Make Your Life Easier with These Meal Prepping Tips
Grain bowls, stuffed peppers, and bento boxes to the rescue.
Every year, eating healthier is at the forefront of many people’s list of New Year’s resolutions. And every year, many people end up getting burnt out within their first month of healthy eating, whether it’s due to a lack of time and energy, or simply trying to maintain practices that are not sustainable.
“Meal prepping can save time, money, and sanity,” Jawad says. “Pick one recipe and get comfortable with it. Make that same recipe a couple more times and you’ll build the confidence to take on a second recipe and slowly learn to cook different techniques.”
Pre-cook and plan ahead
Jawad first wants everyone to remember that meal-prepping is not a one-size-fits-all approach. The purpose of meal-prepping isn’t to stress us out, but relieve us of the everyday frustrations that come with wanting to eat healthy, fresh food, but not having the time. Jawad breaks meal-prepping down into three methods: ready-to-eat/heat meals, freezer meals, and cooked ingredients preparation.
“The main premise is just to plan ahead whatever aspect of eating meals throughout the week that can save you time,” Jawad adds. “Thinking about it this way makes it more manageable to pick and choose what works best for you in eating more healthy and fulfilling food.”
Make meals you actually want to eat
When it comes to what foods are best for meal-prepping, Jawad recommends picking the meals you enjoy eating most, whether it is overnight oats for a nutritious breakfast or chopped produce for a quick snack to have on hand throughout the week.
“You can wash, chop, and portion onions, celery and carrots, for example, to use in soups, pastas, salads, and snacking,” Jawad says. “Throughout the week, anytime you need those ingredients, you don’t have to think about washing them or taking out your cutting board to cut them. It’s two extra steps minimized that makes meal time a little less daunting because of the extra preparation completed earlier in the week.”
Grains and vegetables are your friends
Some of Jawad’s favorite foods to prepare are cooked quinoa and brown rice—she recommends using them for anything from grain bowls to salads to stir frys. She also often cooks shredded chicken and ground beef ahead of time to use as a source of protein in recipes such as her Instant Pot shredded chicken and beef-stuffed peppers. The only food she strays away from when it comes to meal prepping is seafood, as it tends to lose its moisture and develop a smell when stored for a few days.
To maintain freshness, Jawad suggests putting a paper towel underneath vegetables like chopped kale, lettuce, and peppers, so they can absorb the extra moisture, while root vegetables such as potatoes and carrots must be stored in a tupperware full of water to stay crisp. She also recommends keeping any dressings for salads separate from the other ingredients so they stay fresh and avoid wilting.
Proper storage is the key
As for what to store your gorgeous chopped vegetables and cooked quinoa in? Jawad prefers glass bento boxes and single or double compartment plastic containers for ready-to-eat meals, Rubbermaid storage containers for foods that don’t need to be reheated (they are also great for stacking in the fridge!), half-pint Mason jars for snacks, puddings, and oatmeal, and silicone bags for packing herbs or for snacks.
“There’s not just one traditional way to meal prep,” she adds. “I recommend starting slow by prepping a few ingredients for a couple meals during the week.”