a ton of flavor to a dish.
Frozen and canned vegetables are great options in terms of convenient foods. Plus, the frozen vegetable section has several veggie blends so you don’t have to buy each one individually.
You can also batch cook some of these foods and freeze them yourself. Instead of cooking 2 cups of brown rice you could cook 4 cups and store the leftovers in a resealable plastic freezer bag for later. The same can be done for cooked chicken, cooked hamburgers and cooked meatballs.
Convenient foods will cost a little more, but they can help you save time during meal prep.
#3: PUT YOUR SLOW COOKER AND PRESSURE COOKER TO WORK.
Slow cookers and pressure cookers, like the InstaPot, are perfect for meal prep!
If your weekend is packed and you have very little time for food prep, then bust that slow cooker out!
The beauty of the slow cooker is that you can throw all the ingredients in, turn it on, walk away and it cooks while you do other things!
If you are chasing the kids around all day on Sunday, then prepare next week’s lunch in your slow cooker. You’ll be playing while it is working away whipping up a delicious meal!
The InstaPot is something you will want to monitor. Don’t plan to turn it on and leave the house. However, it is a quick way to make food that is full of flavor.
Look for InstaPot versions of your favorite recipes to save a little time during meal prep.
I like to cook one meal in the InstaPot and while it is working I focus on another meal or snacks for the week.
Both the slow cooker and a pressure cooker, like the InstaPot, are hands-free enough to get other meal prep tasks done at the same time. Multi-tasking this way can save you time during the meal prep process.
#4: GROCERY SHOP ON A DIFFERENT DAY THAN YOU PLAN TO COOK.
Another time-saving tip for meal prep that I’ve learned over the years is to shop for groceries the day before I meal prep.
For me, I prefer to get all my grocery shopping done on Saturday. My meal prep day is usually on Sundays, so I like to grocery shop the day before.
By grocery shopping the day before, I can start meal prep right away, rather than having to fit in an hour-long trip to the grocery store beforehand.
I’m not always lucky enough to be able to do this, but I try as hard as I can do make this happen.
Occasionally I’ll grocery shop on a Friday evening, then food prep on Sunday. However, to make sure foods stay fresh I try to grocery shop one day prior to prep, rather than two.
Another benefit to grocery shopping the day before is that if you forget something, then you still have a little time to grab it.
Alright guys, I hope this post helps you save some time when you meal prep. Make a plan, use convenient foods, enlist the help of your slow cooker and pressure cooker, and shop on a different day that you cook.
Easy peasy, right?
Got questions? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below.