Meal prep – organising and planning food for the week ahead is becoming very popular. There are many advantages in adopting Meal Prep as a great way of improving your life as well as your diet. By simply planning and preparing your food for the week or month ahead you can chagne your life. Whether you live alone or as part of a large family Meal Prep can save you time and money.
Modern lifestyles have become increasingly busy. Many of us resort to takeaway meals and snacks, ready meals from the supermarket and snacking. We work on autopilot during our hectic days and give little thought to the cost of filling up the supermarket trolley with food for the week. Likewise the temptation to pick up the phone or to go online to order a takeaway when we arrive home from work tired and flustered is just too tempting.
It doesn’t have to be like this. Planning ahead can help you to eat more healthily, and to reduce spending on food significantly. It will save you lots of money on your weekly shopping bill and might even help you avoid those payday loans online towards the end of the month.
Additionally Meal Prep can help you simplify your lifestyle. It will free up your time during a busy week for other more fun activities. You won’t have to spend hours and hours cooking every evening that you don’t splurge on a takeaway of delivery.
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Meal Prep Ideas
Meal Prep in its simplest form is getting yourself more organised to plan and prepare food for you and your family. Decide when would be a good time in your week, probably at the weekend, to set aside a few hours to pre-prepare food for meals throughout the week, including packed lunches and snacks to take to work or for school and any outings you may make. The joy of organising this way is the way it will leave you free from having to spend time after a busy day preparing meals from scratch every day.
Just think how fabulous life will become if you arrive home knowing you have delicious pre-prepared homemade dishes waiting for you in the fridge or freezer. Just choose the dishes you want for dinner, reheat and serve. Meal Prep can also be a great way of getting partners and family involved in a fun session of creating dishes.
Sharing the workload can be a real stress-buster for the primary cook in the house. Divide the tasks so that different members of the family can do different parts. An additional benefit for parents is that they will be educating their children how to cook in a fun way.
Getting organised and putting thought into what food you’d like to eat during the coming days, and beyond, will pay big dividends and can save you lots of money.
Same money when buying ingredients
Buying ingredients in bulk can achieve significant saving while shopping. Buying the correct amount of perishable ingredients and using it all at its freshest will help to eliminate costly waste.
A starting point is to consider what your personal needs and capabilities are. Are you a good cook, can you bake? The answer: of course you can. Nowadays there are lots of online guides to make us all great bakers and cooks, some with batch cooking guides to help us. We also need to consider what equipment we have to make our Meal Prep plans practically. Do you have enough space in your refrigerator and freezer to accommodate what you plan to make?
There is little point in pre-preparing foods in advance if you don’t have the capacity to store it safely you are going to eat it. Don’t let any restrictions like this put you off Meal Prep – start simply planning for a week ahead. As you gain the confidence, you may expand your repertoire to pre-prepare some meal or snack elements for the coming month. You will soon learn to tailor your regime to suit your circumstances and skills.
Meal prep can be a simple or as adventurous as you want to make it. Do you or members of your family regularly buy sandwiches and takeaways for lunch while away from home? With Meal Prep you can pre-plan your lunches for the week ahead, preparing your sandwiches, salads and snacks at home. This will save you time in a busy day by not having to go out and queue to buy your lunches. At the same time, you can save a lot of money by using Meal Prep at home to make your takeaways.
For many of us the main meal of the day, and the greatest expense is dinner in the evening. By using Meal Prep to plan ahead what is often a frantic chore after a busy day can become a pleasure. Start by batch cooking interesting and nutritious dishes for the week ahead. Then, dinner just requires you to select your dinner from the fridge or freezer, reheat, serve and enjoy.
Planning Your Food Prep
Meal Prep, which may also include batch baking and batch cooking, is a way of organising your food buying and preparation to make your life easier. It offers the bonuses of enabling you to quickly improve your diet with nutritious and healthy meals while you save money on food.
Start by sitting down and planning the meals and snacks you’ll usually eat in the coming week: 7 x breakfast, 7 x lunch, 7 x dinner, and maybe 7 x supper or another snack in between meals – planning your menu for the week ahead. Obviously, some meals are more appropriate for Meal Prep than others. For many, breakfast, especially on weekdays, is a simple affair of toast, cereals or fruit, or requires “cooking to order” if you prefer a more traditional fry-up. However, it will pay to include breakfast in your Meal Prep planning as ensuring you by the elements you need for breakfast will help you prepare your shopping list to avoid wasting money.
