What’s Meal Prep? The Jennie-O Guide for Beginners.

All across the world, people are becoming smarter about choices regarding their food. With the internet, accessibility to health-conscious resources has never been better. However, knowledge is only half the battle. Many of us have the best intentions when it comes to eating well but drop the ball when it comes to execution. It’s not easy to choose more nutritious foods when you lead a busy life.

In comes meal prep—the time saving way to prepare some, or all, of your meals ahead of time. If you don’t have time to eat breakfast in the morning, meal prep can give you a grab-and-go option to fit your busy schedule.

Here are some great tips for jumping into meal prep with both feet!

Pick a Day to Cook 

Meal prep is all about time management. The first thing you should do is look at your schedule and find the best day to cook. For most, the best day is Sunday. You’re off work, the kids are home from school, and you can enlist the help of the entire family if you need it.

Advanced preppers will utilize both Sunday and Wednesday to prep meals to ensure freshness of the food and to spread the load between two days of the week.

Plan Your Meals

Decide which meal you want to prepare first: breakfast, lunch, or dinner. This will help you decide what you need to get from the store and in what quantities. If you are preparing meals for your whole family, prepping for dinner will likely maximize your efforts. If you are single, or only cooking for one or two people, then you might want to prepare breakfast or lunch for busy mornings at the office. 

After you’ve decided which meals you’re going to make, you need to figure out what you’re going to eat. You may not want to eat the same thing for lunch the whole week, instead opting to make large portions of two or three meals for variation. 

Ultimately, the choice is up to you on how much time you want to spend in the kitchen and how many choices you’d like for the week.

Use Quality Containers

Aside from actually cooking the food, this is the most important step. You don’t want to skimp on cheap containers. Think of it this way: you spent hours creating a meal plan, buying the ingredients, and time in the kitchen cooking. You don’t want to waste all those hours just because the food spoiled or dried out in a cheap plastic containers, do you? Of course not. 

You’ll want to make sure that there are divided sections for each of your foods so that they do not cross contaminate. You’ll also want to make sure they are air tight to maximize freshness, crispness, and flavor. 

The short list of what you want from containers:

  • BPA Free
  • Dishwasher Safe
  • Reusable
  • Freezer Safe
  • Microwavable 
  • Stackable

Small conveniences like stackability will become increasingly more valuable as you get more experience with meal prep.

Kitchen Tips

  • Multitasking is important
    Maximize your time by utilizing all the available racks in your oven and all four burners on your stove. This can be intimidating to kitchen newbies, but it’ll become imperative in cutting down your time spent prepping. Meal prep is all about optimizing your life, and the better you get at multitasking, the easier the entire process becomes. When planning your cooking day, make sure you have enough pots, pans, trays, and aluminum foil to get the job done as effectively as possible.
  • Slow Cooker
    Investing in a slow cooker can take care of an entire week’s worth of meals without much extra effort. Whether you’re making chili, soup, stew, or some other delicious slow-cooker meal, you can get it started while you focus on other dishes.
  • Fruit
    Beef up your prepped meals by adding some fruit into the mix. Fruit can be cut up and stored ahead of time just like any other meals. You can prepare fruit salads or smoothie mixes to be tossed into the blender before heading out for the day. Prepped fruit can easily be tossed into your containers with your meals to add some sweet to your meals. 

Meal prepping is a great way to focus on your health, control your nutrient intake, and save you some time. Hopefully this guide has given you a good jump-off point to begin your journey into meal prep and save you some time. 

Check out all of the great recipes from Jennie-O and get started today!