If you or members of your household regularly eat lunch away from home, at work or school, Meal Prep gives you great opportunities to save money and enjoy healthy and delicious meals away from home. Depending on your own personal preferences Meal Prep takeaway lunches can comprise anything from simple sandwiches or filled rolls, homemade soups, salads, fruits or baked goods.
Meal Prep for Main Meals
Meal prep for dinner or the main meal of the day offers the greatest opportunity to pre-prepare food to enable you to serve delicious dishes with the minimum of hassle. Many recipes lend themselves to batch cooking for later use. Don’t forget that preparing meals in advance also enables savings to be made when buying essential ingredients for making dishes.
For example, bulk buying minced beef, onions and tomatoes can allow you to make the most of special offers and lower prices for larger purchases. These and other essential ingredients can then be used in Meal Prep to prepare a variety of popular dishes such as Bolognese, chilli, cottage pie, lasagne, minced beef and onion pie and beef curry – all in one easy Meal Prep session. This enables you to maximise utilisation of your time and resources. Planning ahead can save you money on electricity or gas by cooking several similar dishes at the same time in the oven. Preparing all the dishes at the same time means you will be using ingredients while they are at their freshest, providing better nutrition and reducing or eliminating waste.
Chilling or freezing individual meals
Some dishes are more suited to being prepared and then chilled or frozen before being cooked. Others can be batch cooked and then stored in microwavable dishes for later reheating. Some side dishes lend themselves to Meal Prep batch cooking for later reheating to serve with main dishes. Examples include rice and many vegetables. Some foods such as spaghetti are best cooked fresh to serve with the main dish. However, as they are usually simple and quick to prepare this is not a problem. You can also easily prepare them while the main dish is reheating.
Meal Prep even makes life easier for you on busy weekdays when it comes to washing up – all the pots, pans and kitchen utensils used to prepare your food were done during your Meal Prep session – leaving you with less to tidy up after dinner each evening.
When the time comes to serve the meal, just remove the dish from the fridge or freezer and cook or reheat as appropriate.
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Meal Prep Dishes
Lots of foods lend themselves to batch Meal Prep. Foods which require baking or cooking in the oven spring to mind first. Casseroles made with any meat, chicken or turkey are ideal candidates for batch cooking. The same base ingredients can form the basis of a wide variety of such dishes. By batch cooking and preparing several dishes for cooking together in the oven at the same time makes good use of your day and can lead to significant savings on energy usage.
Similarly baked goods such as pies are also ideal for advance preparation. Prepare a large batch of shortcrust pastry, which you can then be the base for a wide variety of dishes. You can use it for dishes such as steak and kidney pies, minced beef and onion pies, chicken and mushroom pies, chicken and leek pies, quiches, fruit pies, Cornish pasties and the like. You can adapt recipes to make smaller portions for packed lunches and picnics. A great idea is to use a bun tin to make individual versions of traditional pies or quiches.
How To Meal Prep For The Week
Start by preparing your menu for the week. Decide which meals you want to prepare for the week. Then determine which dishes you’d like to pre-prepare for the period ahead. It makes sense to check recipes and decide if there are common elements which can make your Meal Prep session more efficient. Providing you have chilled and frozen storage capacity, you may choose to alternate making different classes of food for consumption over the following two or three weeks. Planning ahead like this could help you further save time and money. For example, you could prepare a batch of pastry one weekend. This will leave a subsequent kitchen session pastry-free to prepare casseroles or potato based recipes such as cottage pie, shepherds pie, Lancashire hotpot and fish pie.
Even simple items such as boiled eggs for use in sandwiches or salads lend themselves to the Meal Prep principle. Instead of preparing a hard-boiled egg each time you want one for a salad or sandwich it makes sense to batch cook. Refer to your menu for the week and decide how many hard-boiled eggs you will require. Then cook them together in one pan. Once they are cooked, dunk them in cold water and then store in the fridge. You can keep them for up to a week.
Likewise, it makes sense to batch prepare items for use in sandwiches, snacks and salads. Check your menu for the week to identify how much of an ingredient you may require for the week. Then foods such as egg mayonnaise, tuna and sweetcorn or cucumber, grilled bacon (for BLT), homemade coleslaw or potato salad, prawn cocktail or coronation chicken can be scaled-up to make enough for your needs all week.
Simply prepare them once, then seal in a suitable container and pop it in the fridge to use as and when needed. If you like meat in sandwiches or salads, it’s much cheaper to cook your meat at home. It will cost much more to buy it ready-cooked from the deli or pre-packed in the supermarket. Once cooked, store your ham, beef, pork or chicken in a sealed container in the fridge. With a little extra planning, you can freeze many of these sandwich and salad ingredients. Simply split into suitable portion sizes and use within a couple of days of defrosting.
How to meal prep on a budget
One of the great advantages of Meal Prep and batch preparation is that you can save you lots of money on your household budget and avoid payday loans uk. Simply approach your menu planning from the aspect of your budget. Having the discipline to decide on how much you are prepared to spend on your weekly food shopping can lead to big savings. Think about how you can incorporate cheaper cuts of meat, such as brisket of beef or beef shin instead of more expensive steak cuts into your menu. Many cheaper cuts of meat are delicious when cooked slowly and incorporated into appetising casserole, soups or baked meals.
When planning a meal such as a roast dinner, whether it be chicken, beef, lamb or pork consider what you can do with any leftovers. Indeed, when buying a joint of meat for a roast dinner, it may make sense to purchase a larger joint or bird to ensure you have planned “leftovers” to make a great ingredient for sandwiches, salads or other meals later in the week. Once cooked, meat can be safely wrapped or put in a storage container and kept for several days in the fridge or freezer for later use. It is important to ensure your refrigerator is maintaining a safe maximum temperature of 4c.
Don’t exclude snacks or desserts from your Meal Prep plans. You can save real money by batch baking pastries including old favourites like jam tarts, scones, pies and dishes such as fruit crumbles for later use. There are also many easy recipes out there for baking cakes, muffins and biscuits and cookies.
Meal prep containers
The types of containers you will require for storing Meal Prep will vary depending on the types of food you decide to pre-prepare in batches.
Most supermarkets stock a variety of for cooking and storage of food. On the high street stores such as Argos and Wilkinson are also a good place to seek out storage solutions – and for the pots, pans and baking tins you may need for your Meal Prep. Alternatively online sites such as Amazon, Ebay and Lakeland stock a wide variety of storage solutions for Meal Prep.
The simplest Meal Prep dinners are batch cooked such as stews, soups, curries, bolognese and chilli. The ideal storage for these items are reusable plastic containers with airtight lids – look out for containers suitable for oven or microwave use if you want to reheat your Meal Prep dishes in the storage containers. Alternatively, you can decant your dishes into a pan to reheat on the hob.
Normally reusable containers will be most economical as they can be used repeatedly. If you include baked goods such as pies in your repertoire, these can be pre-made and then deep frozen for later baking. In this instance, it makes sense to buy foil containers. The only other disposable wrapping materials you may need to buy are economical film wrap, baking foil and storage bags.
Labeling Food Containers
Another important consideration is how you are going to label your Meal Prep dishes in the fridge and freezer.
It is wise to label everything you prepare in batches. This way you’ll avoid any unexpected surprises by defrosting the wrong dish. It also makes good sense to date containers to ensure you use foods in rotation and within the safe storage guidelines for your appliance. Special marker pens for use in the deep freeze are widely available, as labels to attach to your reusable storage containers.
Meal Prep Recipes
Regardless of your skill level in the kitchen, novice or expert, there are a wealth of online recipes for all types of dishes to suit you.
Using online recipe sites is another way of saving money – there is no need to buy expensive cookbooks.
Most traditional cooks and chefs have online recipes. All the major UK supermarkets also have recipes online. These include Asda, Booths, Morrisons, Sainsburys and Waitrose. These websites often also have useful tips and tricks to help you organise your cooking and baking.
Many websites also give indications on the degree of skill required, the length of preparation and cooking time for recipes. The BBC publishes an excellent source for delicious recipes with such guides.
Is Meal Prep For You?
Having read the ideas relating to Meal Prep above you may be feeling it’s not for you. Maybe you think it is too complicated? It isn’t. It is designed to make your life easier, to help you save time and money eating delicious and nutritious meals throughout the week.
The message is to keep it simple. Start off doing what you feel comfortable with and what your kitchen is already equipped to facilitate. It is sensible to ensure that your kitchen can accommodate your Meal Prep plans. How much room do you have in your refrigerator and freezer for storage? It is most efficient and economical to run fridges and freezers when they are full. But, make sure they aren’t full of the wrong items. Ensure out of date or stale goods are not wasting your storage space.
When planning your Meal Prep menu, decided what dishes you can create using pots, pans, casserole dishes and baking tins you already have. Once you gain confidence and skills, you can decide if it makes sense to buy extra equipment. Remember, purchasing extra pots and pans will be a modest investment. It will very soon pay back soon repaid by the savings you will make on your food shopping every week.
Meal Prep – your way to better eating, a less stressful life and great savings.